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