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Idaho Vet Fishing Trip- South Fork Snake River

By: Justin Borg (Meet the Writer)

As long as I can remember I’ve always lived my day to day life with my sights on my “next” adventure in the backcountry. If the planning and prepping process wasn’t in the forefront of my mind, it was there in the background, and is something I tend to turn to when I have a spare moment. Making packing lists, fabbing and building a vehicle for overland travel, configuring and rigging a whitewater raft for a multi-day float, optimizing a backpack and gear for a back country hunt, tying flies and packing for steelhead fishing in 15 degree temps, hours spent with a bow honing archery skills…....typically the planning and prep phase of each back country adventure consumes as much time in the shop and at home as is spent on the mountains. This cycle of picking an adventure, planning, prepping, and then heading for the hills and rivers is what drives many of us. It can be consuming though, and could lead to being a bit self-centered in our pursuit of adventure.

Making conscientious decisions to share these types of experiences will enhance other’s lives and our own. I’ve spent about a dozen years as a leader in the Boys Scouts. Last winter on our annual winter camp out where we build and sleep in snow shelters I was reminded of a thought I’ve had many times. It goes something like this: “Hmmmm….if it were just me up here on this trip I’d have this shelter done in about an hour and then I’d hop on my back country skis and be headed out for a moonlit tour instead of……..” In our minds we may think that the most optimal back country experience is one where we focus on ourselves, pushing our own physical limits, focused inward rather than doing what may come harder, such as helping someone learn the art of building a snow trench and surviving the night in the cold. Exercising our patience and communications skills to help someone else learn to achieve the level of satisfaction we’ve found in the back country will ultimately enhance our experience and help someone in a way that we likely couldn’t otherwise. Two weeks ago I ran into a kid in his early 20’s who I had in my scout troop 10+ years ago. As we caught up I found that I’d successfully planted the seed and he’s now living a life of adventure. That may not have happened for him if I hadn’t invested some time.

Last summer was a Fourth of July that carried more meaning for me than others. It wasn’t so much what happened over the holiday; rather it was a week in June before the Fourth of July where I spent time with a group of vets that reminded me of the freedoms and country that I have to be grateful for. I had made an acquaintance with a local vet named Jake Thacker who takes the idea of sharing his passion for outdoors to the next level. I met Jake when my brother invited him to join us on a fly-fishing / whitewater float on the Canyon section of the South Fork of the Boise River. The Canyon section of the SFB is one of my favorite “day adventures.” It’s challenging, risky, secluded, and rewards with abundant wildlife and prime rainbow trout fishing. Jake had the kind of experience on that float that I’ve had many times, and was healed by being on a river in the backcountry. After that float plans were hatched to work with Jake to take a group of Idaho vets fly-fishing in Eastern Idaho on the South Fork of the Snake River. My brother Jared and Jake Thacker took the lead with Jake lining up the vets and Jared lining up boats, rowers (which included myself), logistics, food, etc.

The SF of the Snake is an amazing fishery and perfect place to be at peace and forget about the cares of the world. I found it especially rewarding to share the place and experience with a group of Idaho vets that want the same thing we all want; an adventure to look forward to. We put in the same level of planning and prep that we do for any adventure of this sort. Once on the trip we had to adjust our mindset (as I’ve done when leading the boy scouts) from “looking forward to my turn fishing from the bow of the boat” to being fully focused on helping a couple of new friends who served our country experience the mind freeing experience of casting a stonefly imitation up against the bank and watching a wild cutthroat slowly rise and inhale, setting the hook, and feeling the bend in the rod. The trip re-enforced for me a truth; as we seek adventure, our experience will be enhanced if we adjust our plans to include someone who may not have a similar opportunity otherwise, and they will take that seed you plant and see their life changed as they begin their own pursuit in the outdoors.

Maybe that person is one of your kids, and you adjust your trip to better accommodate a 10 year old. Maybe it’s a friend who could use some relief from daily pressures of life. Maybe it’s a neighbor kid whose dad isn’t around. It could be someone who’s battling health issues. Maybe it’s someone who served our country and will find respite from mental or physical injury. There are people all around whose life will be positively impacted if we take a moment in our pursuit of adventure to think about more than just ourselves as we head to the hills and water.

As you plan out your adventures for the next year, think about what time in the backcountry means to you and find someone who you can share with. You’ll find it rewarding and they’ll appreciate it more than you know