The Naked Truth: Stories of Skinny-Dippers and Fly Fishing in Northern California

I have nothing against naked people, and particularly respect their ability to garner interest at the beginning of a story. Some of my best friends started out that way. Abruptly seeing a naked person in an unexpected place has about the same effect as tossing a balloon into a crowded room. Whatever decorum there might have been goes out the window. Suddenly things have changed, and you just can’t quite get back to whatever seriousness there might have been before.

It seems that nudists seek out some of the same lonely, beautiful places as fly fishermen do, so, given enough time, interaction is all but inevitable. While most men would not be opposed to a ration of nudity in just about any scenario, they haven’t thought it through. The world is bursting at the seams with people you would never want to see naked in a million years. Victoria’s Secret models hardly ever flock to remote trout streams. (I’ve discretely been looking for them, and can report no luck so far.) I don’t know where the beautiful people go to be naked outdoors, but I have a comprehensive knowledge of places they avoid. Perhaps they just avoid me.

In all fairness, we were there first. In those days I was working as a fishing guide with a husband and wife team on Northern California’s upper Sacramento River. Even though the river is sandwiched between massive Interstate freeway I-5 and the busiest north-south railroad route on the West Coast, it nevertheless offers a lot of fairly private areas. To an angler, remote areas usually mean less fishing pressure, which translates into better fishing. We were having some success too, which made their arrival and subsequent disrobing along the pool above us all the more annoying.

This couple was probably fifty-something, but to say they were obscenely rotund would be inaccurate. Their bodies were comfortable, paunchy with white rolls of fat only here and there. I can imagine far worse, I just don’t want to. I doubted a gym membership was among their monthly bills. The woman I was guiding noticed them first.

“Is that man naked,” she asked pointing upstream. Her husband and I turned our heads in unison. I had been concentrating on helping with their fishing and had not even noticed them.

“Whoa,” I said. “He is.”

It would have been the perfect moment for a pithy one-liner, and could really have gilded the moment, yet the words never arrived. Rather, I must have fetched back to grunting Neanderthal times and could manage no more than one-syllable words. To be honest, I could have avoided looking at the paunchy guy as he swam out into the pool. But when the paunchy lady shucked her clothes and followed suit, I should have known fishing had just become past tense.

Grammar be damned: You just can’t not look. It’s impossible. I knew for certain I didn’t want to look, and I bet my clients felt the same way. We really tried to concentrate on fishing, but it was too much. Since it became obvious that fishing and skinny-dipping were absolutely incompatible, we ended up leaving. We found new water and happily caught a few more fish, but I never could shake the image of those naked bodies for the rest of the day. Based on how the conversation kept returning to them, it was probable that neither could they. Eventually I became multisyllabic again.

Fast forward to the day I was guiding other folks on the lower Sacramento River. As my drift boat silently rounded a corner below Clear Creek, there was another unsuspecting couple on the bank in full-on consummation mode.

“Damn,” I cried. There goes the fishing again! Reclaiming the enthusiasm and concentration necessary for catching fish was, again, temporarily suspended. 

Let’s just face it. Nudity is responsible for fishing interruptus.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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