Fishing is my lifelong passion, and as it happens, also provides a great excuse to venture off the grid and detach from civilization. My annual tradition is to seek out big trout fishing expeditions. This takes me to remote regions such as Alaska, Patagonia, or Russia—home to some of the largest trout in the northern left hemisphere.
Hoping to continue tradition, my 20-year-old son, Cameron, and I planned our 2020 fishing destination for Kuskokwim Bay, Alaska. The Alaskan trip was booked pre-COVID and as our departure date grew closer, we knew that flying to our destination was not an option. We needed to travel by car, so we re-routed our adventure to the trout filled rivers of Bozeman, Montana. I am grateful for the sudden change in plans because this fishing experience led to new perspectives about what it means to truly unplug.
My fishing trips often land me in places where cell service is not an option. The only form of communication available is the satellite phone that my wife, Katherine, insists I take for occasional check-ins. The satellite phone was not needed for this trip because I realized my iPhone had full bars nearly everywhere we went, keeping access to civilization easily in the palm of my hand. Admittedly, I found myself answering my phone, responding to emails, checking the markets, and scrolling through that dreaded twitter feed! Did I need to know what was going on in the world? The answer is no, but I could not resist.
Fortunately, by some divine intervention, I was forced to disconnect. Four days into our fishing expedition Cameron caught a massive brown trout, and in the rush to snap a photo I lost the grip on my phone. Despite our guide’s attempt to net the phone, gravity prevailed as my phone sank to the bottom of the Jefferson River.
Like anyone who loses their phone, I initially panicked. How will I check-in with my family? How will I stay in touch with what is going on in the world? What am I going to do? Once the panic subsided, I came to realize that losing my phone was a blessing cast upon (pun intended) the remainder of our fishing excursions. Leaving my connection to the outside world behind, Cameron and I headed south to my old stomping grounds, Jackson Hole, WY. During our visit I introduced Cameron to a few of my go-to fishing spots that I would frequent when my father worked at Grand Teton National Park.
Over our ten-day trip Cameron and I fished 8 rivers, or as Cam calls it “bow hunting. We caught enough fish to ensure freshly cooked jumbo trout was on the menu every night. Each new destination we visited provided us with an opportunity to explore while finding the ultimate spot to pitch our tents and new areas on the river to find trout. The unplugged days of camping and fishing with my son were truly special. I had the pleasure watching my son out fish me nearly every day. I think I missed many a fish as I found myself watching Cameron, and not my fly. It was a trip filled with proud Papa moments that I will cherish forever.
On our last day we headed to a local shop in Victor, Idaho where I purchased my replacement phone. As I powered on my new iPhone, I winced at the idea of being thrust back into reality. My new perspectives about how to unplug prompted me to set my phone aside, I wanted to spend our last day disconnected to the world and fully connected to Cameron. I came to realize I did not need the phone. Everything at the office was still intact, the markets continued to fluctuate, and twitter continued pump out new posts that I could absolutely live without. The truth is, while I am eager to stay involved in the daily hustle, the daily hustle does not necessarily need me to keep the gears churning.
The days after I lost my phone were notably better than the first few days with it, I was able to focus on bonding with Cameron while simultaneously decompressing and recharging. My advice to those reading, find your own way to unplug on occasion. You don’t need to go the extreme I did and drop your phone in a river but do make a conscious effort to ditch your tech gadgets and give yourself the room to recharge. Take time to pause and focus on what matters most – appreciate the silence, the scenery, and most importantly the people around you.