Herb Patterson and his daughter were fishing for, well, fish when they took a trip to Spanish Oaks Reservoir on June 5.
It turned out he caught something very different — and very precious.
Fishing with his daughters — Saige (13), twins Sophie and Sammie (10) and Swazie (5) — is a go-to way to spend “together” time for Herb Patterson and his wife, Linda. This was just another typical father-daughter outing.
But the outcome of this outing wasn’t usual at all. It almost defied definition for Patterson.
Speaking of definition, here’s a few words to think about:
Karma (Webster’s, informal): The force created by a person’s actions that some people believe causes good or bad things to happen to that person.
Luck (Webster’s): The things that happen to a person because of chance: the accidental way things happen without being planned.
Coincidence (Webster’s): A situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected.
Or, perhaps one of the words Patterson used when describing the incident — “amazing” — could be the best one.
Let’s see what you think.
Patterson, of Spanish Fork, said during this particular fishing outing, he ended up chatting with an acquaintance while his daughter fished.
“I knew this guy because we both were at the reservoir quite often — I didn’t even know his name, I just called him ‘buddy’ — you know, ‘Hey buddy, how’s it going?’, that sort of thing. We knew each other from talking to each other every now and then,” Patterson said.
His “buddy” turned out to be Buddy Bunnell, a retiree who spends one day a week as a camp host at Spanish Oaks Reservoir.
“I knew him (Patterson), because we talked fly fishing with each other, but I didn’t really know his name,” Bunnell said.
That was about to change.
This afternoon, as usual, the subject was fishing, and the two fell into a conversation about types of fishing poles, particularly fly rods, and ...
At this point, there needs to be some background.
Patterson said he got into fishing at about age 20.
“I had fished some, but saved some money to buy a good fly rod — a Sage rod, a 5-weight, 8-foot-6, a really nice rod, a good, versatile, rod,” he recalled. “I had a younger brother, Gerald, and it turned out that we both really got into fishing at this time (about 1994). He was quite a bit younger than me, but this was something we really shared together, we connected with this. We had limited flies, but we had this really good rod and we enjoyed ourselves.”
The two spent some really good times together on the rivers and lakes, shared a lot, and that particular fly rod, the one Herb had saved for, was central to those experiences.
The next year, in 1995, Gerald died in an accidental shooting.
“It was really hard, but it was good that we had spent a lot of time together before then, and really connected together,” he said.
And that connection was best remembered as Herb used that special fly rod over the next decade or so — his “real” job was at Nature’s Sunshine Products in Spanish Fork, but his interest in fishing that had been growing through that one year with his brother became a passion. He bought many more rods of many types and got into fishing as a full-time hobby. He and partner, Jed Stewart, ended up winning the Utah Trout Unlimited single fly competition on their first try (a contest where you fish for as long as you can in a day with a single fly — once it’s gone, you’re through — and then count the number and length of your catch to determine a winner) in record fashion. Patterson said he ended up “traveling the world” with the passion/hobby, working with outdoor networks and entering contests. Over the years he purchased probably 15-20 Sage rods, along with many other kinds.
But always, the rod that started it all, the one that held on those memories of his brother, was there. It represented so much — the accomplishment of saving up for something he really wanted, the beginning of his passion for fishing, and that one memorable year he and his younger brother had spent so much time together and bonded with a shared interest.
Something special, indeed.
“I went all over the world with it, but after a few years, I started not using it much, I wanted to kind of retire it, since it was the biggest connection I had with my brother, I remembered him when I used it,” Patterson said.
So, the rod was not exactly in high use in 2003, when, as luck would have it, Patterson took it with him one day — June 8, to be exact — on a trip to Scofield Reservoir. It was only to be his “second rod” that day as he headed out for a day of fishing for cutthroat trout with some friends. When he got into his kick boat, it was stuck in a holder on the back, because he wasn’t using it at the time and didn’t really intend to use it that day — only if something came up and he needed it.
When he headed to shore, he realized the rod was no longer in the holder on the back.
“Somehow, something had happened and it had fallen off the boat,” Patterson said. “I went back out, I looked around, I really searched, but it just wasn’t there.
“I felt sick. Why had I even taken it with me? How could it have fallen off and I not noticed it? I felt so bad.”
He felt badly enough that within a couple of days, he had gone to a local scuba diving team and offered to pay for their air and their transportation and food if they’d go search the reservoir for his rod. He diagramed where he’d been, and they figured where the current might have taken it.
The scuba team searched — but couldn’t find the rod.
“We never found it — I did everything I could think of to find it, but we never did,” he said.
He went on with his fishing, of course, but never quite got over feeling badly about losing that special rod.
About four years after it went missing, his wife encouraged him to buy a replica of it to “give me some peace of mind.”
He did. But it didn’t help.
“I bought an authentic replica of that particular rod,” he said. “But it’s just been sitting in the rod tube all this time. I never even got it out once. It seemed wrong, somehow, it just wasn’t the same.”
In the meantime, Buddy Bunnell, also an avid fly fisherman, also fished Scofield quite often. One day, when he was fishing in his kick tube — he wasn’t quite sure of the year, but it was in the fall — he said he saw “what looked like a stick” sticking up out of the water near the south end of the island.
“I knew there were no willows there, so I went over to see what it was,” he recalled. “It was a Sage fishing rod. It had moss on it, there was some corrosion, and it was stuck in the mud pretty good. It looked like it had been there a long time.”
It looked more suited for the trash can than fishing, but Bunnell decided to try to rescue it. After working on it for awhile, he managed to pull the rod free of the mud. He took it home, cleaned the moss off it and worked over it.
“It was in really bad shape,” he said. “I couldn’t even pull it apart at first. I tore the reel off, because it was jammed up. I had a friend in Oregon who needed a reel like that, and when I got it off, I gave that to him.
“The rod was in pretty bad shape — all the bluing had gone off, it didn’t look really good,” he said. “But I got it cleaned up, and I caught a bunch of fish on it. Then, since it really didn’t look very good, I just kind of put it away and didn’t use it.”
It all comes together
So, now we’re back on June 5, 2013, as Herb and Buddy, who have been acquainted for some years, and have talked about fishing many times, are once again talking about fishing.
“I don’t even remember exactly how we got on the subject, but we were talking about rods and then talking about Sage rods,” Patterson said. “I was saying that I really liked that brand and we were talking about various types, and somehow ...”
Somehow — and Patterson didn’t remember if he mentioned he’d lost a Sage rod once, or if Bunnell was the first to mention that he’d found one — but somehow, the conversation moved to a lost and found rod, something like this:
Patterson: “I lost a Sage rod once at Scofield.”
Bunnell: “I found one at Scofield, near the island,”
Patterson: “This was a 5-weight, 8-foot-6 rod.”
Bunnell: “The one I found was Sage 5-weight and 8-foot-6 — it had an STH reel.”
Patterson: “Mine had an STH reel.”
And on it went, comparing years, etc., until both were pretty sure that the lost was found, and that two people who had been chatting for several years, but didn’t even really know each other’s names, were connected through a shared story.
Almost 10 years to the day, Patterson was about to get his “special” rod back.
“He told me the reel was gone, but he could get it back for me if I wanted it, but I didn’t care about the reel. It wasn’t the reel that was special to me, it was the rod,” Patterson said.
“We put the two stories together, and it really was amazing,” Bunnell said. “He came over and I brought it out and it was his rod. I was glad to be able to give it back to him, especially when it meant so much to him. I told him I could get the reel back, but he didn’t care about that, only about having the rod. It was nice.”
Patterson said he will always be grateful to Bunnell for rescuing his rod and always amazed at how things all came full circle for him to get the rod back.
“You know, I found a kick boat about five years ago that had obviously got away from someone,” he said. “I did everything I could to find who it belonged to, put things on Facebook, social media, everything I could think of. And finally, I did find the owner, and it was someone who said they could never have afforded to replace it, and were so thankful to get it back.
“And they told me at the time that maybe someday, someone would find something of mine and give it back, and I’d know how grateful they felt. And now I do.”
What does he plan to do with the precious rod?
“I haven’t fished with it since,” he admitted. “I’m kind of scared that something might happen to it. I’m going to put it in a shadow box with the original fly and such ... it’s going to go somewhere safe.”
But surely, he would like to catch one more fish on it before it goes on the wall?
“I might have to try once more, I don’t know,” he said. “That’s something I’m thinking about. But I can use the replica now, and that may have to do.”
On the wall or with a fish on the end of its line just one more time, Patterson said the happy ending to this story continues to amaze him.
After all, what are the odds — first, that someone will even find the rod. Then, that the person who finds it will clean it up and keep it, rather than throw the moss-covered old thing away. And what are the chances that the owner and the finder will ever be in the same place? And that somehow, a conversation about fishing between acquaintances will get around to a lost fishing rod?
Coincidence? Luck? Karma?
“I don’t know,” Patterson said. “I still find it unbelievable that everything came together that way and somehow, I got the rod back. It’s just amazing.”
For someone who’s won lots of fishing prizes, this particular prize is the best of all.
“This is the catch of year for 2013 for me, that’s for sure,” he said.