Monday, March 12, 2018

Member Profile: Adam Shaw

Member Profile:  HHA Vice President Adam Shaw
The good end of the rainbow
Learning to fish with Dad
Name: Adam Shaw

Occupation: Attorney

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers? 
8 years and I’ve been on the board for four years.

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom? 
My Dad, Uncle, and Grandfathers all revered untrammeled wild places. When I was young, they would take me into the mountains and deserts of Arizona to explore. I grew up listening to stories about my great, great Grandfather, who was a Government trapper in the Arizona Territory before it became a state. My Dad and Uncle also told lots of humorous stories of various backpacking trips they took in wilderness areas. My Uncle Brian, who is a great hunter, was always admired for his hunting and fishing prowess and I’ve always looked up to that. He once caught a huge rainbow trout with his bare hands and it's on the wall in my Grandpa’s shop. He also has a local wild Gambel’s quail he trained that jumps on his shoulder if it happens to be around – yeah, he’s that guy! I guess I grew up listening to hunting, fishing, and exploring stories and that fed my love for hunting and fishing in wild places.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? 
That’s tough! But one particular boondoggle sticks out. I moved back to Missoula from Dillon, Montana and was blessed with twin boys. Work and rascal wrangling has put a damper on my fishing addiction. However, my great friend Kit Fischer indulges me often, and on one occasion took me on a float through one of his honey holes. The game: every man for himself in a personal pontoon on a river known for big cutthroats. I chose to take a beautiful Winston 4-weight fly rod my father-in-law had recently given me as a gift and I had yet to fish. I also brought a 7 weight as a spare since my 5 weight had been broken and not repaired…because…I’m a father of twins.

I started the day by forgetting my wading boots while explaining to Kit that I had nearly zero experience operating a pontoon kick-boat whilst fishing and floating down a river. He didn’t seem concerned, so I went along carefree. Then we put in. For those of you who aren’t accustomed to this form of floating, the idea is you float down the river in a personal pontoon while using fins to steer yourself. This allows you to fish at the same time – if you’re good. Seems simple. But in practice, its like trying to tie your shoes while you’re jumping.

I was happily floating along for forty minutes casting a yellow sally when I approached the first significant rapid. I wedged the Winston in between the tube and my seat with the tip pointing backward. Plunging through the rapid I noticed the yellow sally miraculously hooked to the tube by my left leg. Anyone who’s grabbed a hot pan can attest to the processing delay while you’re being burned. By the time I grabbed the tippet, it pulled taught, snapped, and the yellow sally sat in my hand.  

After an hour standing in the rapid waving my arms side to side to feel the line - a tactic brown bears use to fish for salmon - I noticed two anglers standing on the shore. The first one opined “isn’t it a little early to have had so much to drink?” Given my condition, I figured it was a little late to be so sober. After enduring the smart-ass, I had to give up on the rod and catch up with Kit, who was likely miles ahead. Harkening to a past life, I simply figured I’d come back a few weeks later when the river dropped and find the rod. I could see my bride’s face with two screaming babies in her arms while I explained that I had to spend another day on the river to look for a lost rod.

I’d like to say the trip got better, but I spent the next 9 hours trying to similarly lose the 7 WT. I once looked to my left to see its handle bobbing like a periscope of despair before I grabbed it as it sunk. We dragged our silly crafts over dozens of rock gardens while walking backward in fins. It all culminated at the take-out where Kit dumped the contents of his boat bag in the river. The entire day, I endured the crushing decision of telling my father-in-law that I lost the Winston before I ever really fished it.  

The cold beer at the truck couldn’t massage the edge of losing the rod. We did catch some fine cutthroat but overall, the fishing wasn’t good. The coup de grace to my anguish came a few weeks later when I was in Minneapolis for work. A text message from Kit showed the Winston on his kitchen table. He and another friend, Josh Conner, went back with wetsuits, masks and snorkels and fished her out.

My father-in-law loved the story. I learned valuable lessons: It’s good to have great friends. Great to have good single friends with lots of time. And always keep one hand on your rod.

Favorite River/Hunting snack? 
Pudding cups. I do a backpack archery hunt every year with my best friend, Evan. My wife, Erin, took over food planning after watching us flail and legitimately worry we’d starve. The first year she tossed in pudding cups which I objected to because of their bulk and general absurdness. Aren’t we supposed to be eating pemmican, bark, and small woodland animals if necessary?! When you eat a pudding cup for dessert after days in the mountains, you’ll thank Erin.

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow? 
Ooooooh! Hard question. Close between bow and fly rod. I’d rather hunt elk with a bow than just about anything. However, I have to go with a fly rod. I can’t even fathom not fishing.

One bug Challenge: If you had to use one bug for the whole season what would it be? 
I’d go with what my fishing buddies and I call “Wonder Bug.” It’s an old Tony Schoonen pattern for the Big Hole. I can’t explain it, but it works everywhere in all conditions.   

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received? 
Keep up the PHA! Positive Hunting Attitude. Pronounced (“Fa”). Hunting can change in an instant and staying positive is crucial. Especially on multi-day hunts. And of course, mind the wind. I’m very serious about wind conditions.

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