Claudia and the Cut Throat
By ice rivers
I’m no fisherman but I have a fish story.
The story takes place in the mountains of Montana, the last of the big time splendours.
My companions were Bruce and Claudia. Bruce and I had driven cross country from New York for the express purpose of going for a hike with Claudia into the mountains. The previous year, Claudia and I were camp mates on a week long hike into the Grizzly Mountains. Since that time, I had talked so much and wondrously about Montana, the mountains the streams and Claudia that Bruce just had to come and see for himself.
We arrived in Bozeman. Claudia was waiting for us. We went for our walk.
I am an indoors man by nature but I had been to the mountains and hiked with Claudia.
Bruce was more of an outdoorsman than I but he had never been into the mountains, hadn’t even met Claudia.
Claudia was from Montana. Her relatives had come from the Alps. She was an outdoors woman. She was the same height as Bruce and high which made her a tall woman. She was lithe and lissome. Brad shouldered, long arms and legs. Naturally blonde. Nordic. She loved the mountains. The mountains loved her. The higher we got in the mountains, the more beautiful Claudia became. She was a total natural.
Claudia knew a lot of trails. She chose for us one of her favorite trails, a trail rarely taken by anyone other than a person who knows the mountains. She had figured out our measure. The trail she had chosen would meet that measure without overwhelming it.
We walked and talked as we climbed. Bruce and Claudia hit it off great. Claudia and I meshed again as we had the year before. It was if no time had passed.
They have a saying in the mountains….”the higher you get….the higher you get”. The three of us were getting plenty high when we came to our first steam crossing. Claudia bounded from rock to rock and was over the stream in a flash. Bruce tried to match her gamine but that didn’t work. He lost his balance and tumbled into the stream with a huge splash, He quickly climbed out but he was soaking wet. He came back to my side of the stream. Claudia recrossed the stream and joined us.
It was mountain time for a break as we had been going for about three hours.
While Bruce dried off, I went back to the stream to take a better look into the water It was loaded with fish.
I watched the fish swim around for awhile as if they owned the place. I said that if ever I was a fisherman, this would be the place that I would fish. Unbeknownst to me, Bruce had brought a fishing pole. The three of us returned to the stream. Even Claudia was impressed by the gathering of the fish in the crystal clear, ice cold stream.
All of our attention was focused on a huge fish that was hanging around, minding it’s own business. I almost got the feeling that the fish was looking at us like we were looking at it and wondering “what the hell””. Bruce dropped his line into the water right in front of the fish. The unsuspecting fish went right ahead and took a bite of the hook and the next thing that I knew, this beautiful natural creatue so full of life was emerging from the stream dangling at the end of a hook.
Bruce pulled the fish out of the water like a silver diamond of truth.
The fish flopped off the hook and landed on a rock. This was most definitely a first time experience not only for me but also for the fish.
I didn’t know what do or to say. I was stupefied by the struggle of the magnificent fish on the rock.
We watched it as it tried in vain to regain its grace and dignity.
That’s when Claudia said “ we either eat it or we put it back. It’s your fish Bruce.”
Bruce hesitated in his answer.
Claudia made the decision.
She picked up the fish and before my astonished eyes, she smashed that fish head first into a rock. The struggle ended there.
She found a place near the rocks to start a fire.
She cleaned the fish.
She said it was a cut throat trout.
She cooked the fish.
We ate it.
I’m not a big fish eating guy. Fish fries and tuna fish sandwiches are about as far as I go. Not on that day. As we were eating the fish, we filled our canteens up with stream water. To this day, I swear there is something hallucinogenic about that magical water that flows in the streams high in the mountains. Ya gotta taste it to believe it. I had told Bruce about the effect of drinking that water. Claudia knew all about it. We ate and drank heartily.
We crossed the stream and got even higher in the next two hours.
As we continued our walk, we talked about the fish. How in a matter of minutes it had gone from its natural kingdom, onto a rock and into our stomachs.
It was a Montana afternoon. Splendiferous sky. Crystal clear water. Mountain breeze. Infinite panorama. Three friends walking and talking as if forever…