Hokahe’ - A Good Day to Die

Posted by & filed under HARROP'S FORKED TONGUES.

To the American Indian, a good death is as important as a good life. For the Lakota, Hokahe’ was a rallying cry for warriors preparing for battle. "It is a good day to die” is the literal translation, but in a broader society, it means I am not afraid. Bob Evans was not Indian but he was a warrior, and I do not believe he feared anything.

Known simply as Evans to most in the Henry’s Fork fishing community, he spent the final three decades of his life fishing the Ranch water nearly every day of the summer season. And during the course of those years he became as familiar to locals and regular visitors as the Mule’s Ear that blossoms in the meadows or the call of Sand Hill Cranes at sunset.

Although Evans had family, he lived a solitary life as a single man traveling the western states in pursuit of steelhead and trout. His home was a small travel trailer towed behind a beat up Ford pickup that could be found on the Grande Ronde in the fall or the San Juan in winter. But mostly he loved the Henry’s Fork where he would arrive in May and leave only when cold temperatures in the high country made camping simply too uncomfortable for an older man.

Most who knew him well believe that Evans spent more actual time on the Ranch water than anyone who has ever fished the Henry’s Fork. And while his casting style would not win any competitive award, few could match his effectiveness on the elusive rainbows that characterize his favorite water. Gifted with keen vision and the instincts of a predator, Evans fished with patience and stealth, and this is where he separated from others of similar undertaking. When working a big fish, he was simply relentless.

Evans also knew the value of observation, as was evident in his knowledge of hatches and the flies he tied to match them. Proud to a fault, he never relied on another’s tie, nor did he need to.
Evans was a large man, and his un-kept white hair and stubbly beard could be intimidating to a new acquaintance. But his physical appearance and sometime brusque manner belied a kind heart and sensitive nature. If the names of those whom Evans helped on the water were ever compiled, the list would be long. It was this aspect of his personality, and the fact that he was simply a good guy, that accounts for the many friends he accumulated during his years on the Henry’s Fork.
As one who counts himself among those friends, I have many memories of time spent with Evans. Most of those memories are from fishing the same water, but the most lasting are our conversations on the Observation Deck at the Log Jam.

Although never by appointment, we often came together in early afternoon when Evans had finished the mornings’ fishing and I was taking a mid-day break from work. In my mind, I can see the lone figure striding toward the parking lot at the end of what was often a long hike from deep within the Ranch. Usually, it was a hot day in July and August when the crowds had thinned and conversation could be private.

A fishing report was inevitable when you met Evans, but he had an opinion and could talk on any subject. Matters pertaining to river politics were always of interest, but in later years his softer side began to show in the things he wanted to talk about. Usually, family would enter the discussion, and the love he had for his kids and the pride he expressed in that regard are memorable. Always, however, he spoke of his love for the river and the gratitude he felt for being there. As aging men of similar years, we also talked about life and the prospect of death and from this I have concluded that Evans knew how he wanted to leave mortal existence and where his spirit should reside.

Bob Evans’ life ended on a warm June day while wading the water he lived to fish. And for him, it was a good place and a good day to die.

Rest Well Old Friend

Rene’ Harrop
June 25, 2013
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

19 Comments

  1. Dana Evans

    Rene, I continue to share this blog with friends when they ask of my father's death. Because I take such peace in the way you described what we all seemed to know would eventually happen. I just still feel it was too soon. He now has 4 wonderful grandsons. If only they could have all met him.

  2. Dana

    Rene, I can only imagine the stories you all had to hear of Jason, Anastasia and I and hope that they did not get too old. I hope they were not as tall as the stories of the trout he told! Thank you for sharing your words, they help with the healing. ~ Dana

  3. Andreas Novak

    "NOVAK, YOU'RE AN IDIOT!!!" This is how many a phone conversation would begin, and the uninitiated might suspect an insult. But to me, Bob was merely pointing out that the fishing on the Henry\'s is really good right now and I should be there.....along with letting me know, in his own inimitable manner, that he cared about me and would like to see me..... "Mr. Evans, how nice to hear your voice" I would reply and the conversation proceeded, ending with "It's nice to hear your voice too, so get your behind up here before it's over..." I miss you, my friend, and may you cast forever on windless days where the hatch never ends. Until we meet again..... Andreas Novak Farmington, NM (aka just about 40 minutes from the banks of the San Juan River, where Bob and I first met about 15 years ago.....)

  4. Doug White

    A little more history of "Evans"'. As he was also known as Tuna to his friends in Vermont, Bob Evans to many others, and Bobbie to his older siblings who survive him. He was Uncle Bob to me. He was born and raised in southern New Jersey where he learned to fish small ponds and the Atlantic Ocean. His surf rods remained behind though when he moved to Vermont in the late 1960's and started his family. Bob made MANY more friends during the 20 plus years he worked and operated various restaurants in the Killington and Rutland Vermont area. He fished those Vermont streams for many years and then turned to the west and Idaho for his remaining time. He leaves behind 3 grown children and some grandchildren that are newly arriving. We knew we would only see him "occasionally" but were glad we recently saw him this past spring. All will Miss Bob "Tuna" Evans, and all are comforted in the grand style he chose to leave us and the lessons he taught us.

  5. Lee Whitelock

    I met Evans while visiting Tom several years ago. He took me fishing up Wood road. Rough as that road was, he said what shame it would be to "grade" it. that would make it too accessible. As we watched the fish rise, he tried his best to teach me to watch for the bigger fish... They all looked the same to me. He eventually wandered off downstream. He gave me a fly once and the Wing was stained like tobacco. I asked him if he brushed his teeth with it. oops. Never got another fly... I miss him a lot .

  6. Phil Patton

    Great words and thoughts Rene’ for our friend Bob. Bob was a great friend and will be missed by us on the Grande Ronde and Snake River. I did get a day or two of training from him on the Fork but haven\'t had a chance to get back. He was a true gentleman and a very sharing person. Bob went \"across\" doing what he loved and in the place he most enjoyed. We should be so lucky when it comes our time. He left a big void here that I will fill with good memories of him \"Tight Lines\" Bob............ Phil Patton (or \"Arkie\" as Bob liked to call me)

  7. Mark

    Bob was a fixture on one of the rivers I fish, and while he probably never knew me as anything more than "That Alaskan Guy". I got the chance to watch and learn from him over the last 5 years. Bob was occasionally gruff as hell but for the most part tolerant of "new blood" and, if you measured up to his dryline standards, often very free with advice and the accumulated knowledge of a long lifetime chasing fish. He will be missed.

  8. Rob

    If we all could be so lucky. Best wishes to his family and thanks to Rene for the awesome words.

  9. DarrellKuni

    Thanks for the story behind the cross and flowers memorial I saw last week on the banks of the river. I hope his flows and flies are for eternity perfect.

  10. Beverly Anderson

    Rene, Thank you for the wonderful tribute and a gift to those of us who did not know the details of Bob's life on the river. Bob was a good friend to many. I am thankful to be considered among them.

  11. Jason Evans

    Rene, on behalf of Bob's other family thank you for the wonderful words. My father had a special respect for the river and it's people, and was proud of his friendship with you. He took pride in his knowledge of the river and enjoyed sharing that learning with anyone who would listen. He also loved to learn new things, although some times disguised by his manners and opinions. Thank you Rene for being a friend, to me , my father and the river.

  12. John Albano

    Tom Watkins introduced me to Bob a few years ago. I learned a lot about fishing from Bob but will never be the angler that Tom has become. I was fortunate to spend time waiting for a hatch with Bob and just talking about life. We differed in our opinions but we always enjoyed the conversation. Bob had as great an admiration for Rene as Rene did for him. Sometimes we also fished. Kathy and I miss him dearly but he will always be with us. Rene, thanks for the tribute to a wonderful man.

  13. Tom Watkins

    As someone who spent more time with Bob than most in recent years, it is my heart that feels the greatest loss. Bob came into my life on the Henry's Fork many years ago and not only mentored me to become a "Forker" but became a part of my family and he will always be remembered in our inner circle. There is not a place on the ranch that does not bring some special memory of Bob or a great fish we experienced. Bob you will always be in my heart and my thoughts. Tom

  14. Michael Davidchik

    Over the last 7 years I had the pleasure of being able to get to know and learn from Bob. Though abrasive at times, especially to new comers, he was a kind soul and I learned a lot about fly fishing and why one embraces it from him. I now wish I could have taken him up on fishing the Henry\'s Fork, but glad I got to spend many cold mornings comparing notes on the Grand Ronde and Snake. He was a good friend and a great mentor.

  15. Jack Girdis

    I\'ve had the joy of fishing the Ranch for only parts of two summers. It is a wondrous stream. I met Bob on the second day I ever fished there in the parking lot at the top of the ranch water. I think he could see that the river had pretty much baffled me that day, and I remember he took some time to generously instruct me in the mysteries of the Henry\'s Fork. I watched Bob fish, and could see that he was a true angler. We would chat a while whenever we met up on the river, and he rejoiced with me when I finally began to have a precious bit of success with h=these wily trout. Bob was a gentleman, and a real angler, and I feel sadness for his passing, but joy he left this world from the stream he loved so well. Thanks for your tribute, Rene

  16. jim helring

    We can all only hope that we will be so fortunate to pass at a place we love, doing what has made us so happy. My father who taught me and took me fishing, fought in WWll, North Africa ,Sicily and the Italian campaign. Later he would fight again in Korea. He died peacefully in his sleep at 90 with family around him and I have always felt that the good Lord gave him that easy death for all the sacrifice he made for family , flag and country. I try and live every day as he would in hopes of an honorable end when my time comes, I just hope it doesn't come during the Green Drake hatch.!!! Everyone that ever saw Evans on the Fork will still always see him there.

  17. Curtis

    In the midst of the crisis, Sandy, a gracious lady who knew Bob well, first spoke the words I heard repeated many times during the next few days, "Bob passed away in a placed he loved, a place he would have chosen." I was thankful to Sandy for those words because she captured what most of us feel about our connection with the river. She helped me to look past the moment, and into the eternal. We are a family of sorts, and knowing that others will come to our aid when medical help is not immediately available, creates a bond that is otherwise invisible. Thanks Rene, for letting me get to know Bob a little better.

  18. Dave Selph

    Well Done Rene.

  19. Pierre

    Thank you Rene for the eulogy. His gruff voice will be deeply missed on the Ranch!

Leave a Comment



Note: All comments must be approved by the post author.