With resin in one hand and a carving tool in the other, 78-year-old Spanish Fork resident Steve Henline carefully creates replicas of what he’s known his whole life: fish. He does it for the love of the art, the love of fishing, and the love of servicemen and women and their families.
Henline was born on the Diamond Fork River on his grandfather’s ranch, which is where he learned how to fish.
“I learned to fish up there at a very early age and have spent literally a lifetime as a fishing guide,” Henline said. “I’ve run the charter operations with boats. I hold the US Coast Guard 100 ton masters license. I was a licensed guide and ran a tour operation at Lake Powell, and when I retired about eight years ago, I came back to Spanish Fork. The water and fishing have always been a big part of my life.”
When Henline retired from active duty, having served in the Air Force as far back as the Vietnam War, he knew that he wanted to give back to the community that gave him so much. So he went back to his roots as a fisherman and decided that he would use this as a vessel to do just that.
“I was talking with a couple of friends and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I mentioned to them that I wanted to take disabled children and veterans fishing,” he said.
That idea turned into a nonprofit organization called Hand in Hand Outdoors, where he built special boats to accommodate wheelchairs, and took children and veterans out on boat rides and fishing trips for what he called a therapeutic experience. For the next five years, Henline took 2,000 children in wheelchairs as and disabled combat veterans, at no charge.
“That changed lives,” he said. “When veterans who might have been on the battlefield come back from war and have never spoken a word of it to their wives or mothers or no one, and when they get on the boats with guys who had shared similar experiences, they begin to open up and talk about it. And that was the beginning of the healing. So, although it doesn’t sound like much, it ultimately was a very significant thing changing the lives of these men, and women.”
Henline was able to do this for five years, but he said as he got older it became too much physically for him to continue. This was about the same time when the COVID 19 pandemic hit, making it so that he was confined to his home. It was during that confinement when Henline learned something about himself that he never knew: that he was an artist.
“When COVID hit, I became isolated here at my house, and I spent my time drawing pictures of what else? Fish, right?” he said.
Henline said that he had never drawn anything outside of when he was a child in school, but that being home with not much else to do, he began to develop a talent that was deep inside him.
His sketches evolved quickly into pictures, and then to carving fish and ultimately to creating fish and trout into resin art. And while it began as a hobby, it soon turned into something more. His art pieces were soon in high demand and were being displayed in art galleries around the state and in other establishments around the country and even world.
“My pieces were well accepted,” he said. “I have some of my works, both my photography and my fish, in the Covey Center for the Arts and for the Utah County Museum. I have fish all over the nation and find restaurants in Louisiana and collectors places in Abu Dhabi.”
As his creations began to grow in popularity, Henline saw an opportunity to continue to give back to children and veterans. For years, he has been affiliated with another nonprofit called Little Warrior Camp that is a camp for kids who have lost a parent in action or have suffered a loss related to PTSD. Henline said that his goal has always been to find ways to give.
“It took most of my life to understand that happiness is derived from giving, not from accepting,” he said. “I am fortunate enough to take the great love I have for outdoors and fishing and turn it into something that’s powerful and touches people’s lives.”
For more information on Henline and his creations, or to order pieces, go to everythingfish.art.