Reel Recovery

What will you be leaving behind? What will you be taking with you? How has it impacted your life?

We will touch on these questions later….



Flipping through the TV channels one night I stumbled across a show Highlighting Reel Recovery. A non profit organization that provides free fly fishing retreats for men living with cancer. I saw it and thought to myself I want to be a part of it. Jumped online filled out some forms. Then a month or so ago Bob Macias calls me up and asks if I want to be a fishing buddy at the Idaho retreat. I was so excited.. and a little nervous. (off point, but Bob is a genuine man. Love Him.. That goes for all those Nevada brothers, Danny, Jose, Kim… Just all serious amazing people.)


Finally show up to the retreat on Friday morning out at the Wild Horse Creek Lodge in Mackay. What a gorgeous bit of heaven right here in Idaho. The rest of the day was pretty much just getting settled in and helping prepare for the retreat. Meeting and chatting with other fishing buddies and the participants as they began to show up in the afternoon. It really put my mind at ease. Funny thing was that it did not take long for everyone to become brothers. Although I still had no idea what was in store for the rest of the weekend.

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Friday night hanging around watching Steve Weston (In the wild chef, again off subject, but this dude makes it look easy. And everything was off the hook. (no pun intended) cook dinner for us…. You would love to have been a fly on the wall listening in on the conversations being had. I will admit to being a somewhat quiet guy, but I laughed till I hurt. Travis aka Hank “Parker” Patterson told us of some recent trips he had been on. If you don’t know of him. You should get to. He just has one of those sense of humors that never ends. I had some great conversations with the fishing buddies just basically becoming brothers.



Saturday morning finally rolls around. We start getting the gear laid out. Waders on the deck. vests out. rods rigged up. The excitement of getting on the water was starting to get to me. Taking a man out to fish with me on water I have never fished. I was a bit scared as well. But talking with the buddies who had come to this retreat put me at ease and also kept my confidence in myself up. The talent and knowledge in these guys was absolutely ridiculously killer.

As we met out on the grass getting to know everyone. We all grabbed our first partner for the day. Started getting them wadered up, and making plans for the day. We decided to go out in pairs in case of any emergencies and to limit vehicles around. I looked to a guy that had been making me laugh the night before…. And we were off!

The North Fork of the  Big Lost River is Beautiful. Just so you know.  It was a nice morning drive out to the water.

Finally out in the water with my  buddy for the morning. The fishing was a bit of a challenge. Not much happening for us. But we did find a great little shelf and pool that had some good holding. We tried some dries, nymphs with no luck. So I went to an old reliable fly. It was one I had actually taken from one of my grandfathers fly boxes he gave me. A black crystal bugger…….. Right? hahaha. But first cast in… a nice little cutty comes out of the shadows and rolls on us. Our excitement could not be contained. You would have thought we landed that fish. We were yelling and high fiving. Next cast…. same thing. Five times this cutty rolled on us, one time actually mouthing the fly, but never taking it.  Time to head back for lunch. I was bummed. But my buddy was pumped.

Everyone else had results similar to ours in the morning. Trying to figure out what might be the ticket for the afternoon. I think everyone was set on making the afternoon unforgettable, and it was.

We swapped buddies and headed out for some new waters. My buddy this go round was a gentleman with a very respectable mustache. I mean of course we have to share some beard grooming techniques. Which I shall take to the grave… This man had such a fun attitude. We just laughed for what I swear could have been hours. Talking about family, life, cancer, friends and of course fishing. I was truly humbled by this man. The strength he has… I wish my little mind could put into words the fishing I did with this guy. But we found a nice little run. I had tied on a nice hopper pattern with a bright copper jon dropper. Second cast into the riffle a nice rainbow just flashed and lit up the line, and before we knew it, disappeared into the river. But we new it was going to be on. I saw a rock making a nice shadow, told Jon to make a nice drift pass it. He puts a perfect upstream roll cast smooth on the surface, a quick mend……. BAM! A cutty comes out from the shadow and he is hooked up. I am not sure who was more excited but we were both hootin and yelling.



After a nice tug, admiration of the fish, and the release. I stood up from the water and Jon was there with a fist bump and bear hug. I think our smiles could have been seen from Mars.

Back to camp for another night of laughter and good times. Everyone’s stories from the day were coming back will good news. fish were on the score board all around. It was all high fives and smiles. For myself I know I was a changed man after spending that time with those 2 men in the water.

As we finished up our dinner in the loft of the barn. A few of us were trying to decide if we should head out on the water for a little fun for the evening. John Dietsch (A river runs through it.  not a river runs over it…right Danny? hahaha ) asked me if I wanted to go hit a nearby spot. Right? This guy is a hell of a fly fisherman. I was pumped to get out there with him. The water we ended up fishing was great water. Tight little canyon. With trees growing out of rocks. We decided we should strip some streamers. John had some hits and hookups. I was just not putting anything together. But I watched this guy work the water. I came away with some good strategies. I could go on and on about our short little outing. But maybe I can make that into a future post. (Me and John should go throw some big streamers on the Henrys Fork I think 😉

Sunday morning came way to fast. But Steve’s biscuits and gravy sure got us feeling better. Suit up quick and off to the water for our last fishing with our buddies. My buddy this morning… the Helicopter Pilot. This guy had some killer stories.  We fished, fished, fished, but only one little flash from a small trout. It was a tough morning out. He began to tire, so we decide to lay down and admire a near by range in the hills.




But before I knew it he jumped up to snag a pic of me “laying down on the job” We had a good laugh. He set me up;) We talked about his wife who is also sick with cancer. But we both just had the same feeling of being in an amazing place at the same time just  soaking it all in. What an incredible weekend we have had. The both of us. Two different stories. But here we are. At this moment in time nothing ailed us. We were calm. Life was good.

At the end of the retreat, we joined the participants in the final circle. Standing behind them as Bob went around to the participants and shared his feelings of each man. Bob had asked the men earlier the same 3 questions we started out with. As we all listened to their answers I was happy I had my sunglasses on.. I couldn’t help the tears and emotions. Simply powerful. Strength and peace in the circle. These men are fighting for their lives. Courageous. The time spent out there. Has been hard for me to put to words. It is nothing I have ever experienced. It changed my life forever.


What will I be leaving behind?

-All those little things that you worry about in your daily life. Those stupid things that eat at you and get you down. They don’t matter. Life is short and precious. Live every second like it is your last. I have said this before but I will say it again. Never let a day go by with out telling the people you love… that you love them.

What will I be taking with me?

-Hope, Love, humility, memories and a big bunch of new friends.  (and a whole lot of fishing knowledge, which never hurts;)

How has it impacted my life?

-Those qualities I just listed…. well that is inspiration to be a better man today than I was the day before. One step at a time. Always looking forward. And to “keep my eye on the fly”.


I wish I could be half the man that all of my new brothers from this retreat are. Inspirational and courageous.  If I could only be this kind of a man for the other 362 days in the year. Wow. How would that be?


Reel Recovery needs our help to continue to offer retreats in Idaho. If you have anything to offer or donate. Please go to to do so. I hope to only grow with this organization and help it serve men with cancer. I am excited for next years retreat. And will find anyway I can to help make sure they happen here. I know my fellow brothers who were there feel the same way.

Cancer Sucks.



Thanks for coming by. Thanks to all who support us over here at ASO. And as always, Get out there!





dont take it lightly

This Memorial Weekend I was reminded how simply precious life is. My daughter and me began our float on one of our favored stretches of the Henry’s Fork. Nothing on our minds but trout, high fives and smiles. But 4 bends into the float we came upon a sight that I wish upon no one to experience.

The river has given me life. I am passionate about it. But seeing the reality of what can happen is not easy.

I have many different emotions going through my mind. But all I can think of is just to tell all of you, my friends to take caution when on the water. You are at the mercy of the river at all times. Be prepared. Don’t take your safety lightly.

My heart goes out to the family that lost a member on a beautiful piece of water. I wish your day wouldn’t have ended the way it did. I wish I would have floated up sooner to help. Don’t let a day go by without telling the people you love, that you love them.

This is a article from Driftwood magazine on boat safety. Accidents will happen, but take every precaution to make sure they don’t.


“Driftwood Magazine – Drift Boat Buyer’s Guide
Drift Boat Safety
– Bob Ball



In far too many cases, however, tales spoke of partially or wholly sunk or flipped fishing craft. Personally, I watched three boats go down this past winter on the rivers that I fish and I know of at least a half-dozen more witnessed by others. Unfortunately, in nearly every case the mishap was caused by either poor planning or decision-making by the boat operator And likely should have been avoided.

Running drift boats, inflatable rafts or pontoon boats in fast, shallow rivers always carries some risk of mishap. New obstructions, such as a rotting tree falling into the water in a bad spot, unforeseeable equipment failure, or unexpected actions from passengers can doom any boat operator, regardless of Skill level.


I believe the most important rule for boat safety is to always maintain a balance of confidence and respect (controlled fear might be a better term) for the waters you navigate. Moving water is an incredibly powerful force, one that I think too many boaters tend to underestimate. As an Oarsman, your primary duty is overseeing the well being of the passengers. Making every decision relating to the boat’s movement with this thought in mind is a big step in making it home safely.


Safe boating starts with setting your boat up properly. Routine inspection, maintenance, and/or replacement of equipment are a must.You should replace oars or blades with signs of damage, especially those incorporating wood products that will eventually rot and fail.

For those running aluminum boats, proper bottom care should not be overlooked. Bare aluminum will stick to rocks. Routinely treating the bottom and chine with a coat of epoxy (such as Gluv-it or Coat-It) on a regular basis will allow the boat to slide off of some obstacles instead of getting stuck and perhaps letting the boat turn sideways to the current and rocks which is all too often the kiss of death in moving water.

Anchor system components should be examined as well. An anchor dropping in very fast water has led to the dumping of many boats. Personally, I choose an anchor release that requires my assistance to let anchor line out to almost eliminate this possibility.Those releases that that rely on springs or friction from the cleat to the anchor rope should be checked every single trip. Sometimes the biting edge of a cleat needs to be filed or a worn portion of the rope should Be cut off to prevent slippage.

Regardless of the style of anchor release, never tie a knot in your anchor rope and always keep a sharp knife easily accessible to cut the anchor line should it inadvertently drop in dangerous water. If it does, you want to be able to float free of it.

It goes without mentioning the importance of keeping a spare oar and oarlock, but I see plenty of boats without them and even for some that do carry them, they are so hard to get at, that they really wouldn’t do much good in an emergency situation anyhow. Keep your spares handy!

One other vital piece of equipment that many boaters overlook is having a lifeline (100 feet of half inch nylon would be a good choice) to throw to other boats as they pass to help you get to shore should something bad occur. In many situations, getting a rope to stranded boaters is one of the biggest obstacles to would-be rescuers.


Not knowing the “path” through a rapid is perhaps the biggest cause of sinking a boat. Regardless of your rowing ability, the wrong choice of a river split or path through a rapid may put the boat in a predicament that no amount of rowing will get you out of.

While more rocks are exposed at lower flows, moderate to heavy flows can often present rowers with the greatest challenges since you are sometimes simply following the flow and there really isn’t the opportunity to move around much. In such instances, proper setup is vital as once you commit to a line, there might not be any opportunity to change your mind.

Blind corners in heavy water should always be provided a little extra respect. Blockages may not be apparent until it’s too late. Even the most experienced rowers look for places to “bail out” into eddies coming into blind sections and if none exist, scouting ahead is advised.


It’s always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the raw power of Mother Nature. No amount of bravado will get you Through some of the situations you may run across on some of the more technical sections of water.

When running new drifts, following other boats, or at the very least, asking the advice of others is always a sound choice. Don’t be afraid to ask! And if you’re unsure of your abilities, or of just how bad a trouble spot really is, don’t be afraid to walk or line the boat through such areas.


Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Having an understanding of water mechanics and its interaction with your boat is crucial. This doesn’t mean that you need to jump in a section of river that is beyond your ability level to learn. Even in the most benign of floats, there should be a few obstacles that you can practice moving around.


Adjust the weight around the boat according to the size of your fishing partners on a given day. Too much weight in the bow or stern and the boat will react far differently in river current than if the weight is evenly distributed.

If your occupants are unfamiliar with floating a river, give them a quick briefing of the dos and don’ts – such as not leaning over the side to rinse their hands just as you’re dropping into the most technical piece of water in a drift.

I also like to give new passengers some quick pointers on helping a bad situation. I often run inline (one passenger in front and behind) and let the person behind me know that should I ever lose an oar that I want them to stay seated and simply pass me the one that sits alongside us as I try to maintain control with the one I still have. Likewise, I coach them to listen to my instructions for leaning when needed to either pass over slightly submerged rocks or how to react when the boat does hang up a little, which is sometimes just a fact of life, especially under low flows.


They are always a smart choice and often times it is the law to at least have them on board depending on local rules regarding boat size and passenger age. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t Wear mine enough and I don’t always require my passengers to wear them. But they are always present and the youngsters don’t get a choice. It’s a personal choice for adults, but as inflatable floatation devices become more streamlined the excuses for not wearing them are quickly going away!


Letting your guard down in calm water can be just as risky as running a piece of Class III or IV water. Anytime the oars are dropped, even with the floating blades, you run the risk of the current pulling them down and jabbing into the rocks and either popping it out of the oarlock or in a worse case scenario, turning the boat over.

The role of oarsman should never be taken lightly and you must accept the fact you’re not going to fish a lot when you are in control of the boat. That is why it’s especially nice to give your fishing buddies a chance “on the sticks.” Fishing is fishing and success varies, but I always keep in the back of my mind that no matter how good the fishing may have been, if I make it home without mishap, then the day was a success.”


To all of you who are our friends here at ASO. We love you. Respect the water. Take care of your love ones. Be safe out there. Don’t take it lightly. But above all get out there. Live your lives. Live your adventure. Life is to short not to live it with the ones you love.


Thanks for loving us.


We Just Fish