When you’ve been married as long as we have, you’ve heard all sorts of stories and this is no exception. Bob’s tall tales come in a variety of packages from “it’s so hot the dog crawled into the oven to cool off” to “it hailed so hard it would have killed a full-grown cow”. Mostly, I’ve heard how fish were caught and reeled in under extreme difficulty by way of great feats of strength and courage. However, this story, of which I was a participant, needs no embellishment.
Bob and I decided to go fishing, well, in truth, Bob decided I should go fishing with him. It was an early summer morning and already hot. It was, after all, Wyoming. Bob decided fishing in a calm, quiet lake not far from the ranch was our last chance to get a moment together before harvest season would begin. He’s romantic that way. So we packed up the pickup truck and headed for a lazy ride on smooth water.
Once at the water’s edge, we unloaded the rowboat, put it in the calm water, and loaded it up with fishing gear and a cooler full of food and began to paddle out to one of Bob’s favorite spots on the lake. Bob and I laughed and chuckled about our early arrival and that we would get the best spot on the lake for catching trout. We baited our hooks, dropped our lines over the side and waited for the whole hook, line, and sinker to be devoured by some humungous trout. Our wait turned into hours. As the day wore on not even nibbles were evident and we would have settled for medium sized trout. Even small trout would have been welcome. We started needling each other and a whole host of insults ranging from “fish-scarer-away-er” to “bait-breath” poured forth, albeit in good humor.
Then after all our anxiety and trepidation that no fish would be in the frying pan that night, I got a nibble on my line. It really was a nibble, short and swift but undeniably a nibble. There were fish here after all. I reeled in to see if any bait was left on my hook. The worm was still intact. Not one sign of a nibble. “Really, I got a nibble. My pole jiggled,” I said. “Yeah, right, sure,” Bob said and then went back to napping.
No sooner had I dropped my line back in the water than it was hit again. This time there was some weight on the other end. This fish had to be a whopper. I snagged my prize and rocked the boat. Bob woke up. The fish was hooked and the pole bent down towards the setting sun. When it let up slightly, I began to reel it in and Bob got all excited and started whooping and hollering. Then the line went limp. I reeled and reeled and couldn’t feel anything on the other end. Just when I decided all was hopeless, my line took off across the lake in the other direction.
Bob jumped up and started clawing at the air as he made his was across the rowboat. His arms were waving like flags in an 80-mile an hour wind as he high-stepped over the cooler and the fishing box as he bore down on my pole. All the commotion started the boat rocking. First, there were tiny spouts of water, then sprays of water hit my face, and finally, large waves came over the sides tossing the once calm and lazy rowboat like a piece of straw in a hurricane.
The boat tossed and tumbled. Bait, tackle, and nets flew overhead. The carefully packed remains of the homemade loaf of bread, cheese, and wine shot out of the ice chest like escaped prisoners from San Quentin. Worse though, the oars became missiles that were launched perpendicular to the boat. They made a beautiful baton twirl just before disappearing out of sight. I clung to my pole with sheer determination or fear. I’m not sure which. And my lifesaver was truly a lifesaver. The last thing I remember before hitting the water was Bob’s gnarled face that looked like a maniacal gargoyle as he accomplished the gymnastic feat of a cartwheel on water. After what seemed like forever, his head popped up out of the lake. This once fearsome fisher now looked like a lost puppy after a torrential downpour.
Not only was the rowboat capsized, but the oars’ disappearance during the melee left us stranded in the middle of the lake. The gear was lost and the sun was going down. We were orange crested bobbins bobbing on the reservoir. I did the only sensible thing a woman could do. I started laughing. Bob was not amused as he pulled pond scum from the neck of his shirt.
While clinging to the still capsized boat, we negotiated our next move. Swimming to shore seemed like the only thing to do, after all it wasn’t more than a half a mile away. Bob, on the other hand, thought we should continue fishing since I still had my pole. Going home empty handed now that we’d found fish was unthinkable.
Someone must have seen our boat flip and called the rescue team because while we were discussing our plans, a motorboat slipped up beside us. This was pouring salt on a wounded ego and Bob wished he had agreed to swim to the shore. Warm, strong arms pulled me out of the water and I happily accepted a coat around my shoulders. Bob begrudgingly handed the pole to me and tried to climb aboard by himself. The line on my pole arched out like a spider web on a soft breeze––clearly the hook was stuck to something. Somewhat annoyed at Bob’s refusal of an arm-up, one rescue team member said rather sarcastically, “What were you doing out here?” Just then Bob threw his leg over the side of the boat and there, attached to the bottom of his pant leg was the hook––with a five-pound rainbow trout on it. “Fishing,” said Bob, his ego a little less bruised.