Winds out of the west at twenty five stirred up the Black Canyon fire behind us. It was one of a growing number of wildfires surrounding the South Fork. The largest, near Henry’s Creek, had grown to seventeen miles long the day before and has claimed over twenty-five thousand acres. While smoke choked Teton Valley and Jackson Hole, favorable winds kept the skies clear for two days of fishing with Dick Boggs and his lovely wife of sixty years, Jo. We’ve been fishing together for six seasons now and no client has spent more time in my boat. But, Dick isn’t just a client.
With a goal of retiring at age fifty, Dick set upon and achieved success as a businessman and business owner. When he felt the time was right, he sold his company and he and Jo settled in among seventy-six acres of valley land in the mountains of North Carolina. There, he began his next career as a Christmas tree farmer planting and growing some twenty thousand Fraser firs, which he manicured by hand. I got to where I could trim a tree in eight seconds, he told me. But that care and attentiveness took its toll wearing out the rotator cuff in his casting shoulder. Now at age eighty, Dick can still fire a fly to the tightest of lies with laser accuracy. It’s more comfortable though to do so toward the left, so we hunt the best water on that side of the river. If only the trout on the other side knew how lucky they were.
Dick is no less serious than he’s ever been about fishing. You can see it in his quiet focus when we set up on a riffle and he casts small flies to rising trout. “That one is worth the trip right there”, he said after landing a sixteen inch Yellowstone cutthroat. Not the largest trout in the river, but there was grace in the way it sipped the fly and dignity in the way it battled. That splendor isn’t lost on Mr. Boggs.
He loves his wife and he loves his life and his appreciation for both reflect wisdom that deserves admiration. It’s in the moments when he sits down in the boat for a rest and looks up at the mountains and the sky and says simply, 'this is a wonderful day.'
We made the twelve mile drive down the dusty river road and back up US 26 to a lodge overlooking the river near our put-in. We sat for a drink, a pleasant way to make our time together last just a little longer — a few more stories and a few more laughs. When limes sat dry, stranded over cubes of ice in the glass we hugged and parted ways. The last thing we said to each other was 'I love you’.
It was a wonderful day.