When daydreams save the day and the mundane becomes tolerable, my mind drifts to the Black Smith Fork, a small river that runs into the Cache Valley out of a world famous Elk refuge known as the Hardware ranch. Most of its riverbed is bordered by private land. Lucky for me a talented chef from Logan named Donicio Gomez offered to share the evening with me, we met in the small town of Hyrum, about 10 miles south of the Utah State University campus in Logan, Utah.
Donicio knows the rivers public access points, he also likes to talk kitchen and food. We quickly determined common interest and let fishing fill the pauses.
In the spring of 1978 I bought my first motorcycle, it was a Yamaha enduro bike, small, nimble, great on and off road. Owning that bike was one of the great joys of my life, it took me to places that otherwise I never would have had access to. The Black Smith Fork was one of those places. The road to Hyrum was rough back then, paved, well worn, lightly traveled. Taking the left hand turn, up into the canyon was a perfect adventure, just far enough from campus and my dorm room at USU. Trips to the Black Smith Fork were a quick escape from classes which made me anxious, school at the age of 18 wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready for the University classroom and I certainly wasn’t ready for the motorbike, taking chances in remote places and on Main Street in town, I was risking my life on a daily basis. Shortly after the summer that followed my freshman year I sold the bike, took a job planting trees and until today never returned to the Black Smith Fork—but the river has lingered and teased for 4 decades.
Today’s visit filled the void. Hyrum has changed. The fields that once hosted cattle now have subdivisions. There’s a McDonalds in what used to be a wheat field. The road from Logan is twice as wide, no longer uneven, and instead painted with crisp yellow lines. As Donicio’s aging truck made the transition out of the valley up the canyon all that is new was old again. The road felt a little bumpier, trees shared a fresh color of fall, the overwhelming rush of my youth came into view and I loved it.
We caught no fish in the 2 hours that Donicio and I shared on a short run just 2 miles up the canyon.
A few trout rose and nipped my hopper but no takers. It was clear that the changing season, warm summer nights transitioning to cool fall evenings suggest a shift to streamers. We did strip and swing a maribu sparkler (that my new friend Donicio had tied) and again a few grabs but nothing tight to my line. I learned that on occasion, mid summer salmon fly hatches can bring large browns to the surface on this river, more than other rivers in the region but that will happen for me another time. I hope (a man can dream) for eventual return to the Black Smith Fork. Perhaps in the spring, before the winter snows melt and a day of fishing can follow a day of skiing at Beaver mountain—another hidden gem just an hour away.
After a few years off from school I returned to the Cache Valley and the USU campus. A little better prepared and without the aid of that motorcycle I never made it back to this river, but I did ski beaver often and I lived on the Logan river. But that’s another story, one I’ll try to tell tomorrow.