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Gone Fishing

Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
First Timer at a Big Time Writers’ Conference


First Timer at a Big Time Writers’ Conference

Most writers can pretty much agree about at least two things: first, you never turn down a free drink; and second, the first lines are usually the hardest ones to write. In fact, firsts in general can be the toughest (and most exhilarating) part about being a writer. For there’s nothing quite like the first time you see your work in a new publication, or the first time someone besides your mom tells you you’re good, or the first time an editor rips you one so big it feels like it stretches all the way from Albuquerque to Bangor. The first time at a writer’s conference can be quite an experience, and quite nerve wracking, as well—especially the first time at a national, Big Time event like the 84th Annual Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA)...

Posted at 12:17 AM | Permalink | Comments: 4

Home is Where the Heart--and the Fridge and TV Are


Home is Where the Heart--and the Fridge and TV Are

Home is a powerful word. It isn’t simply a place or even a destination. No, home is more of a state of mind and a feeling in the heart.  It’s that feeling you get when you top the crest of Timmerman Hill, or begin to switchback down from Galena Summit, or when the plane makes the final descent into the narrow, wondrous and welcoming valley where the Big Wood River flows.  It’s the state of mind we drift into when we walk in the front door and slip off our shoes, or sit down to enjoy a fire, sunset or a favorite magazine. It’s how we feel when we share our special place with family and friends. It’s where we go when we want to get away from it all or to simply sleep like a child. Home is, after all, where the heart...

Posted at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments: 2

An Honest Guy’s Guide to Getting Hitched


An Honest Guy’s Guide to Getting Hitched

(What the old married bastahds neva tell ya!)* Weddings are truly special days. Days worth cherishing, honoring and long re-living. I remember my wedding to my lovely wife Brooke, which took place almost a decade ago in Sun Valley, like it was yesterday—and not just because it took me until about then to pay it off. It was a beautiful, festive day full of countless smiles, laughs and hugs, which were inspired by more than just the open bar. And one of the things I mostly vividly recall is that all the men there who’d long been married—you know who you are!—totally screwed me over. They were about as useful as a chastity belt is to newlyweds. They didn’t give me a single stitch of useful advice; so long as you don’t count looking at me while...

Posted at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments: 4

10 More Minutes!


10 More Minutes!

Joining the mysterious ranks of the Clampers*  “From here on out you are nothing. In fact, you’re less than nothing, you’re a PBC, a Poor Blind Candidate, a friggin’ Puke!” my sponsor, “Cornflake,” said as he handed me a chicken egg and some string. Written all over the eggshell, in thick black Sharpie, were terrible and immoral things, the types of things most southern states consider illegal. And worse yet, the egg said that I—the knucklehead now wearing what some chicken pooped out around my neck like a bad luck medallion—apparently wanted to do these things to people called the “Hangman,” the “Humbug” and their poor (and somewhat wanton) “widders.” It was at about this time,...

Posted at 12:20 AM | Permalink | Comments: 9

Written in Water


Written in Water

A brief history of water in the West “One of the defining characteristics of the West is that it is, by and large, an arid region,” explained David M. Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University and 2010 Sun Valley Writers' Conference attendee. While gold has garnered more headlines and sparkles more brightly in the minds of man, water has always been the most precious and important resource in the Western United States. And referring to the 11 states that make up the region as “arid” may actually be an understatement. As Professor Kennedy graciously explained between classes at Stanford’s Palo Alto, California, campus, outside of some mountainous areas of the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades, most of the West...

Posted at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments: 4

Three Reads: Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Alums


Three Reads: Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Alums

For the better part of two decades, the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference has been celebrating literary greatness each summer amongst the stunning backdrop of the great Northern Rockies. In honor of this year’s event, here are reviews of three conference inspired reads that are all short story collections of different sorts—one from a writer participating this year, one from last year and one of the all-time legends.Iron & Silk by Mark Salzman (Vintage, 1986, 224 pgs)Mark Salzman isn’t so much a writer as he is a rock star—although most rock bands seldom include the cello. Heck, the cowbell rarely makes the cut. But not only does Salzman write award-winning best sellers (and acts in their big screen adaptations), he’s played cello on several movie...

Posted at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments: 2

Fly Fishing with a Trash-Talking Mother-in-Law


Fly Fishing with a Trash-Talking Mother-in-Law

As longtime fishing guide Eric “Otis” Hein once advised, “If you’re going to get into fly fishing, you’d better have a sense of humor.”
 Of course, anyone who’s ever been married could argue that the same advice is nothing shy of sage when it comes to dealing with your mother-in-law. Naturally, that advice multiplies like love-drunk mayflies when it turns out your mother-in-law can out fish you. 
 A couple of years ago this week, while we were still hanging our hats in the mountains of California’s Eastern Sierra, my mother-in-law of almost a decade now, Valdi, came to the “Eastside” to visit her first grandson. She somehow managed to stop paying attention to Jack just long enough to make sure neither her daughter nor I had...

Posted at 06:22 AM | Permalink | Comments: 4

Knott Your Average Golf Course Designer


Knott Your Average Golf Course Designer

When you get right down to it, it’s actually easier to make it as a professional golfer than it is as a professional golf course architect.Just about every weekend of the year, hundreds of professional golfers tee it up, trying for nationally televised fame and glory. But they can only play on one course at a time.Don Knott is one of those lucky few people with the talent and tenacity to make the cut as a professional golf course architect. But he hasn’t simply made the cut.Don Knott has become one of the most highly respected golf course architects of all time. If there were a Master’s Tournament for golf course designers, Don Knott would get a lifetime exemption.“Golf is still golf”Don didn’t always have a love affair with golf. A collegiate...

Posted at 02:37 AM | Permalink | Comments: 3

The Birds and Bees of Brown Trout


The Birds and Bees of Brown Trout

WHEN IT COMES RIGHT DOWN TO IT, trout aren’t all that different from people—especially when it comes to the way we reproduce. They do, after all, call pictures of anglers holding trout “fish porn.”Indeed, it turns out that the biggest distinction between the way our two species reproduce is that while trout partake in every aspect of the process in water, humans only sporadically have water involved (water births, waterbeds and the occasional alcohol-induced incidents in hot tubs).“Just like humans, trout have to listen to their hormones and when they get the urge, they can’t fight it,” explained Dr. Tom Jenkins, a gray-bearded, semi-retired fisheries biologist from June Lake, California.“Biology matters,” declared Dr. Tom, who...

Posted at 12:43 AM | Permalink | Comments: 3

The Cosby Show Comes to Town


The Cosby Show Comes to Town

Scholars have long argued as to why God, after making a perfectly good, exceptionally well-behaved and seemingly contented man —better known as Adam—decided to make a woman.“I don’t know what he did,” Bill Cosby told a sold out Sun Valley Pavilion last week. “Maybe he was making beer.”One of the first rules of bartending, the trade of serving beer, is to never talk about politics or religion. Of course, Bill Cosby isn’t a bartender by trade, he’s a joke teller—and one of the best to ever hone the craft. So politics and the editorial work done on the Holy Bible are, quite naturally, his forte.“I have no problem with God…but the editors,” Bill began in his deep, slow-paced voice. Just then the skies suddenly...

Posted at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments: 3

About This Blog

Whether he’s being out-fished by his trash talking mother-in-law, guiding one of his young sons through the perils of manhood or finding inspiration from the people of the Wood River Valley, Mike McKenna’s award-winning writing is always sure to entertain. Order a copy of Mike's highly-acclaimed book, "Angling Around Sun Valley: A year-round fly fishing guide to South Central Idaho" from Silver Creek Outfitters.

Gone Fishing's awards include: "Best Blog" 2010 & 2011 by the Idaho Press Club, "Best Web-only Article" of 2011 by the Outdoor Writers Association of California and "Best Fishing" & "Best Humor" blogs of 2012 by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.


"Angling Around Sun Valley" was selected as the "Best Book" of 2013 by Northwest Outdoor Writers Association!

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