Billboard Gospel

Take an Adult Fishing

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ran this roadside advertising campaign for years: “Take a Kid Fishing.” The billboard featured a chubby little boy, eyes swelling with tears and hands holding a scarred-up hatchery trout. I chuckled at the irony of it as we drove past one, headed up the Pecos River that windy June day. My intense, unblinking and increasingly bearded friend in the passenger seat wasn’t as chubby or joyful-looking as the kid in the ad, but he was every bit as new to fishing. 

It was 2017, and I had first met Ryan Stodgell earlier in the spring on an off-road trip in Utah as we worked a winch line together, wrangling a three-wheel-drive Land Rover Defender up a slickrock knob in the Bears Ears National Monument. We’d been strangers just that morning but when things went sideways everybody gravitated toward him for solutions. Ryan oozed confidence and capability, his intense vibe like that of a hyper-vigilant owl sporting cop sunglasses…

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