It’s time for some more silly stories from my “guide diary.” Since my diary is in my mind, I did some reminiscing with my wife to come up with a few items you might enjoy. My wife, June, was my business partner during my outfitting days on the Big Horn River.
She also worked extensively as a fishing guide, and became quite good at it. As we talked about old times, we both laughed most about some of her experiences in the fly fishing business.
I started teaching my wife to fly fish on our first date, which was a float trip down the Big Horn in 1982. When we opened our fly shop on the river in 1987, I did most of the guiding while June managed the fly shop for us. By that time she’d become very knowledgeable in the field, and many of our clients would ask if she would be interested in taking them out on a guide trip the next year along with their wives.
The male client assumed he could bring his wife on vacation, and have June keep the wife occupied somehow while he fished all day. This way he could get away with more fishing vacations every year. The funny thing is that, by mid-day of their trip, the wife would be catching more fish than he was, and he had to eat some humble pie by asking June for some instruction on what he was doing wrong.
This quickly led to June becoming a very popular guide on the river, and one of the first full-time female fly fishing guides in Montana.
June has a very dry, active sense of humor. We actually had Ted Turner stay at our lodge a few times. The first year he came was prior to his marriage to Jane Fonda. He’d brought a rather young “lady friend” with him on his first stay with us.
We always carried a few items of original Native American jewelry in our shop which were made by some of the local Crow Indian ladies. At the end of Mr. Turner’s stay, he had checked out and paid his bill the night before. The morning of their departure, Ted’s lady friend had come in to buy a few pieces of jewelry.
About an hour later Ted came in to pay for the jewelry. Ted made some comment like “My friend is always picking up stuff like this everywhere we go. How much did she buy this time?”
The lady had only bought about $35 worth of jewelry, but of course June couldn’t help herself. She just had to say “Oh, it was quite a bit. I think it came to about $2,000!”
Ted slammed his wallet on the counter and said, “That’s ridiculous! I need to go talk her first!”
June grabbed his arm and said “No, no, Mr. Turner. I was just kidding. It’s really only $35.”
He took the joke very well, but was clearly a bit unsettled by the realization he’d been “had” by my little red-headed wife from Podunk Ft. Smith, Montana.
Another time I was relaxing on the front deck of our shop one morning greeting all of our customers as they came and went.
We had a doctor from Denver staying with us who was a very nice, down-to-earth gentleman. He’d come in to pay his bill, but it was very crowded that morning and he had to wait a minute to get June’s attention.
He spoke in a very strong southern accent, and he caught June by the elbow as she was headed to grab some rental waders for somebody.
June clearly thought the doctor then said, “I’ve got to catch a plane soon, and I so enjoyed my time with you. Can you please take a moment to go in the back room with me so that we could ‘saddle-up’ for a few minutes?”
June just looked at him and said, “Excuse me?”
He repeated that, “It’s kind of crowded and busy in here, and I’d like to step in the back room with you for just a minute and saddle-up with you.”
Of course at that point everyone in the fly shop was listening very intently. The doctor realized something was wrong and said, “I need to pay my bill. What did you think I said?”
June started laughing and replied, “Oh good, because it sure sounded like you were trying to settle some other kind of ‘need’ with me!”
Everybody in the building busted out laughing hysterically; the doctor included.
The doctor eventually came out the front door with everyone else. He was still giggling and said, “Gordon, that wife of yours is a piece of work. I can’t imagine how you keep up with her!”
I’m not sure how well I do keep up with my wife. One thing is for sure, however. Whether you’re a man or woman, if you plan to go into business with your spouse, you’d better maintain your sense of humor. Good humor will always overcome any and every bump in the road!
GORDON ROSE works as a commercial fly tier and operates Sheridan WYO Healing Waters, part of a national nonprofit organization which teaches disabled military veterans fly fishing, fly tying and fly rod-building as part of their therapy.