At this stage of the game, it is rare for me to have a memorable day on the creek.
I’ve fished there so often, for so many decades, that it is highly unusual to have a truly singular moment. Last Friday was such a day and it really made an impression on my mind.
It also made an impression on my knee, shin, cell phone and posterior.
Let me start the explanation by referencing my most stellar and lasting contribution to the human race, the book Snake Dance. If you read what I humbly suggest might be the greatest volume of prose ever written, you’ll quickly discover the story behind the title comes from a column I wrote nearly 30 years ago. The basic premise still holds true: boy meets snake, boy gyrates as if he’s been electrocuted.
Yet, the book’s subtitle, “The Outdoor Misadventures of Someone With Poor Balance,” is not directly referenced therein. It stems from my frustrating and life-long problem with staying upright. Even when walking on a flat 27-acre parking lot, it is not uncommon for me to suddenly veer this way or that, or even stumble over obstacles such as air molecules.
In spite of this recurring issue, I frequently risk orthopedic injury to indulge my love for wading, creeks and smallmouth bass. The day in question, however, had a couple of contributing factors.
First, the creek this year has been unusually low and clear which has promoted a luxurious growth of moss. Everywhere you look, waving tendrils of soft green growth blanket the bottom. The wading conditions have been some of the most challenging in recent memory.
Secondly, add my worn-out wader soles to the mix. At one time in the distant past, my waders had some type of proprietary rubber material on the bottom of the boots that was supposed to cling to rocks like a televangelist clings to his tax-free status. However, after years of hard use, the bottoms of the boots look like bowling shoes.
We’ve now set the scene: dangerous creek, faulty boots and a documented lack of balance. Let the games begin.
Within minutes of arrival in the creek, I fell for the first time. One moment I was casting, the next minute my feet were frolicking at waist level. I only submerged to my armpits but sadly the waders stop at mid-chest. I found myself thrashing about on my knees, cold water pouring down the front of my waders, wondering how I got into the predicament.
It only took a few seconds to recover and stand. Being a philosophical angler, I took stock of the situation and thought “Oh well, these things happen once in a while when you go wading.”
Actually, the last part of the thought was drowned out when my disobedient feet took another unauthorized leave of absence, this time flying upstream. Down I went.
This time, I fell backwards and water went down the back of my waders, soaking everything that hadn’t gotten wet the first time. Thrashing about like a stranded turtle, I finally came back to my feet to realize my phone and wallet were now soaked. I sputtered angrily: “Maybe I’m getting to old for this stuff!”
I think I used the word ‘stuff.’ That part is a little fuzzy.
After pondering whether I should just give up and go home, I stopped, gathered myself together, set my jaw and cocked my dripping hat at a jaunty angle: bad luck wasn’t going to run me home like a whipped puppy!
While congratulating myself on this display of grit, my feet took advantage of the inattention and maliciously shot in two opposite directions, sending me into a flapping, spinning dance like a drunken figure skater performing on a Tilt-A-Whirl.
For a second I almost recovered, using some footwork that would be the envy of any world-champion log-roller, albeit much faster and with much more wild arm flailing. It was to no avail as time strangely shifted into slow motion and I pitched dramatically backward into what I believe was the world’s third-largest patch of underwater moss.
Surfacing a final time, sputtering and smelling of green slime, I realized the trip was officially over. I was soaked, my gear was soaked, I had a dandy assortment of minor injuries and I was angry. With strands of greenery hanging off my arms, head and fishing rod, I looked like a dim-witted cousin to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I later found moss in my undergarments.
It was one for the record book. In the span of 90 seconds, I had fallen three times, the final time so dramatically that several forest creatures standing on the shoreline were waving scoring placards. It was time to go home.