By Jerry D. Haight
It was the shimmering water in the next frame that caught Charley’s attention. The cool, serene liquid of Green Lake reflected the sapphire sky and the soft billowing clouds drifting lazily overhead. Next he saw the gorgeous young woman in the middle of the lake in a float tube. Once again, she took his breath away. Of course, it was Lynn, his then wife of four years. From the hall outside, Charley could not help but saver her beauty his eyes beheld and reminisce about all that transpired since.
The pressures of the week before seemed to evaporate as the gentle rocking of the float tube threatened to lull Lynn to sleep. The float tube was a large inner tube sewn inside of a blue green canvas casing. It had a comfortable canvas seat on the bottom and a canvas envelope in the back. Its neoprene bladder filled, taught with air mimicked the comfort of a captain’s chair on a fine yacht, albeit on a much smaller scale.
She had everything needed. Her tube contained her fishing gear such as hooks, line, leader, tippet, and extra flies with names like “Green Wooly burger,” “Gray Caddis” and “Little Trout”. She had a small cache of drinks on ice and one in a holster cooled by the waters of the lake. Lynn wore polyurethane foam overalls to protect her from the chilly water of the lake and with her swim fins on her feet, she propelled the tiny craft. Green Lake is an elongated body of water three quarters of a mile long and about a quarter mile wide. Its restricted use for small craft only, made it ideal for kayaks, canoeists, row boaters and float tubers.
On the lake that hot summer afternoon were two fishermen in float tubes, including Lynn in the middle of the lake, and Charley in a canoe at the far end. The serenity of the lake was usually broken only by the shrill chirping cry of ospreys, the deep croaking of frogs and voices of other fishermen as the water carried and magnified their sound. That afternoon, another sound penetrated the tranquility of the day. It was the drone of twin engines of a large aircraft; a PBY, a float plane owned and operated by the U. S. Forest Service used in firefighting. More than a few weeks without rain with temperatures in the upper 80’s allowed a dry, relentless wind to suck the moisture out of the surrounding forest resulting in a fire storm lurking for a place to happen. That place was on a ridge nearly four miles west of Green Lake.
About three miles to the east of and just over a small hill was Elicosa Lake, one that was about twice the size of Green and was the usual resource used to supply the PBY with its ammunition of water to fight fire.
Suddenly, Charley saw Lynn become focused as she felt the rush of a tug on her line when a large Rainbow leapt out of the water trying to dislodge the hook from his lip. With a mighty splash, the fish started his run as soon as he hit the water. The real whined as the line broke the drag and played out. Deftly, Lynn let the fish run as she slowly reeled the line, although it continued to slip as the fish fought. Slowly at first, the line started to wind back onto the reel. The large trout ran again, Lynn continued to reel the line in. This process continued with each cycle wearing down the fish’s strength and resolve.
When more line came in than played out, Lynn knew she would win this battle and soon had the 20” trout in her net. She took a few moments to admire her catch and take a selfie, then she detached the hook and resuscitated the fish in preparation for its release. Lynn was unaware of the drama taking place overhead.
The PBY returned from the fire and the pilot decided to replenish its water from Green instead of Elicosa and with that the big plane descended from behind and to the North of Lynn about a half mile away. As Lynn released the fish, the plane completed its base leg and began an inside turn for its final approach.
The fish headed back to the depth of the lake and Lynn with a very satisfied smile on her face, tossed her “Wooly burger” out in front of the float tube in preparation for the next cast.
Suddenly, she gasped and her face turned pale as the blood drained. In utter shock, her chin dropped and, in disbelief, she gawked at the sight of the PBY now, maybe 40’ high, coming straight toward her. It was rumored that two years before, under similar circumstances, a PBY had scooped up an unsuspecting float tube and given the hapless fisherman the ride of his life that ended in the middle of a forest fire. His body and float tube were found several weeks later and his story pieced together as the pilot of the PBY was totally unaware of his passenger.
Lynn, with great presence of mind, remembered that the fabric of the back of the backrest of the float tube was colored fluorescent orange for visibility, quickly turned herself 180 degrees. She hoped the bright orange would be more visible to the pilot than just waving her arms, especially, considering the matching color of float tube to the lake. Sure enough, her next view of the PBY was the rivets on the underside of the thundering plane overhead, gaining in altitude as it headed for Elicosa Lake. Lynn thought she saw the PBY wag its wings as it passed overhead, but then again, maybe not. In any case, there were still fish to catch, and now, perhaps a change of underwear was in order for her and the pilot of the PBY.
Charley watched the replay with amazement at the woman he married. At the time he was astonished she had so much level-