Adventures In Man Camp
Although fishing season seems far off from where I sit, I know spring is headed this way. And once again it will be time to think about fishing: the mental preparation required to locate my gear and organize it, the thinking about where to go to fish, and dreams of catching fish. It’s also a time to reflect on past outings and their merits. Which leads me to the obvious: I am a woman fishing in a predominately man’s world. It’s ok to be, but some days it’s a little tougher.
Several years ago I bumped into a woman named Joyce, a talkative sixty-seven year old with sparkle and a voice which never stopped. We were standing in the parking lot unloading our vehicles at King’s Motel in Twin Bridges, Montana. She was on a several-month fishing-roam around the west in her motor home, and I was checking out future possible lodgings in Twin. The more she talked the more certain I was that we had previously met. But where? Then it came to me; we had chatted in the George Anderson Fly Shop, just south of Livingston, MT the year prior. She had been holding a young clerk hostage while spinning a complex fishing story at full volume (which I did not need to lean over to hear). I interrupted her to ask who she was and where she was from—realizing there just aren’t that many of us roaming the West with fishing fever and that certainly we must know people in common. Well of course we did. Forget six degrees of separation…in the women’s fishing world it’s usually only one or two. Joyce knew Maryann who knew Mary K and I knew both of them, and had fished with them a time or two.
It was Joyce who first used the phrase Man Camp. She was referring to the abundance of men in Dillon, MT and her singleness. I believe she was speaking of the array of available men, some probably fishing guides—others permanent fixtures— who haunted the seats of the Lion’s Den near downtown. I never checked out her story, but it was clear she was excited by the abundance and not afraid. For me it was TMI–Man Camp sounded like trouble.
But I know of what she was speaking, because there is a Man Camp close to where I like to fish. Heck, Craig, Montana, a famous gravel-road pull-out of a burg along the Missouri River an hour north of Helena, is one big Man Camp, and that’s not including those in the bars. For a woman alone it’s a little creepy depending on your mood. It’s ok inside the three fly shops: The Trout Shop, Headhunters and CrossCurrents. (I remember the days when there was only the Trout Shop) They will sell you any gear you need, arrange a guide or a rental boat, and give advice about dinner selections at Isaac’s Restaurant. They will help you find lodgings. It’s what you encounter between the end of the fishing day and the beginning of the next that’s in question.
The last time I was in Craig it was the ten men from Wisconsin, spread out around a picnic table with their before-dinner-snacks and the fifths of Vodka and some darker mystery beverages, waders drying over the deck railings, and wading boots lined up drying along the ramp to the back door of the Trout Lodge. They were between the only door into our lodgings and the parking lot. As we three women approached the gauntlet, the middle-aged men called out friendly things like, “Hey did you bring your own Tempur-Pedic pillow?” and “Wanna have a drink?” and “Did you fish today?” We smiled and walked past thinking, Man Camp! We wanted to show our command of western hospitality but geez, guys, really? Do you know you come off like a pack of dogs, tails wagging?
These guys are harmless, and maybe a long way from home and missing female companionship, but the rules in Woman Camp are strict: no fraternizing with the enemy. There are only so many fish and we don’t have time for this nonsense. Well, until the last day, when we too can be loud and obnoxious and feeling our fishing prowess and wanting to tell everyone all about it. Then I will be sure and tell them about my 30-fish day, and the 25 incher that took my copper john, and about the moment when I lifted that rainbow skyward and shouted to the boat of Orvis-outfitted men up river, “And that’s how you do it boys,” and smiled real large. And then showed them the photos on my cell phone at dinner, even though they were sitting three tables away. It’s the same game and we all know how to play in Man Camp.
Girls, my advice: just don’t let them scare you. Yours were most likely larger anyway. And if they weren’t, lie about it.
***Dedicated to the memory of Rosemary. A fine, fine fisher.
Category: Indie It Travel