Wyoming is known for its beautiful sunsets, magnificent wildlife and 100-mph gale-force winds – but hubby and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. We are just two hours away from a scenic mountain lake, where every summer we enjoy trout fishing. Hubby has the edge on me in this department. He’s been fishing since he was in diapers. I’m not kidding. His mother showed me the baby pictures.
We had taken many fishing trips as a family when our kids were small, but all I remember about those times was washing dirty little hands, wiping dirty little faces and threatening dirty little tykes with death by Frank Sinatra all the way home if they didn’t behave.
When the kids grew up and flew the coop, I realized that hubby and I needed something we could enjoy together ... and so I began to take my avocation as an angler seriously. I wanted to learn everything there was to know. “Fishing For Dummies” became my essential bedtime reading. When I got to the part about “what to wear,” I was thrilled! Now I had an excuse to buy a whole new wardrobe.
My first purchase was a wide-brimmed hat, which served two purposes: to prevent sunburn by shading my face, and to keep water from dripping down my back in the rain. My hat looked like the one Clint Eastwood wore in “Fistful of Dollars” … I even had a poncho. All I needed was a cigar.
I later bought a pair of waders, which I used only once because I was terrified of stepping into a hole and drowning. I remember standing in ice-cold water up to my waist, casting a fly rod and glancing back toward hubby who was on the shore yelling, “Keep going, Sweetcakes! You’re not out far enough!” I wondered if he was trying to get rid of me, but the intense look on his face revealed that all he really wanted was for me to hook a 23-inch brown.
I’ve been fishing for a few years now and have become a pretty good fisherman. I know my strengths and weaknesses. Strengths: not afraid to bait a hook, can identify different fish species, and know the best music to listen to in the car on the drive to the lake. Weaknesses: talking too much, talking too much, and talking too much.
One of our most memorable trips took place last summer. We arrived at the lake and began lugging our supplies (tackle box, fishing rods, and boloney sandwiches) to our favorite spot. Most people fish on the grassy slopes near the campgrounds and picnic tables. Not us. We trek to the other side where boulders jut from the steep bank and where garter snakes, muskrats and killer dragonflies hang out. Indiana Jones territory.
This is our usual routine: Hubby rigs up the tackle for both our lines while I wait patiently, sipping my Perrier. I’m no good with knots and we both know it. Like the Gentleman he is, hubby fixes mine first so I can start fishing. On this particular day we had been fishing for an hour with no luck. Suddenly the feeding frenzy began … for the fish, not me, although I had already consumed a Snicker bar and half a can of Pringles.
I was sitting on a large flat rock singing “Witch Doctor” and when I got to “ting tang walla walla bing bang,” my rod suddenly flew out of my hands and started floating out to sea. I jumped up and grabbed it. “I got a bite!”
But hubby had his own problems. He always uses two rods; one propped on a forked stick jammed into the ground, and the other rigged with a spinner or a fly so he can cast and reel … cast and reel … cast and reel … ad infinitum. The unattended rod was jerking wildly at the same time he got a hit on his fly. He said, “Grab that rod!” But I was too busy trying to reel in Jaws.
I played the fish until he wore himself out, and when he was within a few feet of the bank, I netted him. A four-inch rainbow. I named him Jerry, took his picture and threw him back.
Meanwhile, hubby had set aside the rod with the fly and picked up the other one, which was still jerking. When he reeled it in, there was no fish and the bait was gone. To non-fisher-people that would have been bad news because the fish got away. To us it meant the fish were biting.
Excitement ruled as we quickly baited our hooks with night crawlers and some pink gunk called “power bait,” a horrible-smelling substance that looked very much like play dough. As soon as our lines hit the water we had nibbles.
Hubby: I got a bite!
Me: Me, too!
Hubby: It’s gotta be at least 15 inches!
Me: Mine’s probably 20!
Hubby: Yeah, right. Remember Jerry?
Me: How can I forget.
Hubby: This one’s a fighter! Look at him jump!
Me: Hey, your line’s crossing mine!
Hubby: No, YOUR line’s crossing mine.
Me: How can you tell?
Hubby: Trust me, I know. Duck underneath my line and get on my other side.
Me: (Making my way underneath his line) The rocks are slippery.
Hubby: You’ll be fine. But keep your line tight.
Me: (Stumbling over the rocks and landing on my rear in ice-cold lake water) Jiminy Crickets, that water’s cold!
Hubby: Good job, Sweetcakes. The lines are clear. Now start reeling!
Me: (Struggling to stand up) My fish is gone.
Hubby: There’s plenty more where that came from.
Hubby: Hey! I lost mine, too!
Me: There’s plenty more where that came from.
The fish were biting … but we kept losing them. They were teasing us; jumping just fifteen yards from the bank and swimming so close we could count the pinstripes on their Armani suits.
As quickly as it had begun, it was over. The waters were calm; the fish had eaten their fill. They were probably gathered at the local underwater saloon boasting in their victory.
We fished a couple more hours with no luck. As we walked back to the car, we greeted other fishermen with stringers full of rainbows, browns and brookies. The only fish we had caught was the tadpole Jerry.
That day, we had battled nature and lost. But there would be other days … other fish … other boloney sandwiches. During the long drive home, we sang along with Frank Sinatra.