Calamity Jane, Born Free, and Earning a Masters in R.V. Survival
by Marcia Koven
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(Click here for the accompanying pictures)

This year (2004) my fly fishing trip surpassed last year's adventure, if that was possible. There were many surprising fun adventures and so many wonderful people that I met. I left Miami in May and returned six months later the end of October. The best part of the trip was the freedom, relaxation, the people I met and the fish I fooled. The Born Free and my Jeep allowed movement from place to place with ease. Flexibility of location was key. I moved with the weather and the insect hatches of course.

I fished almost everyday that I wasn’t moving to a new place. There was one adventure after another, everyday was a serendipity. There were wonderful people to meet and beautiful places to fish. There was always another stubborn fish for me to convince that my fly was the real thing .I love the challenge to make everything come together. It’s timing, proper presentation, the right fly and a lot of luck. Many times I had to keep reminding myself that I was smarter than that fish, sometimes I‘m not so sure. Trout live in such magnificent places. I enjoy looking at the scenery and listening to the sounds of the water over the rocks and the trees rustling in the wind. I am so lucky to be able to live my dream. It really is possible for a sixty plus lady to drive a motor home and pull a jeep if she is a go for it persistent old broad who is not afraid to pursue adventure and ask for help.


May – Missed the mother’s day hatch on the Arkansas R. by two days but saw my girlfriend Harriet in Canyon City, Colorado; Fished: Spinney Reservoir ,Eleven mile canyon, Frying Pan river near Aspen.

June - Fished: Utah, Flaming Gorge, Green River; In Utah took an eight mile hike beside a secret stream to fish.; Drove to Sacramento California to see family, fished the American River; Back to Idaho fished South Fork of the Snake the salmon fly hatch; Fished Ashton, Idaho just south of the Henry’s fork with flaves and green drakes . Camped on the Madison R. near Slide Inn, fished Henrys’ fork and Madison River.

July - Fished wonderful lake (unnamed here) in Montana on the way to Missoula , hatch of blue damsel flies ;Fished Bitterroot River , Flint creek, Rock creek ; the Missouri River with my new pontoon boat between Wolf Creek and Craig. Then Drove to Calgary, Canada to fish the Bow River.

August - Camped in British Columbia near Alberta border; fished the Elk river and all the tributaries around the area. The Crows nest river, the Livingston, the Old Man river and all my favorite secret small streams.

September - Camped in Idaho near Silver Creek Preserve and Sun Valley, fished Silver Creek and The Big Wood River; Drove to Yellowstone Park, fished Slough creek, the Lamar and the Fire Hole rivers.

October - Back to the Glenwood Springs Colorado to fish the Frying Pan river in Fall colors and absolutely great fishing. Canyon lands and Arches National Park. South to the Gunnison and Taylor rivers; Drove to New Mexico to fish the San Juan River.

End of October headed home to Miami


R.V. Survival

Problems come with the territory, they are part of the game. At inception , problems were calamities, that later just became challenges to be met and overcome. After I solved a problem I felt like the conquering hero. Mostly I hated the time it took to fix stuff. I was I’m earning another masters degree called R.V. survival. I learned more everyday. Traveling alone in the west with all those empty spaces, I have learned to think ahead; double and triple check; be prepared and pro -active. I got good with duct tape and especially good at playing the damsel in distress. Often, I got help from kind people who were complete strangers. I think this neighborly behavior was contagious, and it encouraged me to behave the same way. What a wonderful feeling to be part of a caring supportive and friendly society. I tried waving at folks back home in Miami and saying hi to strangers, but it didn’t work there; how sad.

Guiding Calamity Jane

I invited Jane (an alias), whom I’d never met and only spoken with on the phone, to join me fishing at the Green River. In June, Jane met me at the campground in Dutch John at the Green River, both of us had our motor homes. I was happy to have company.

Day 1 - The first morning Jane knocked on my door and told me she was locked out of her motor home and we’d need to find a lock -smith . After driving up the mountain we found a nice young man at the lodge who unlocked her motor home. No problem; just a late start, so off we went to Little Hole to fish. Since I had fished at the Flaming Gorge several times before, I assumed the job of guide. My fly rod was already strung so I waited for Jane who sat on the back of my jeep fixing her rod. Jane called me and showed me a fly secure in her lip and the barb still intact. Fortunately, a guy parked next to us had a pair of cutters and came to our aid. After the fly was removed, I pitched in and helped Jane tie her fly on her line and off we went down the trail. Jane is a wonderful person .I am amazed at her resiliency under all this adversity. Taking it all in my stride,
I started walking on the trail with renewed expectations and Jane behind me. I showed her how to see the fish in the water as we walked along the river bank . After walking a little down the trail Jane said she needed to get new fishing boots. I knew that shopping choices in Dutch John would be limited, but I tried to think positive. We left the river and went shopping for boots . We visited the three fly shops and luckily Jane found shoes at the shop by the lodge. Jane suggested that as long as we were at the lodge we might as well have dinner. Jane was a lot of fun and a very positive lady who explained that she had never fished on her own. She had previously only fished with guides out of a boat with guides so that explained a lot.

Day 2 - I decided the second day would be a new day with new shoes on my new friend. That was not to be the case. Little did I know that the eyeglasses that Jane took off at supper the previous night were lost. Jane notified me about the missing glasses in the morning and we looked for them at the shops and the lodge but never found the glasses . Jane decided she would fish with her old glasses that were not so wonderful. I felt bad for her, but she seemed to take it in stride. I figured we’d finally have a chance to fish thinking all the calamities were behind us. Jane was happy with her new shoes that she laced loosely because the backs were still stiff. We began trucking down the trail when I heard a crash and looked back to find Jane lying on the ground . Jane had hurt her hand on a rock and the top six inches of her special boron fly rod was broken. Her positive attitude came through again when she decided to keep going and fish with the broken fly rod. How could I get upset with Jane, she seemed to be such a trooper.

Day 3 - The next day we decided not to fish , the weather was bad and Jane needed to rest her hand. We did some sight seeing around the mountains, lakes and sheep loop. We had a lovely day. Just when I thought Jane was having better luck she lets me know that the screw in her only pair of glasses is loose and the lens was falling out.. She had tried to fix it with no success. We found an eyeglass repair kit at the fly shop, but the screw didn’t fit. Thanks go to the guys at Trout Creek Fly Shop who fixed the glasses with a screw from one of their wives who went home to get her eyeglass kit. I really enjoyed being with Jane. She was not afraid to try different things and she was really positive.

Day 4 - The next day we tried to fish at the “A” section. After a little while, Jane came to me and showed me her fly rod that had split into many parts from the broken section. There was no way the rod could be used. Jane took the keys to my Jeep and came back later with a new fly rod. I really wanted to help Jane sight fish and catch a fish on a dry fly. It wasn’t easy was still watching where she dropped the fly in the water rather than watching the fly reach the fish and so she missed the take. I now know how a real guide feels. I so much wanted her to hook that fish. She came darn close, but wasn’t accustomed to seeing the fish rise for the fly.

Day 4 and Day 5 – Jane and I went fishing with one of my favorite guides on the Green river. We had a wonderful day fishing and catching. Jane was finally in her element, fishing from a boat as she had done many times before. Jane was such a good sport that the next day she walked on a trail with me to one of my favorite small streams four miles each way with no complaints. She really improved every day as we all usually do when we practice. What a good sport, no obstacle would stop her. for her since she had always fished from a boat with an indicator.  I actually enjoyed helping Jane. She improved each day with practice and repetition as most folks do. Many people have helped me over the years to fly fish so I often stop fishing and help others. It is important and very rewarding to pay back to this wonderful sport.

Pulling the Jeep with the Born Free motor home was not difficult except in the big cities where I didn’t have a navigator. In Dallas Ft. there was fast heavy traffic. My biggest nightmare was lacking the knowledge of the lane that had my exits until it was too late. After getting through the city, I always had to pry my fingers off the steering wheel. Hint: Make a detailed map and paste it in front of the dash, include the exit numbers. Pray …

Be Involved
The Born Free pulled to one side up Raton pass from N.Mex. to Colorado; very scary. At Wal-Mart in Raton, it took all morning to determine nothing was wrong. I wouldn’t accept that answer and finally made the mechanic double check the valve stems. Thank goodness I had extra valve stems from Born Free so the leaking stem was easily replaced. The cost was only $6.00. Thanks, Wally World. Lesson: Have extra valve stems and stay involved.

Knowledge is Power
In May I had snow in a high mountain Colorado primitive campground. The heater didn’t work. I had to hitch up in snow and hail. This time I traveled to several places in snow, spent money at each place. Finally after spending$250 and going to three different towns, I learned the battery checked out okay but some of the battery cells were bad. Hint : Don’t just have the battery checked, have each cell calibrated. Who knew??

Damsel in distress
I had a leak around the T.V. antennae on the roof. My luck was with me when a fellow fisherman camped at the Madison with me climbed on top caulked around the antennae. John is a great guy and a fabulous angler. This distressed damsel thanks him very much.

Ranger/cop wanna be
My most stressful experience occurred in Yellowstone when I pulled into the slough creek dirt road and a ranger/cop wanna -be was parked in the road writing a ticket, he instructed me to turn and pull over in the lot out of the way. I knew I was in trouble right away. There was no pull through and with the jeep at such a sharp angle it was impossible for me to unhook the jeep. A huge log was 2 feet in front of the coach so I couldn’t go forward, I couldn’t back up with my tow bar and I couldn’t remove the jeep because it was jack knifed at an angle. While trying to explain the problem to the officer, people stopped to try and help. It took two hours to solve the problem with the help of many park visitors. We used my levelers to make a ramp in front and back of the log, checked the height of the log to under carriage of the Born Free. I carefully pulled the front tires of the Born Free over the big log and forward until the jeep was straight enough to un-hook. Then I cautiously backed the Born Free back over the log. Talk about stress...Lesson learned: Don’t let anyone tell me where to move my Born Free, even an officer of the law. Thank goodness for the high undercarriage of the Born Free.

The pontoon boat and I had a battle. I am 67 years young and am only 5’1’’ in the mornings and I often come off the river and no one is there to help hoist the darn thing on top of my jeep. Thanks go to the two fishing buddies at the Missouri who stood there and watched and encouraged me while not helping so that I would figure it out myself. After many tries and verbal cheering from the guys, I found that if I stood the boat vertically on the side of the jeep and got under it I could push it up the side to the top of the jeep then rotate it. It’s not easy or pretty but it works.
Another tense moment with my pontoon boat on the Missouri River occurred when I couldn’t get the anchor up and thought that I’d be stuck out there forever. Finally I got free. Lesson: carry a knife.

The buck stops here
A word of caution : Be careful about people with good intentions. I don’t let someone try to help unless I am sure they know what they are doing. I have learned that not all guys know about mechanical stuff and many won’t admit it. They mean well and I do appreciate the muscle power. Guys often try help hitch or un- hitch the Jeep, but I prefer to do it myself since I can. Bottom line : good intensions or not ,I have to live with the consequences. The buck literally stops with me
and I need to give some of that back. I just wish I could have given more help.

Help & thanks
Kudos and thanks go to many people: Kim and Ken at Born Free who are a phone call away and always help me out of a jam. When the car wash people in Colorado broke my rear bumper, Born Free was there for me. They had a new bumper made and shipped just in time for my appointment Many thanks go to the guys who thought about me and found time to help me .Tim from the Wolf Creek fly shop drove by the take out on his way home to check on me on my maiden voyage with my pontoon on the Missouri River. Chris at the Orvis shop helped re-rig the anchor system on the pontoon boat. There were many wonderful kind thoughtful guys who helped me in a jam.

Special thanks to all the patient and helpful guys who work in the fly shops who are always willing to help someone like me who might be their grandmother. Thanks for looking out for the little old fishing lady. I love you all.



Note from Rob Chernenko ... as you can see/read from the incredible adventures of Marcia she is truly an amazing and unique woman.  She is also looking for a like-minded partner to share those adventures with.