Fishing Adventures with President Monson

Many people know of Pres. Monson’s cabin up Provo Canyon at Vivian Park. His son, Clark Monson, reminisces about this on the pages of BYU Studies in “Rod Tip Up!” Kurt Manwaring talked with Monson about the essay.

“When I was young, my family and relatives spent considerable time during summers at the family cabin in Vivian Park, Provo Canyon. Dad spent mornings and evenings fishing the Provo River. If we wanted to know where he was, we just walked the short distance from our cabin to the Vivian Park bridge. We could almost always see him fishing, mid-river, within a few hundred yards upstream or downstream of the bridge.

It became a habit for my family and relatives to look for Dad whenever we happened to walk or drive across the bridge.

If he was within shouting distance of the bridge, we’d call out to him and wave. He’d wave back. If we were driving across the bridge, we’d honk, and he’d look, recognize the car and wave to us.

His figure was a regular presence on the river.”

“I had started writing down some fishing memories with my Dad that I wanted to include in an essay. And 18 days after Dad died one of my former BYU geography professors, Alan Grey, passed away.

Following Alan’s funeral, I was introduced to a friend of the Grey family. I shook his hand and he asked me if Thomas Monson was my father. When I said “yes,” he briefly told me how he had met my dad on the Provo River many years previously.

He said he wasn’t a member of the Church at the time, but he must have been very familiar with the Church in order to recognize my dad in waders and fishing clothes. He said he had some questions about the church he was hoping Dad could answer.

Whatever my dad told him must have made an impression because he said that afterwards he knew he needed to be baptized. “That conversation with your father on the Provo River,” he said, “changed my life.”

I knew bits and pieces of similar stories people had experienced with my dad on the river, but when I heard this one, I knew I needed to include it in my essay.

My comment that Dad didn’t mind a pause from fishing to change a life but that he was reluctant to stop fishing when it was time to eat was based on many experiences.

Dad was almost always late to return from the river to the cabin when breakfast was ready to be served. And it wasn’t just my family that was waiting for him. Usually my dad’s brother’s family was also with us at the cabin. So, a lot of people would be waiting for his return, but it was hard for him to leave the river unless he had caught his limit of eight fish.

He just loved being on the river.

And part of the attraction of the river was that it connected Dad to his youth, when he was able to fish every day during the summer.”

Read the full interview at 10 Questions. There’s lots more fishing stories.

8 comments for “Fishing Adventures with President Monson

  1. Hi Robert,
    I did the interview with Clark over at FromtheDesk. My daughter was pretty excited to see a response here from the “little blond kid” and wants to know—what’s one of your funniest memories of President Monson (funny or otherwise?)

  2. Well Kurt, that would take a book. Clark and I were raised more as brothers than cousins. But here is a quick one:

    Clark, Tom and Francis and I slept on a screened porch on the north side of the cabin. We always got up early to fish, but one particular Saturday, Tom was out before I got out of bed. The next thing I knew I heard him standing outside the screen next to my bed calling my name Kearl! (Kearl was my middle name and he always called me Kearl). I looked up and saw him soaked to the skin. He was literally running with water. Then he held up a twenty inch Brown Trout.

    It seems he had just stepped into the river and on his first cast had hooked the big fish. Not wanting to fight the brown across the current he waded to the far side of the river. Then the fish did something strange, It swam directly upstream right between his legs. He lifted up one of his feet to get the line untangled but the current was too strong and it knocked him off his feet. There he was at six o’clock in the morning tumbling along the bottom of the fifty degree water of the Provo River.

    After a few tumbles he got his feet below him got himself upright, and though soaked, out of the water Thinking the fish was surely off his hook he started to reel in his line. When he had taken up the slack there was the fish, still on.

    He took that fish in to the taxidermist and until he died a couple of years ago it sat in his office at the church office building.

  3. My thoughts are what a life of leisure, and priveledge.
    My father died recently at 93. When he joined the church in 1958 he had his oun successful building and cabinet making business. Within 2 years he was on a building mission as a building supervisor for the church in Scotland. He did that for about 8 years, and was then employed by the church building programme until he retired. He was also Bishop on a number of occasions, and went on missions after retitement.
    He believed because he worked for the church, he should put his whole life into it. Leisure was a waste of time. At the wake after my father died none of my brothers could remember any leisure with our father, or play. I struggle to do leisure.I have never been fishing.

    So while my father was doing this for the church, the prophet was fishing.

    The prophet had a better work family life ballance. What a shame that could not have been conveyed to my father. (Have i ever heard a talk by Pres Monson on work life ballance) I am evious, not bitter just envious

  4. Geoff,
    My Dad was also a workaholic. I don’t blame the church for it though. Wow….
    You said, “He believed…Leisure was a waste of time”

    He was never taught that by the church. We’ve got plenty of good-natured stories of Joseph Smith to prove it. What do you need a quote from President Monson citing Shakespeare or Broadway musicals to get the ideal that wholesome recreation activities are an important part of family life? Oh wait… where have I heard that phrase before… “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of…wholesome recreational activities”.

  5. You could also have a read of Ch. 26, Recreation and Social enjoyment in the teachings of the President Brigham Young.

    Consider Ch. 11 in Teachings of the President John Taylor, titled, “Finding Joy”.

    As your father as baptised in the middle of David O Mckay’s administration, he might have remembered this famous quote, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home”.

    You can certainly narrow the focus on that quote to mean we need to be reading scriptures all the time or always and only serving our neighbors. But you’d be putting words into his mouth he didn’t say in a reflection of your own biased assumptions. I don’t think you can blame the church for depression/ww2 era man focusing on practicality over amusement.

    President Monson after all was raised in the church during the same and would be the ideal portrait of someone who balanced wholesome recreation and Christ-like service.

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