Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Date Ever

By Steve Wiley

The Fall River is a tumbling spring fed tributary to the North Fork of the Snake River in eastern Idaho. The waters are boulder strewn, and near the steep banks of its headwaters access is difficult with a dory so we never saw another boat on it. That’s probably why Tom Fenger and I chose it as the location for a secret double-date, of sorts.

You see, there was a new girl, named Sharon, working at the Lodge that summer of ’78, and both Tom and I had our eyes on her. Tom, a lanky curly haired bright-eyed big smiled upstate New Yorker was a bit bashful in those days. He wanted to ask her out but wasn’t sure just how to go about it. All we ever really wanted to do was fish, so I suggested we take her out together and float the Fall during the salmon fly hatch. This way, he could have me as a back-up if he got a case of cottonmouth and the conversation slowed. We could take turns rowing and he could make his move. The only thing I told him was if he didn’t turn the charm on and make his move by the end of the day, then I would. He thought this was a grand idea, so we made the arrangements.

Sharon was a spunky gal with a ready laugh, bright blue eyes and a smile that would melt your heart. She was a gamer alright, but had never held a fly rod in her hands, so, as professional guides we had a task on our hands. Tom was going to be the coach and spend the morning helping her with casting, and I was going to pull on the oars.

After dragging our boat down a steep embankment to a tricky put in near a big drop, Tom and I smiled big and winked at each other over the perfect conditions on the river. We could tell it was one of those magical days when the hatch was just right and the fish were ravenous. We knew Sharon was in for a special treat, and so were we as she was wearing denim cut-offs that hid very little of her magnificent legs and a halter top that displayed the feminine strength of her shoulders that were dance floors for her shiny blonde hair.

Tom nervously fumbled while he readied the rods with double Bitch Creeks for himself and a big bushy Sofa Pillow for Sharon. He was trying to explain the art of casting with the standard “ten o’clock, two o’clock” spiel when I saw a big brown rise up and gobble down a stonefly in a pool just below the drop. I interrupted the lesson Tom was giving and told Sharon to brace herself and get the fly in the water then stroked the oars hard, launching us out into the swift current.

With an eight o’clock, four o’clock cast Sharon got about fifteen feet of line out and Tom said “Okay, good, let her float, Sharon”. Not three seconds passed when Bam!, the big brown below the drop rose and crushed her Sofa Pillow. Instinctively, Sharon jerked back and masterfully set the hook to whooping “woohoooo’s” from me and Tom. By the end of the day Sharon too had a woohoo of her own, down pat.

Oh yes, this turned out to be one of those magical days of non-stop action that we’ll always remember. Sharon boated near a couple dozen and put a nice brown glaze on her shoulders and legs, and Tom and I reveled in our collective expertise as guides and our secret double date.

Tom is now the legendary head guide at Teton Valley Lodge in eastern Idaho, and I am Sharon’s fishing guide and husband of 25 years. Sometimes you just get lucky.



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