My face was maybe three inches from the water. Trying to raise my head didn’t work. Neither did turning it at all. What the hell was I doing here? The water was moving, so it had to be a stream. What the blazes was wrong with me? Was this a dream?
Slowly, through the epoxy over my brain, it came back to me. Cleats on frosty rock, wild wind milling to regain balance, look at fleecy clouds, and then flat back landing on a mortuary slab granite boulder. Then sparks and lightning as the synapses objected. There must have been a bounce after that for me to be in this position, but no memory of a flip.
Wow! Peaceful feeling. No pain. How weird. Hey, there’s my squirrel nymph about eight inches to the right, swimming just like I built it to do. Oh, crap. The cold is going to kill me and I won’t even feel it. If I could move my foot, I’d kick myself in the ass for coming up here alone!
An hour, two, I don’t know. Did I hear a vehicle? I don’t feel like I am dying, but still can’t move anything but my eyes. Whoa! It’s a brownie, twenty inches easy. He swam up, slowed, looked me in the eyes, and ate the nymph. Oh, God, let me die now! What a final scene this would make! The biggest irony of my life and I can’t even laugh!
When he realized what he had, he spun a 180, and took off downstream like a rocket! The drag screamed that sweet string symphony in my ears, but I couldn’t see my rod.
The warden had seen my vehicle on the road and went down the easy access path about forty yards below where I had fallen. Not seeing anyone, he squatted on his haunches and studied the river. He saw the trout streak past, jump and twist. He looked quickly upstream but couldn’t see the angler who had to be attached to the other end of that trout.
Well, he’d chew out the dude who was trying to kill this beauty with all that line out.
Yes, he found me, and I heard the helicopter come, then the crew fussing over me as they put me on the board. And yes, I am returning to normal after back surgery and rehab. Doctors said that my backpack with my rain jacket in it had kept the boulder from breaking my neck and bounced me over onto my face.
The warden visited, brought me my rod, and said he had watched as the brownie swam away.
I’ll go back there soon, throw a box of worms in as an offering, thanking that beautiful trout personally for my life. There will be fishing with friends again on the Nan. But no, I’ll never fish that stretch again.
(This fictional story was inspired by the personal experience of one of our club members, who was very fortunate not to have suffered this serious an injury while fishing the Nantahala, NC. Look hard; there is a lesson or two in there somewhere.)
Jerry Giles fishes with the Fly Fishers of North West Florida. Duplication or publishing of this article without the written permission of Fly Fishers of North West Florida, is prohibited.