Day 1, The Madison River: Never Take Your Kids Outdoors

Photo Credit: Meagan Newberry

Photo Credit: Meagan Newberry

 While heaving a child through a cow infested field, with a broken wadding boot flapping cow pies up my leg, a storm threatening lightning strikes and loud thunder claps hurrying us along,  I yanked a grouchy 5-year-old behind me…. I thought about you who read my blog, and in that moment, I wanted to say I was all wrong and I have led you astray. Taking your kids to the river is a terrible mistake and if you could see me then, you would know that this is the worst idea I have ever had. Never, never, never take your children to the river….

The scene was perfect, photo-op perfect, with the wide open Montana sky, dark clouds in the distance and the Madison river rolling through the middle of it all.  I stepped into my automated mom-river-role without even second guessing this idea. The two other moms with me were also right in line with my ideas: the kids can play and we can fish…it seemed very simple at the time. 

We start the hike in after getting a few glares from those classy kind of fishermen, rigging up for some quiet on the river while we are passing by like a wacked out circus. The felt on my boots is starting to come off, and I’m carrying a fly rod, a spin rod, a toy truck, my fly pack, and a 3-year-old who is terrified of cows. I pass a fly guy and say, ‘hey’, and he can’t even figure out how to respond. It’s ok, I think, this is a whole other level of fly fishing/motherhood than what most are used to. My friend, Holly Finn, is leading the pack with her son behind her, followed by my curious daughter, son, my friend Meagan Newberry and her son, and I am in the back, flipping my fly rod at cows giving me the eye. 


About a quarter mile hike takes a solid half hour, it seems. The river is breathtaking and unfortunately the children are not a bit impressed. What was supposed to be the time to see the geysers at Yellowstone, turned into fish time because of the tedious park entrance lines. The kids were ready to be awed by steam shooting out of a hole in the ground and instead, they were on the bank watching their moms be their fly addicted selves. Did I mention it was also nap time? It was a combo for disaster. 

I fished first, which was so nice of my friends since I brought the most children. The possibility of a Madison Trout was so exciting, but as I cast around, I could see my three-year old yelling from the bank and my five-year old crossing his arms and sitting in the grass. My heart said some bad words for a second, but then the better part of my heart told me I was a mom first. I chuck my selfish desire to stay anyways, with the last cast of the day and wade back carefully as my felt boot flapped its way through the river as if to mock me.

My kids come running to me with sorrows and complaints. Some days I wish I had a computer chip I could pop in their little brains that would just calm them down and show them the big picture: mom needs to have fun on this trip too and then we can have fun later. I was going to explain that, but when I got back to the shore my son said ‘this is stupid’, and thunder clapped in the distance, followed by a few drops of rain, so my boys were running around like chicken little, beside themselves that they may get wet. 

I decide to call it all off, there was no talking these kids into working past these obstacles. I need them locked in their seats before I totally lose my cool. So we break off from the group and leave them to do their own sort of river parade. The walk back is one of my worst river experiences. I quickly realize how much I depend on my husband for support, as in carrying the heavy things.

The small storm is rolling in. The river is three feet away and I can see fish rising. I plead with the children for one cast, but they both start crying again, in terror. The 3 yr old steps in a fresh pile of cow dung and starts screaming. I whisk him up, along with the fresh feces, which is now smeared all over my leg and white shirt. I yell at him to hold on! With careful steps to avoid my boot completely falling off, I limp my way through the tundra, hauling toys, rods, kids, and venting under my breath. 

We make it back to the car; I lock the kids in their car seats, throw some chips at them to stuff their faces and slam the door to have some quiet time….to calm down….and to try to find satiation in staring at the river versus being in it. My blood pressure is through the roof from totally failing at what I claim to do well…… 

My friends get back to the car a bit later and I’m pleased to see my daughter, whom is terrified of storms, is not having a mental break down, and my mom-friend is jeering from catching a Madison Rainbow Trout. I take some more deep breaths because now I have to endure a couple of hours in the car with them right behind my ears. Maybe once we let them experience the expected thrills of the Yellowstone Geysers, they will let us experience the river we dream of fishing……… Hopefully that is what they will rememeber, versus their haggard mom hauling them through storms and cow herds.

When moms tackle Yellowstone and Fly Fishing together….To Be Continued…..


I would like to give Holly Finn a big huge medal for wrangling my kids for an hour while I fished. They were doing snail races and having a blast before the thunder struck and they fell apart! Three cheers for Holly and Meagan!!!


4 thoughts on “Day 1, The Madison River: Never Take Your Kids Outdoors

    • I just got home this last weekend! Another moment where I should have sent a note down stream to you, Mia! We may do a kid/fish round up in August on the O….I’ll keep you posted. T would fit right in with our gaggle of kids.:)


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