Fly fishing is not dangerous.
The trending push to nudge it into the extreme sports category is amusing, because fly fishing is closer to the cliche of being the peaceful, pastoral, quiet sport than being saddled up at the next X-Games. But to the uninitiated, the risk of drowning while wading through deep and swift current seems to be a concern … especially in the dark.
“Aren’t you worried you’ll fall in and drown at night?”
Nope. Every year I fall in a few times, and I always do the same thing … I get back up.
I guess there are some hazards to the activity, like flying hooks embedding into soft skin, or broken limbs from a spill on slick boulders.
I once jumped from one dry, midstream rock to another, over a three foot wide chute. Not a wide gap by any means, and I should have easily made it to the other side. Instead I slipped, and the impact of landing on my lower back physically stunned me. Dizzy, tingling and nearly unconscious, I was washed into the deep chute. Immediately up to my neck in cold water, I remember trying to cut through my hazy thoughts with one imperative command — Pull yourself up on that rock. I climbed out of the water onto the small platform and sat for a very long time. Dripping, dazed and numb, trying to keep myself from passing out and falling back into the drink.
That one day is as close as I’ve ever come to real danger while fishing. Every other day … not so much.
But there’s one more thing I think is a little dangerous out there — being bowled over by random things in the current. In higher flows I’ve learned to keep an eye upstream for floating logs washed into the river, because I’ve been hit by a few heavy tree parts. Once, I looked upstream just in time to dodge half of a wooden walking bridge bouncing down the river in my lane.
Actually, the drifting icebergs in frigid, winter flows could push a man under and hold him there. Just sayin’ …
So I was startled, but not surprised, when something heavy hit my legs in the dark around midnight. Fishing to the banks upstream while standing in the swift middle current, the hefty thump happened so fast that it was past me and downstream before I could move.
That was too soft to be a log, I thought.
I flipped on my headlamp and looked downstream to see a porcupine returning my wide-eyed gaze. His head turned, and he glared back as if the hit-and-run was somehow my fault. I almost expected him to flash a middle finger, but I guess he needed both paws for swimming.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N