I like to come up with names for bands and flies even though no one seems to appreciate any of my ideas. Like Rumble Strip for a band. Or The Tongue Depressor (Say Ah!) for a fly. Or my latest fly moniker, Pinky Tuscadero which I came up with on the South Fork.
Let me back up…
To kick off his 50th birthday week the Professor wanted to peel away from our little hamlet in southwest Montana and find a new adventure, and perhaps some luxury. After much research we zeroed in on the overnite trip offered by Worldcast Anglers on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. We liked the idea of glamping overnite in the middle of the 26-mile two-day float but kinda wanted the adventure of rowing/fishing the river ourselves. So we called Worldcast and asked them if we could just pop into the camp as overnite guests but fish ourselves sans guides. They were all over it.
So, after much planning and mapping and gearing up we launched on this new excursion. I have to say, Idaho boat ramps are on steroids compared to Montana’s. So professional with their staging areas, and lanes drawn on the concrete. Not to mention flow reports and ramp rules.
The flyshops and guides we had talked to had offered encouraging but slightly reserved reports about the fishing. You could catch them on nymphs for sure and the dry fly fishing could explode any day now. Hmmm. Not ideal but we were prepared either way. We decided to ignore the unsolicited and super grumpy report from the guy at the weed inspection station on the Montana-Idaho border who said the river was too high and no fish were rising and it wasn’t worth our effort. When he said he preferred to sit on the bank and try to catch ‘em with corn and worms, we glanced at each other and silently made a pact not to get down on the fishing quite yet.
Our first morning on the South Fork matched the flyshop reports. We were catching them on nymphs. But an accidental decision to follow a braid we hadn’t meant to proved to be the birthday gem of the trip. We weren’t familiar with this part of the river so we were regularly checking our maps to see how far we’d gone, anxious pretty much all day about not missing the takeout and making sure we were tracking on time and river miles. So after we accidentally took the braid river right, the Professor back-rowed up a little cut to anchor up and check the map. In doing so he spotted the first rising fish of the day. Then I saw another. And another.
A Pod! Of rising fish! In the blazing hot glaring sun smack dab in the middle of the day.
Immediately the Professor dug into his South Fork box and said, “I’ve got just the the thing. Fish on this river like pink. I have a little PMD pattern called Pink Lady.”
We put it on and ka boom. Nice cutthroat. And another. And another. We fished the same spot for three hours. We caught so many fish it was giddy fun. At one point I said, “You know, this kind of fishing could make me a fish counter.”
But I forgot to count. I was having too much fun watching them come up and eat. Eat naturals, eat my pink fly. I was picking trout out of the pod and calling them like pockets on a pool table. Some easy fishing for once in my life. We tricked them on a few other patterns but 90% of the success was on the pink PMD. I didn’t like the term Pink Lady, not very original so I suggested we rename it.
“Too little kiddish.”
Like Rainman I pulled this name out of my sub-sub-conscious not even knowing what I was saying. “Pinky Tuscadero?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t you heard of Pinky Tuscadero? How do I know that name?”
Slowly the memories started creeping back in. I was pretty sure Pinky Tuscaero was a character on Happy Days. She was Joanie’s friend right? Or wait, was she the slutty one? The sort of Girl version of the Fonz? But which one was Joanie’s friend? Wait, what was the other name? Jenny Piccolo? Who’s Jenny Piccolo? Which one was the cutesy girl and which one was the slutty one?
Ah, life deep in a canyon off the grid without google. Damn.
These cutthroat were so crazed, bumping into each other chasing after our pink pmd that finally it was so obvious. “Of course Pinky Tuscadero was the slutty one!”
And that is how I renamed the fly of the trip.
In the middle of our cutthroat bonanza we took a little time for lunch. Egg salad with ham, a sandwich my family has always called ‘The Bonefish Special’. For some reason we always eat these in the Bahamas but I decided to bring it to freshwater.
We motored on and enjoyed the scenery of the canyon…
Our only concern leading up to this trip was how to find the takeout. We’d heard it was easy to miss so we asked the flyshop for the GPS coordinates. They didn’t have them. It took two trips to the flyshop, two guys in the shop, one guide who worked there, one guide who worked for the competition but happen to wander in, and two maps before we finally felt like we knew what we were looking for when aiming for the takeout. Pass the primitive camp on the right, look for a riffle (fish it), ease left, half a mile down on the left is our outfitter’s camp. With two sets of stairs and a jetboat parked out front. The cook Jeff would be waiting for us.
Seemed obvious enough right?
About the predicted time of day we saw the primitive camp on the right. We eased left immediately to be safe. We never really saw a distinct riffle but we were done fishing and focused on cocktails, appetizers and glamping so we were hugging the left. There was a narrow braid off the left that we didn’t take but other than that, we felt pretty confident we hadn’t missed any turns.
But then we started feeling like we had gone too far. What was that little trail through the bushes? There was a very narrow, primitive trail. No stairs or jetboat. But it seemed the right thing to check it out. With Bootsy Collins I wasn’t much help in the role of Deets so we anchored up and the Professor ventured up the path.
I was beginning to worry he’d been captured by Comanches but finally he reappeared, “Well, there’s a campsite up there but it’s empty. The tents aren’t set up and no one is there.”
We were cracking. Concern in our little driftboat was contagious like a plague.
“We haven’t missed it have we?” he asked.
“How in the world could we have missed it?”
We reviewed the maps. Talked each other through the instructions we’d both heard.
We eased down the bank further and both realized we were about to lose the left bank as it evolved into a high cliff wall and the river turned right.
I remembered, “He said it was right before the river turns right.”
“Well we are running out of bank. We’ve missed it.” The Professor dropped the anchor.
I had to agree, I was beginning to think we’d missed it as well. But the Professor was devastated. Thoroughly defeated he called it, “I can’t believe it we’ve missed it. That’s it. We have to row out.”
“What!!?? Whoa. That’s another 13 miles!”
“It’s almost 6 pm. If we row straight out in about 4 hours we would have light most of the way.”
“Hold on. Let’s just pro/con our options. They will come looking for us in the jet boat at some point when we don’t show up.” I wanted to go up into the brush and hike around and find the camp but the broken ankle was limiting me.
“Even if they do come looking for us they won’t even think we’re late until 7:30 or 8. And if they don’t then we don’t have enough light to row out.” He was so dejected.
“Okay,” I agreed with reservation. “But just go slowly here. He said it was right before the river turns right and we do have a little bank left.”
We lifted anchor and started easing down the bank. In just a few strokes and a few yards down from where we were panicking I saw the jetboat. I saw it first from the bow of the boat, but I didn’t want to say anything in case it was a mirage. This damn jetboat was muted and camouflaged like it was going duck hunting in the delta. Hardly the neon orange sparkly jetboat I was needing to indicate the takeout.
A nanosecond later the Professor saw it too, “There’s the jetboat.”
“And there are the stairs!”
Jeff the cook appeared immediately like a genie and a puff of smoke from a gold lamp. He helped us tie down the boat and welcomed us with wine and appetizers. Meanwhile we could not stop laughing that we completely panicked within ear shot of the campsite.
Thank heavens we didn’t have to row off that river because we loved the glampsite!
The rest of the clients and guides showed up, spirits were high and we enjoyed a feast of beef tenderloin, campfire cocktailing, and a full moon that almost peeked over the cliff before we all slipped away to cozy tents and al fresca slumber.
I heart glamping.
And the Pinky Tuscardero fly.