It all started with a challenge: "How about taking a country line-dancing class with me, and I"ll take up fly fishing with you this fall?" That's how I landed a seat in this raft, in a hailstorm on the Green River with my fish-loving spouse.
To my surprise, he was thrilled with the offer, and we did indeed enroll in a dance class. I must admit, he was fair about the whole arrangement. We never missed a Friday night dance. However, I was unprepared for the scope of this fishing frenzy I had just blundered into.
In the past, I had developed a passionate dislike for bait fishing. For years I tended our youngsters while Chuck fished from the bank. They were never interested in impaling worms on a hook, so trying to prevent them from throwing rocks into Dad's fishin' hole was like attempting to restrain Bowser from peeing on a fire hydrant.
Then there were the boat excursions on Strawberry Reservoir. When we got in the boat with him at dawn, we knew we were trapped for 14 hours in intense heat or cold without a potty break. I never could understand the attraction of dangling a line in the water all day.
So, after this very rough start, I guess he was astounded that I would ever consider fishing again. He held his breath until I got myself down to the sporting goods store and purchased that fishing license.
However, over the past few years, my Chuck had discovered the joys of fly fishing. To me, fly fishing appears more active and engrossing, doesn't require live bait, and the sportswoman is unfettered to roam the river so I was willing to give it a try. He was truly tickled and more than anxious to begin sharing his passion with me.
With kids old enough they don't want to be seen with us anymore, it was dancing on Friday, fishing on Saturday great relationship building experiences.
For years, I have been listening to Chuck and friends share fish tales about the Green River male-bonding spring ritual. I must admit, I longed to see it for myself I had never been to the Green River. So, with a little experience under my waders, last spring I was invited for the big trip.
I have my own theories about why I am so welcome on these fishing excursions. It's not that I'm a particularly good fisherwoman, nor that I understand the lingo, or even that I'm a great companion. I suspect that sometimes he takes me along to cook.
Although I understand and accept his passion for fishing, I must admit that when I saw the price tag of this little one-week excursion, my first thought was, "Gee, we could have taken a Caribbean cruise." But now I think about it, even a cruise wouldn't be much different.
I can just see myself strolling the deck in a sleek formal gown, beautiful music drifting from the ballroom moonlight flooding the deck, and my tux-clad husband leaning casually against the railing a gleam in his eye and 2000 feet of fishing line dangling from the Love Boat.
Months before the Green River trip, he was already excited. He was anxious to outfit me properly. I started receiving unexpected little gifts something my spouse has not been known for in the past. For instance, my Christmas stocking was filled with gear like a Swiss army knife, mini-binoculars, and lace trimmed thermal undies. Out of the blue, he surprised me with a beautiful black graphite fly rod. And for Mother's Day a new reel!
Just before the trip, he invested in a second pair of boots and waders, vest, and hat. What a female fashion statement! I can't even remember the last time my honey spent hours and big bucks shopping for a completely accessorized ensemble for me, nor can I remember the last time he paid more than $300 for it. To top it off, I got rave reviews on how much waders increased my sex appeal. I ask you, what more could a girl want?
As the big event approached, Chuck and two buddies tools a week's vacation and deposited our fifth-wheel at Dripping Springs Campground near the Green, five days before the other 15 all-male fishermen were to arrive. This allowed my friend, Janice Pyne, and myself drive through two Wyoming blizzards on a Friday night so we could spend the weekend with our husbands and have a warm place to stay.
When we arrived, we found the guys busily tying flies. We ate heartily, played a game of cards, and got up the next morning to float the Green River.
The weather was gray and nasty, but I had come to fish the Green, so I coerced the guys into taking me anyway. Janice wisely chose to stay inside with book and blanket.
We started off under black clouds and hail pellets. I, in my fashionable waders, over-sized boots, parka, slicker, vest, hat, and life jacket felt like the marshmallow man in Ghost Busters. I deposited myself in the bow of the boat so I wouldn't miss a thing. It was all I could do to roll from side to side to capture the view.
The water was high and slow yet it took major effort on the part of the guys to steer around the boulders and rapids. At one point, the heavy wind whipped the surface water into a white mist. Water sloshed over the sides and puddled beneath our buttocks. We were sure this trip was a mistake when we noticed fishermen scooping oars, fishing gear, and coolers out of the river just below us remnants of a recently capsized boat.
About two hours into the trip, the sun finally peeked out and we saw that glorious blue sky. Off with the parka and slicker, and on to the shore to fish!
Our first stop, I laid claim to a rocky plateau suspended about six feet above the river's edge. From my perch, with the sun glistening on the water, nothing was hidden from my view.
Beneath me swam my prey three 18-inch browns feeding on the surface. No problem I thought, even for a novice fly fisherwoman like myself. If they don't take my Parachute Adams, I can probably snag one of them with my hook anyway.
Wrong! I became so frustratingly proficient I could cast my fly inches from their little noses. I could even see their green eyes roll as my bait sputtered by, but they totally ignored my dry fly.
I was focused completely on the job at hand when a painful yelp broke my concentration. It seems Chuck was passing on the trail behind me and managed to get involved with my back cast. The lead shot smacked him between the eyes and the hook caught a piece of ear as my line swiftly uncoiled. But, being a good teacher, he simply appreciated my attempted double-haul cast.
Unsuccessful at tempting the fish, we resumed our float trip. I found that over slow water, I could see every rock, every blade of grass, and every fish beneath us. I also took note of others fishing from shore. This river is definitely a serious fisherman's domain. Of the hundreds of fishermen we passed, only two were women. And, unlike bait fishermen, no one had brought their little offspring along to annoy other anglers by tossing rocks into the river.
Next stop, Chuck fitted me with a Hare's Ear and I waded thigh high onto a little sandbar and set my sights on a deep hole halfway across the river. I was so busy practicing my across-stream cast that I was stunned when I looked down and saw two pesky trout playing "London Bridge" between my legs!
An hour later, in exasperation, I surrendered to the human-wise water creatures and decided to work on capturing the scenery. I retreated with my binoculars and camera to a high spot on the river bank and began watching the wildlife.
A big bluejay sidled right up to me to beg for munchies while a chipmunk scurried around the perimeter waiting for a dropped crumb. I watched a hawk, perched on a rock out in the water, greedily devouring an unfortunate gray mouse held captive in his talons.
And, I watched the big game as well. Chuck and comrades, butt high in water, furiously casting, grinning from ear-to-ear, shouting advice to one another, and whooping it up when a reluctant trout played along.
They resemble a bunch of Cub Scouts all decked out in similar uniform, all innocently enjoying the water.
Chuck pulled in two big browns within 20 minutes. From the grin on his face, I accurately surmised that nothing in life is as exciting as hooking a fish and yelling "fish on." All activity stops as comrades watch you battle the "big one" or perhaps, "little one" into the net. After being sufficiently displayed, I saw more than one fisherman plant a kiss on the fish for good luck as he was cradled back into the frigid water and released.
Walking down the trail following my fishermen, I noticed the glistening nylon line dangling from every bush along the river. It was like walking through a Christmas forest. Every stick and tree glistened with rainbow drops from the recent storm. Each bush was trimmed with miles of tippet tinsel, tiny silver balls, tapered leader garland, fluffy strike indicators, and colorful dangling insects. "Now, how did these get here," I wondered?
The whole scene was magical. Red-rock cliffs encased the river, blue sky and blazes of white clouds streaked above, while the transparent emerald waters of the Green floated silently by. It is a place of natural reverence, a fitting house of worship for all fly fishermen.
With daylight waning, we retreated to the raft for our last few rapids before we reached Little Hole. It had been a wonderful day. I had taken some beautiful pictures which will never be seen because my camera drown in the frigid waters of the Green which invaded our raft the last half-mile of the trip.
We finished the usual two and one-half hour trip in a record six hours. We were tired, hungry, and sunburned. I didn't get my fish, but I did get what I came for a wonderful time on the Green.
While a Caribbean cruise would indeed have been romantic, I deduced the same effect can be gained by simply pulling on those clumsy waders and walking hand in-hand down to the fishin hole.
I have found that I can stay home and whine because he loves his fishing, or I can accept his invitation and enjoy his heaven with him. In the end, these will be some of our most cherished memories. These are the times we talk the least and yet communicate the most. In our scrapbook of life, these are treasured family photos.