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Lonnie Allen owns Three Rivers Ranch, a fly fishing lodge in Warm River, Idaho. Her ancestors settled the area in the 1920s with a dance hall. Tourists have taken keen interest in the place ever since. Allen is an outfitter, business owner and fly fisher. This interview was conducted along the South Fork of the Snake River in 2016.
Why are you an outfitter?
I think I became an outfitter in Idaho because of my family. My grandparents came from Europe in the 1920s. They were explorers. They homesteaded and started with about 60 acres. They kept purchasing until they got up to about 800 acres. They had a bar. They had a dance floor. It was a boomtown. Bootleg whiskey I think was going on at that time. It was something I had grown up with so I was a third generation when I purchased the ranch in 1987.
Lady outfitters are as unusual as you and I, two lady anglers, fishing this river together. What happened when you showed up for your first outfitters test?
I walked into a room full of men who looked like they came right off the set of Rawhide. I was there to take the outfitters test. They thought I was there to deliver doughnuts.
What does an outfitter do?
An outfitter I guess by definition is someone, a man or a woman, who chooses to help people experience the out of doors. Similar to a guide, but an outfitter is in charge of the business.
All of us are after a common goal. The common goal is to give the best experience you can for man, woman and child to experience our outdoors and do it safely and successfully.
Some of the locals don't want to share fishing holes with you. Why is that?
I think sometimes we're misunderstood as outfitters. I think we get a bad wrap. Outfitters, in general, are not here to rape and pillage and take what we can. We are here to provide an experience.
Would you ever try to outfit in another state?
We are very lucky in the state of Idaho. We have so many natural resources that we are very fortunate to share with not only our country, but other countries.
The waters we fish in Idaho are probably some of the most well taken care of and that doesn't come easy. If you take just two minutes and think about all the water that we have in this area, it's incredible. I love where I am.
You have the main ranch at the confluence of Henry's Fork, Warm River and Robinson Creek, thus the name Three Rivers Ranch. Plus you have a handful of fly shops around the state. Are you proud of what you've done with your family's business?
I am extremely proud of what I have done and what I've done because of the people I work with. I can't do it alone. I have about 50 people that work for us and they're families that are all very close. From my chef who has been there over 30 years, to my head guide who has been there over 40 years. I love them like my family. They are my family. We take care of each other. We enjoy and laugh together. I think it's just a good mix.
I believe other people who are outfitters have that same mix. Same as if you were a farmer or a rancher. There is something that is solid of the earth when people work together. We work hard and maybe it's Idaho. Maybe that's part of it. That's how we do things here.
You've been at this for three decades now. How many more working years do you have left in you?
I can't see I'm going to quit what I'm doing for at least the next 20 years. I love it. I enjoy it. I love the people. I love the guides. Until I'm physically unable, I think I'm going to hang around.