I pour a little rum in my cider and get typing. At present, I am coupled with winter, 400 square feet of cabin, a half-empty bottle of rum, and memories of my rookie year of guiding in Yellowstone Park. The only sound breaking the tap-tap of the ‘writer is the occasional gust of wind dusting off the roof. A summer spent on the Firehole seems so distant now. Far off like the bonefish flats and snook mangroves of someplace tropical that I’m too poor to visit.
After growing up in Montana and then four years of college in Wisconsin, I was ready to return and grace the rivers and fly shops with my talents as a fly fishing expert. In the first month of guiding I got skunked, removed embedded hooks, played marriage counselor, learned Happy is also a 300-pounder from Texas as well as an emotion, landed an SUV, and got used for my body, which wasn’t too bad now that I think about it.
The girl had come out to Montana with her dad on a week’s fishing trip. After three days of fishing and early nights in The Park, she wanted to sample Bozeman’s bar scene. We got off the Firehole early, drove the canyon from West picking out sweet trout lies on the Gallatin, and arrived in the Bozone just as the sun set behind the Tabacco Roots. The Bridgers were lit in gold light, sort of like a fresh tap of pale ale. To bring this one in quickly, we hit some bars and headed to a buddy’s house and were stuck with sharing the same room, and in that room, the same queen-sized bed.
PMD’s had been the hatch on the Firehole, which means July, which means hot. She was in panties and a tank top, I had on sport shorts and a tee. While I was reading the latest LaFontaine article she rolled over and said to me, “Wanna wrestle?” No kidding. Five minutes into our bout, shirts are on the floor and I’m hoping the other half is next, when she says, “Wanna see my tattoo?” There goes the second half, as Victoria’s Secret lets fly and reveals a butterfly with wings spread, almost like a Hexagena hatching. Soon she has me pinned against the bed and I feel her shake, she moans, and then collapses onto my chest. Through strands of her salty hair I stared at paint peeling on the ceiling, thinking, “what about me?”
I guided her and her dad two more days in The Park. Pops tipped me pretty well and they booked for the following year. At that moment I knew I was destined to be a guide: self sacrifice for the benefit of the client and repeat business.