My first memory of fishing was in the creek behind my childhood home in Casper. We moved there when I was 4 years old, and my older brother and I quickly discovered an untold number of pools and eddies full of minnows and crawdads. We netted what we could, and kept as many of the minnows alive for as long as possible.I vaguely remember fishing in elementary school with family friends in Lake Helen in the Big Horn Mountains on a failed attempt to climb Cloud Peak. We placed our little brook trout on a layer of tinfoil and grilled them with salt and pepper.
It would be almost two decades before I recall going fishing again. But now I can’t imagine life without long days shivering on river banks and dinner-table discussions about epic cicada hatches.
We all have our entrance stories – the reason we started fishing. Maybe your dad took you out, or your mom, or your grandpa. Maybe it was a friend’s parent. Or maybe, like me, you didn’t really discover it until adulthood.
In honor of those stories, three Wyoming anglers explain how they came to fishing, and how it changed their lives.
For the family
Kathy Blair figures she started fishing when she was 3. Her family fished, and they lived in Shoshoni, next to one of Wyoming’s largest reservoirs.
“It was great to do it as a family, and the fun things that go along with it,” she said.
No particular trip stands out in her mind. Fishing has been the sum of all experiences.
“I find it very relaxing. You have your slow years and your good years.”
At 67 years old, Kathy still fishes at Boysen, and still lives in Shoshoni. The fishing isn’t as good as it once was, or doesn’t seem to be, but she’s lived through the ups and downs.
Her body also doesn’t take the long days on the water quite like it used to. It’s not as easy to fish, especially during the winter.
That doesn’t stop her from helping plan, run or participate in the annual Boysen winter carnival and ice fishing derby. She started working on it in 1985, was president for many years, and still joins in the fray. Fishing, in one form or another, has always been there.
Now she fishes mostly with her kids, grandkids or great grandkids. She wants them to have the same feelings of joy and relaxation that she had as a child.
“You either like it or you don’t, I think,” she said of fishing. “The biggest thing for me now is taking them out and seeing how much fun they have. That’s more fun than fishing now.”
John Green learned to fish from his family, but only for trout. The Casper native had a cabin at Alcova Reservoir dating back to the ‘50s. They were some of the first people to buy a cabin after the dam was built.
The 55-year-old remembers summers camped on a piece of plywood in the back of his grandpa’s truck catching brook trout in the Big Horns.
But about 30 years ago, at a Halloween party, he met a man who changed his fishing future.
“We just started talking to each other and being friendly, and he asked if I hunted and fished and asked if I ever caught walleye and I said no I never had,” he said. “We went to Pathfinder [Reservoir] and caught some walleye there and then Alcova. And for a long time I couldn’t catch them by myself, but always caught them in his boat.”
His buddy was from Minnesota, land of walleye, and had a knack for targeting the aquatic predators. Shortly after, Green started fishing tournaments. He’s now been from Casper to Minnesota, and North Dakota to Kansas.
He’s also a local member of the North Platte Walleyes Unlimited, serving at times as president or a board member.
“My wife, she’s still upset about the whole thing because it’s cost us a lot of money,” he said. “They’re good eating, and I love the competition.”
This story could have started like so many others. Robb Keith’s dad took him fishing when he was young, mostly on summer vacations.
But then his dad got busy. And Robb wanted to fish more.
So while he and his buddy could still count their years on two hands, they started wandering through streams behind their houses in rural Pennsylvania. They didn’t have poles, line or bait, so they made what they needed. They cut willow branches and tied thread to the ends with hooks they scrounged.
And they caught fish – creek chubs, to be exact.
“We would make little fires and cook up our catches,” he said. “They weren’t all that bad.”
Eventually Robb’s parents bought him a basic fly tying kit, and he and his friend began creating their own flies with feathers, yarn and whatever else they could find.
“When I was in 6th grade, we had to write a report on what we wanted to do when we grew up,” he said. “My report was I wanted to be a fisheries biologist, even though at the time I didn’t know a person could have a career doing that.”
Robb got his wish. He’s been a biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Green River for 21 years and now serves as the fisheries supervisor.
And he still likes to fish, approaching places like Flaming Gorge Reservoir or the Green River with the same anticipation he had walking to that creek behind his house.