Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Taking a Talbot

I stepped forward but fell backward. I landed on my back in the knee deep water and discovered there was more current here at the far edge of the river than I expected. Instead of bracing myself and popping back up, I bobbed in the water trying to catch my balance. I thought of the bad choice I had made back at the car a few hours earlier and tried to get my feet under me. The water filled my waders. The chill that ran down my spine wasn’t just from the water. I knew I couldn’t drown. It was too shallow. The water wasn’t moving fast enough. But why couldn’t I get up? As panic began to set in, I got my feet under me balanced myself on the rocks and rose out of the river. Water poured out of my jacket sleeves. I felt the water from my toes to my chest in the waders. But at least I was upright.

I drudged to the small, grassy island that had been my destination. I first pulled my i-Phone out of my jacket pocket. This was the bad choice I had made earlier this morning. I had planned to leave it in the car, but decided at the last minute to bring it with me to keep it safe from vandals. As if someone was going to break the window on my car parked in the small parking lot off the main drag in Volant, Pennsylvania. The phone’s screen flickered and flashed before going black. Toast.

I cursed. I pulled myself out of my waders, dumping the water from each leg. I shivered slightly before putting the waders and rain coat back on. I now had a choice. Fish wet or go home. It has been years since I’ve taken a dunking in a river. The last good one was my first year of steelheading on the Brule River in Wisconsin. I slid off an ice shelf into what I thought was a three foot deep stretch of river. It was actually over my head. Thankfully my cheap pair of waders had an elastic waste band that kept much of the water out. I’m not sure how I did it, but I pulled myself up onto the ice shelf and scampered up the hill back to my car. I should have drowned that time and I’ve taken great care in wading ever since.

The last time a fishing colleague took a dunking was my first Pennsylvania fly fishing trip nearly 20 years ago. Me and two friends drove to the Kinzua dam on the Allegheny River to fish the caddis fly hatch below the dam. I knew next to nothing about Pennsylvania trout fishing and my colleagues knew just a little bit more. We had driven more than three hours to get to the river. Within five minutes of entering the water, one of my friends slipped on a rock and plunged in. He emerged soaked from head to toe. From then on, taking a dunk in the river was named after him; he had taken a Talbot. He returned to his truck to crank up the heat and dry off. He knew we couldn’t quit just five minutes into the fishing trip.

After I took my Talbot on Neshannock Creek, I chose to head home. I had already caught a nice trout that morning … more than we did that day on the Allegheny. But I really quit because I was angry at myself for making several mistakes, not the least of which was not leaving the phone in the car. I fish to relax. And there was no way I was going to relax with a short-circuiting i-Phone in my pocket. Instead I drove home and bought an Aquapac i-Phone case and a new i-Phone. Lesson learned.

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