Three generations of fly fishermen

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 7:06 AM

On Wisconsin’s Namekagon River, a son shares the family tradition of fly fishing with his wife and two sons.

hide

The author casts toward the river bank as his son Zachary, 4, plays with a water squirter. Guide Wendy Williamson holds the boat in position during the Helgeson family’s first guided float trip.

Photo: Kathy M Helgeson• Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Our pastor friend thought it sounded like an awful idea, a close approximation of hell.

“What sin did Wendy commit to get assigned this float?” asked Don Wisner, a semiretired Lutheran pastor and longtime fly angler from Eau Claire, Wis.

He was talking about our other good friend, Wendy Williamson, a guide and an owner of Hayward Fly Fishing Co.

This horrific task: Take me, my wife, Kathy, and our two small boys on a daylong float trip — in a tiny drift boat built for three, down the Namekagon River.

“Are you bringing Taj,” Wisner said sarcastically of our frenetic 12-year-old Brittany spaniel. “You might as well bring the dog, too.”

Williamson huffed, “We are going to have a great time.”

In many ways, the trip was set in motion long ago by my dad, Tom, who spent the better part of his life completely and passionately in love with fly fishing Midwestern rivers and streams. He relished sharing their majesty, particularly with me and my sister, Carrie. Fly fishing nourished many of his deepest friendships — like Williamson, her husband, Larry, and the pastor.

When Dad died nearly three years ago, he had become an evangelist for the sport, the environment and the larger fly-fishing community.

We hoped the float trip would deepen our boys’ appreciation of rivers, the outdoors and give them their first taste of the sport their grandfather had planned to share with them. Kathy would get her first real chance to fly fish, too.

There were no guarantees floating with Grayson, 6, and Zachary, 4. They were enthusiastic, but could easily run out of patience in 20 minutes.

Wendy planned for this. She chose a stretch of river that she could row through in two hours, or if the boys held up, we could fish hard for much longer.

Wendy is an accomplished guide and instructor, so I opted to keep quiet and let her help Kathy. Fly fishing can be a bit like driving a manual transmission for the first time; best not have too many instructors or onstream critics.

As Wendy loaded the boat into the water, she told Kathy to practice casting on the grass. Time was short, so Wendy just stressed the basics: Keep the casting motion compact, the rod tip high and relax.

We knew the trick for the boys would be to keep them engaged, active — which can be tough on a drift boat barely longer than a canoe. The boys are too young to fly fish from a boat, so we tried other ways to keep them involved

As we pushed off, Wendy noted a couple dragonflies lifting off over the surface of the water. She told the boys to be on the lookout for more. A good hatch of dragonflies can be a smorgasbord for smallmouth bass and good fortune for us.

A little ways down the river, a 14-inch bass darted from under a rock, flashed in the sunlight and slammed my minnow imitation. The boys shrieked and cheered.

Wendy grabbed the net and quickly snatched the fish from the water.

Grayson excitedly peered into the net, but Zachary became spooked and hid behind my leg as Wendy released the fish.

  • related content

  • Kathy Helgeson held a 28-inch pike — her first fish caught while fly fishing — for inspection by 6-year-old Grayson.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close