The following originally appeared in the June 11, 2009 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.
by Clint Thomsen
The feeling’s the same every time. Your bobber twitches, your line jerks taut, and your heart flutters. You pause, waiting for instinct to tell you the fish has taken the bait. You reel in the slack, point your rod toward your prey, and snap it to the side. What follows is either elation or disappointment—another rise or fall on the emotional roller coaster that is fishing.
For a boy, there’s nothing like catching a fish– even if it’s in a 2 foot deep fishing pond at the Utah State Fairgrounds.
Sure, my boys have reeled in their share of trout and bluegill from real lakes. But the Division of Wildlife Resources-sponsored pond would be a nice primer for the new fishing season. Plus, with the DWR guys handling baiting and snags, I’d be able to enjoy a peaceful half hour on the sidelines. Or so I thought.
The activity was part of the Utah Outdoor Adventure Expo last weekend. The event’s organizers, Brian and Becky Brinkerhoff of the Backcountry Radio Network, had invited me out to network with outdoor experts and to hand out copies of the 2009 Tooele County Summer Guide. The guide details outdoor recreation opportunities in the county and was distributed as an insert in this newspaper last month.
I spent the first part of the day passing out the guide at a booth. Most people I talked to had never seen Tooele County. Some had no idea where it was. While I was proud to be our county’s unofficial representative, I’ll admit I was torn at the prospect of advertising some of what I consider the state’s best kept outdoor recreation secrets to the greater population.
I can never decide what’s more fun at the expo—browsing exhibits or people-watching. Crowds at this type of event are always a potpourri, but many passers-by fall pretty easily into a few distinct categories.
First is the single-sport die-hard — the mountain man, the Dutch oven pro, the archer, or the trail rights activist. These are always the most interesting people to talk to. They’re passionate about their respective sport and possess a jackpot of knowledge. Among the die-hards I’ve met at these expos are a man who rode his ATV 602 miles from Tooele County to St. George, a professional bass angler, and a 10 year old archery prodigy.
On the amusing end of the spectrum is Free Stuff Guy. He’s the guy who takes at least one of every sample and flyer, regardless of its content. What he’ll do with 5 maps of the Moab area and 3 “Life Cycle of the Butterfly” posters from the BLM is beyond me. But between Dutch oven samples, exhibit candy bowls, and free bottles of water from the Sam’s Club booth, he’s set for the day.
When the last of my magazines was gone, I took my rightful place among the another category of expo goers—the outdoor gear freaks. We’re the guys who buy outdoors magazines for the ads, who consider Cabelas a perfectly valid vacation destination, and to whom the fact that the new Petzl headlamp now sports 350 lumens is extremely important (even though we could never justify buying one).
As I walked with my family past the archery exhibits, the boys stopped at the kids range to give bow and arrow a whirl. “I don’t want to aim at the animals, though,” said the Discovery Channel-bred Bridger, 7, as he scanned the line of life-size 3D targets. Weston, 6, had no qualms. He drew, aimed, and sank an arrow deep into the foam belly of a deer. “Hmm,” Bridger backpedaled, “Maybe I’ll shoot one animal. But just one.”
After kayaking in the Jordan River and watching some wakeboard competitions, we did more exhibit surfing and explored the rows of meat smoking camps that were competing in the barbecue cook-off. We decided to finish off the day at the fish pond. And it’s a good thing we planned to finish the day there, because the day would have ended there regardless.
Understandably, the DWR managers wanted to be in charge of baiting the set of short casting rods. There was no complaint from me. I took the time to teach 3 year old Coulter how to cast. A variety of small trout and medium catfish idled in the pond. The trout were the first to hit, and to his utter delight, Coulter hooked one on our second cast.
Another boy had cast over the top of Coulter, and when we reeled in his fish, the other line came in with it. One of the DWR managers rushed over to untangle the lines, and that’s when things got exciting. Not because of Coulter or the rainbow trout flipping and flapping at the end of the jumbled lines, but because of Coulter’s 2 year old sister, Ella.
Ella nudged Coulter aside to get a better look and he fell backward into the pond. The DWR manager, who held the fish with one hand, quickly pulled the little castaway ashore with the other. He was soaking wet and scared, but none worse for the wear. “Well,” deadpanned my wife. “I guess that about does it for the day.” Ella had no comment.
The commotion didn’t faze Bridger and Weston, who stood on the other side of the pond. They had refined their casts and were now concentrating on a group of trout at the center of the pond. Two fish struck their lines almost simultaneously. They set their hooks and eagerly reeled in their catches.
The sweet scent of barbecue hung on the breeze as we made the long trek back to the parking lot, our bag of samples and flyers in tow. The topic of conversation was our next fishing trip. That, and where we were going to find dry clothes for Coulter.
No, this week’s adventure didn’t take place in the wilderness. But given our collective contentment and exhaustion, it might as well have.