A whole lot of nature was in store for Stacey Hatton’s family on a road-trip adventure. Fish dinners, sadly, were not part of the fun.

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I come from a long line of fishermen. I’m not referring to my father or my grandfathers, but sometime around the Revolutionary War, there was a family member who was a whaler in the Boston area.

Now that I think of it, he probably switched to whaling since he couldn’t catch a fish. My 2-week-long “def-fish-cit” (my new word for lack of catching any fish) has to be blamed on genetics.

Due to our COVID-19 quarantine, our family’s second vacation of 2020 was canceled. Luckily, it wasn’t a once in a lifetime plan. I’m pretty sure Los Angeles and Universal Studios will be there next year.

Just to be safe, I’ll add them to my prayer list. We’ve seen many happenings that have started with “Well, in all my blank-ity-blank years I never thought…”

I need to preface this with, I love my family; but as you may have experienced being locked up with your own for five months, it was nothing I’d ever considered when deciding on getting married or procreating. We needed a vacation. Air flights were still too scary for our family’s comfort level, and that went for trains, too. A car trip filled with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes was as safe as we could come up with.

We were heading to river country in the remote hills of Montana. Low-key, low humidity, no humans to social distance from and no mosquitoes.

So what does one do in that area? Why fish, of course.

It’s approximately 22 hours of driving to get from point A to point B, but we never were great at following directions. We prefer the road less traveled as long as there are clean bathrooms and good snacks. It makes all the difference in the world.

The first state line we crossed was the Kansas to Colorado border. As predicted, the flatlands of Kansas were flat, as was part of Colorado. And then out of nowhere, bam, the Rocky Mountains, perky as ever.

We visited family for two days, and then packed up our embarrassingly huge amount of fishing equipment we had either inherited from grandparents, purchased in our younger years, or recently borrowed from a retired fisherman. This person may or not be my relative.

Our first stop was a cattle ranch in Wyoming. With no internet in our small log cabin, it was intentionally picked so our teenage daughters could detox from electronics. We just ripped that Band-Aid off! This 20-by-9 foot cabin, all fancied up with a compost toilet and a touch of running water, was an eye-opener for the family.

We were going to nurture the heck out of nature, and no one was going stop us.

Most of our vacations, throughout our marriage, have been for the kids’ enjoyment. Fun, fun and fun. This fishing vacation wasn’t exactly what our suburb girls were imagining, but they really wanted out of the house, too. The live bait wasn’t a hit for my youngest, and my older, vegetarian daughter refused to “murder anything” on her vacation.

I, on the other hand, would have given my other hand to get a fish to bite. My husband and I had been dreaming about frying up some rainbow trout all the way up the Continental Divide. The fully stocked pond on the cattle ranch proved to be successful within minutes; but it was a catch and release deal, so no fish for dinner.

When we made it to our Montana river house rental, we knew we had five days on the river and really nothing else to do other than catch our fantasy dinner. We picked up a box of seasoned Fish Fry mix along with our staples, grabbed our poles, and headed to the water, but by day 5, still no fish. Nada, zip, zilch.

This was one of the best rivers in the country for trout fishing. They even made a movie about it, but apparently Brad Pitt had a fisher-body-double in “A River Runs Through It,” because that river had no fish.

Sadly, we had to return home without having any fish to eat, and just to pour salt in our wounds, we packed up the fish fry mix among our gear and returned to home to Kansas.

A week after our trip, my husband said he was craving fried fish for dinner… again. After a quick trip to our nearby Hy-Vee, we finally cracked open the breading mix and cooked up our meal. I guess we didn’t need to drive 3,800 miles to get our fried fish, but we sure had a great time together. And that’s priceless.

Stacey Hatton can be reached at [email protected] to discuss any grand fish tales.

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