Author’s note: A loyal reader recently noted that it has been two years since I bamboozled readers into learning about fish by slipping a little cold biology into a hot romance novel. Spurred to action by this tremendous upsurge in interest, I hereby present yet another torrid chapter in the lives of the voluptuous fishing guide, Jenna, and the rugged river ranger, Rod. — LP
A wintery wind whistled through the tall spruces along the Kenai River as a cold rain fell on the choppy, turbid water, while Jenna, dressed smartly in hip waders and jeans so tight that you make out the tiny scar on her left hip, the result of taking a corner too fast on her tricycle when she was five, resolutely steered her boat around the hairpin bend at Big Eddy as she wondered about her future, just as I’m wondering about the future of this column if I don’t end this sentence soon.
Jenna hadn’t seen Rod for several days, and she missed his bad-boy remarks, his smoldering glances and his wickedly handsome looks. Just thinking about his calloused hands on her skin turned the raindrops on her Simms G4 Pro Jacket to steam and fogged her boat’s windshield.
This hadn’t been a good week. She had taken people king salmon fishing on the Kenai River three days in a row without getting a bite. Now, halfway through another charter, it was looking like more of the same. She felt as useless as the dock at Bing’s Landing.
At Airplane Hole, she steered into a good spot to start back-trolling and pulled the throttle lever back to idle. The fishing had been so poor, only one other boat was in the hole. In the not-so-distant past, there would’ve been a dozen. Moving quickly among her four clients, she soon had their lines in the water and their rods in holders. At least they were fishing.
Ordinarily, Jenna liked to joke with her clients, but she didn’t feel like joking today.
“Where’s the fish?” one of her clients asked, breaking the glum silence.
“No one knows,” Jenna said, “but times like this get me to thinking about the future of Alaska’s salmon. On the Kenai River, for example, salmon populations have been lost to hydroelectric development (Cooper Creek); important riparian vegetation is being lost to the infrastructure associated with recreational development and use; wetlands are being filled and drainage patterns altered; logging is increasing without adequate protection of salmon habitat; sewage treatment plant failures have dumped toxic chlorine directly into the river; agricultural practices have cleared large areas of land immediately adjacent to the river; and mining activities are occurring in the productive salmon-producing tributaries.”
“Gee, that’s depressing stuff,” the client said. “Sounds like what happened in the Pacific Northwest.”
Then it happened. Jenna saw Rod’s boat coming down the river. Her day brightened. A thrill ran through her as she saw him turn in her direction, his muscular body erect at the controls, a mischievous grin on his swarthy face. Just the thought of being close to him made Jenna gasp like a sockeye that had been snagged four times before making it upstream to the Russian River Falls, only to find itself in a bear’s jaws.
As he pulled up beside her, Rod yelled over, “Hi, Beautiful!”
Jenna, glad that the hood of her jacket hid her blushing face from her clients, said, “Hi. Fishing is poor again today. What’s happening up-river?”
“Nothing,” he said. “But how about you and me getting together tonight to make something happen?”
Her knees went as weak as a spawned-out humpy. It no longer mattered that no kings were in the river. Rod was the only thing on her mind.
Les Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.