The Smell of Fish

September 20th, 2017

I wrote this blog last week, when we were in Swan Valley, Idaho. Snake River county.
If you missed, or didn’t have time for the brief video summary, click here.

I walk over to the river. There’s not much other for destination around here. That is, unless you want to take the longer walk down to the corner gas and grocery near the Roadhouse Cafe and the tiny post office. It’s just a crossroads of a town . . . but that walk’s on gravel road with no tree cover, so the short path to the river is better.

As I approach I smell it. Sorta like fish, or at least the smell I remember when I’d go fishing with Dad. It’s the smell of a fisherman’s hope . . . and it takes me back to Dad like no photo ever could.

It’s the first time in a long time I think of him; I give thanks for him, remember that he was a good dad. And he loved to fish. Mom used to say she never knew anybody who liked to fish like he did.

And he was good at it. He had a reputation for catching when nobody else was, and more, and bigger. When it’s that regular, it’s not just luck.

All I can come to is that he thought about it. He thought about it before he went, knowing what he’d be after, what the fish preferred, when they’d be hungry . . . like that. He was also a patient man. He liked just being out there on the water, on the shore, on a pier. If they weren’t biting, he enjoyed it still.

It wasn’t a hobby/sport/occupation that took with me. A mutual friend once remarked that Dad probably wondered where he’d gone wrong, a son that he was happy to invite along, but never really loved doing it as deeply, and less as time went by.

I remember the last time I went out with him for mountain stream fishing. Instead of a pole I brought along a pair of binoculars, just to look around, especially at things right at my feet. I enjoyed that more than fidgeting around with tackle, waiting for what might or might not be happening beneath the water’s surface, extracting a hook from the mouth of a squirming prize, or later gutting it . . . though at dinner I was happy to eat the results of the day.

The view right at the feet is almost always just as wonderous as any . . . this one without binoculars. (On both, click to enlarge.)

But though catching fish didn’t catch with me, I learned from it just the same. Someone told me once, after I saw it myself but hadn’t named it, “FISHING IS A GREAT METAPHOR FOR ALL OF LIFE.”

You prepare.

You go.

You wait.

You’re active and passive both.

It’s part luck, it’s part strategy.

Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t. You’re challenged to be content either way.

When you do succeed you don’t take all the credit; there were other forces at play.

When you don’t succeed, you don’t quit, not if you’re a real fisherman.

There are no guarantees.

Except one: If you don’t go, you’ll never catch.


So, thanks, Dad. It was great remembering you today. I don’t know what my kids will remember me for. I hope the fragrance is as sweet.


PS There are a few photos of Dad (and Mom) in the sample pages of the book I did for them . . . including a classic of him fishing!  Click here.



  1. Tim MacDonald Sep 20, 2017
    8:42 pm

    Great blog Hyatt!

    I too have tried many times to like fishing over the years. Waiting for a fish to find my line always felt like a frog waiting for a fly to wander into his air space.

    I found am more more like a lizard – hunting down my “catch.” Thus the reason I prefer diving and hunting for lobster, rather than waiting for a fish to find my tasty bait.

    This approach has proved be my style in life as well – over and again; knocking on doors versus waiting for the phone to ring, proposing ideas versus waiting to be asked for input, sharing what God has done in my life, etc.

    Thankfully we are all made uniquely different – and there is definitely more than one way to catch a fish!

  2. Norm Sep 20, 2017
    8:42 pm

    Very thoughtful, reflective piece, Hyatt. Who among us cannot relate to the parent/father/son dynamic pictured here? I was the same way with surfing. I took each of my sons into the mighty Pacific, thinking they would bond to the watery world as I did as a young lad. Each had his own course, entirely unlike my own. It was when I let go and flowed with their own bent that I saw the magic slowly begin to happen. That said, my part was to sustain the courage to keep going, keep seeking, keep looking for the prize. Your dad had the wherewithal to do just that with you. And thankful you are, rightly so.

  3. Sue Sep 20, 2017
    9:15 pm

    I love this, Hyatt. His birthday’s today you know. Would’ve been what? 101? That many fish and more. Caught a barracuda my first time out. He cheered me on but we both knew it was beginners luck.

    • Hyatt Moore Sep 20, 2017
      9:35 pm

      Sue, I confess I’d not thought today was his birthday. Perfect! Thanks for pointing it out. He made it to 96. May we do so well.

  4. Ashley Sep 21, 2017
    4:12 am

    Beautiful. My son has a passion for fishing and it is almost the only thing he has patience for. Love that these lessons are built in. Thanks for bringing them out.

    • Hyatt Moore Sep 21, 2017
      2:18 pm

      Thanks, Ashley. He’ll doubtless see the connections in time. Where’s your blog?

    • Ashley Sep 24, 2017
      4:50 pm

      Blog brain is being overtaken by book brain. Having trouble thinking on both.

  5. Hyatt 4 (grandson in this case) Sep 21, 2017
    7:02 am

    I really appreciate how Grandpa would take us kids fishing as well. Inevitably, he would remark to one or all of us, depending on our felt success or lack thereof: “Fishing’s great; catching is even better.”

    It still makes me smile :)

  6. Jody Sep 21, 2017
    7:09 am

    Thanks for that Hyatt…I love the Metaphor…I think you hit that right on the head. Hope you don’t mind if I pass this along to all of my fishing friends!?

    • Hyatt Moore Sep 21, 2017
      7:16 am

      Absolutely, Jody . . . though they probably won’t be able to understand my strange lack of interest :-).

  7. Patricia Rody Sep 21, 2017
    2:03 pm

    Sweet memory! I have similar memories of fishing with my grandpa (because it didn’t really take with my dad). This was a nice pause to reflect on them.

  8. Mabel Pittman Sep 21, 2017
    4:48 pm

    I have such sweet memories of your dad’s earnest, quiet advice……I think his acceptance of how each of us is designed actually helped me, too……I always felt like the black sheep of my farmer family (I hated farming!)…….and then someone (It could have been your father….sounds like him) told me that when I married a city dude who loved to dig in the dirt and watch plants grow I had redeemed myself…..funny after all these years, the smell of freshly plowed ground gives me the same wonderful memories that the smell of fish gives you…….thankful for the senses God gave us……and for our pleasure?? BTW…..we did get to celebrate a few birthdays with your dad!!!!

  9. DOROTHY Stibs Sep 23, 2017
    2:34 pm

    Hello Hyatt:
    You’re writing had the ability to transport me directly to fishing with your dad and you.
    I could feel his passion for his sport, as well as your preoccupation with other interest at that time in your life. However, you also conveyed such a strong reflection of memories of a father and son time together. Even though you were together, you were both in your own world so to speak, however,it did not dim the togetherness,nor the makings of a fond memory.
    This writing also had the power to transport me right back to my own childhood and my father. My Dad’s passion in life, besides my beautiful Mother, was deep sea fishing off the coast of New Jersey in the Atlantic Ocean. However, unlike you, my memories are not so fond LOL Almost every weekend in the summer time we would have to go deep sea fishing with him. Repeatedly, I would get seasick every weekend and get burnt to a crisp, and have sun poisoning almost all summer long. Just as the smell of fish was prominent in your memory, the smell of fish on the deep sea fishing boat, which accommodated approximately 20 fisherman, was extremely repulsive to say the least. Not to mention the disgusting smell of beer, co-mingling with the smell of sun baked bukets of dead fish.
    I like your memory better!😊

  10. Jane E Neiswender Sep 24, 2017
    3:09 pm

    Hi Hyatt, I really enjoy your blog, and one several months ago, in June around the 20th I think called Hanging in There started the ball rolling on an adventure for us. You shared you and Anne highly value fun…those words came at a time when we needed to be reminded of that. It was one thing among a series of things, but it helped steer our thoughts toward creating some fun. Long story short, with an unexpected “gift” we weren’t expecting, we bought a brand new camping trailer! It has given us both something we can really get excited about together and just planning future adventures makes us giddy. Just wanted you to know….Jane and Larry Neiswender