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Braided Currents

Brian G. Angevine

8/22/2009

 

I could have died. What bad Karma that would have been! I slipped on a flat, slick rock and fell in the river. I have done that before but never felt like I could have died. Maybe of embarrassment, but not really dead.

 

My wife says I am getting old and shouldn’t be doing things alone anymore. But then, nobody wants to do the things I do alone. I tried to teach a couple of friends how to fly fish, but they didn’t really have the interest. I tried to teach my wife how to fly fish, but she really doesn’t have the interest. My dad and I used to go fishing together. But Dad has been dead for a long time now. He was my only fishing buddy.

 

I love fishing in moving, clear, cold water. That generally means trout. Salmon or grayling or whitefish could be the prey, but my cabin is in a place where there is only trout. Brown trout. Some fishers prefer rainbows, I would like to catch a cutthroat again; it has been a long time. But in these shallow, muddy-bottomed streams around here brownies are the only ones that can survive when it gets too hot. Brownies are okay, just not as pretty as the others.

 

Moving water moves me for some reason. I love to watch the currents, gauge the speed, marvel as the water moves over rocks, gurgles in the stillness. I see moving water from two viewpoints now. Dad used to scan the South Platte as soon as we hit the river after barreling over Nighthawk on the dirt road to Cheesman Canyon. He would scan the river and I would watch the road in terror, afraid that he would miss a curve and put us in with the fishes. I grew up learning to scan the water to see where the fish lay, to know where to cast to entice them to hit. Later I learned to canoe. I owned a canoe rental business and learned to scan the water for how I would float it, to avoid the rocks, the merging currents, the whirlpools. Completely different than scanning to fish.

 

The bad Karma is that if I died today, I would be the second president of our landowners association to die this year. The president was killed in an accident a few months ago. That made me, as vice president, automatically president—for the third time by accident. Our association annual meeting is just a few days away. I have to run that meeting. If I died, that would leave the former president’s grieving widow to run the meeting. Bad Karma!

 

My two dogs were with me, brothers, with the same Airedale mom and different pops. They don’t look a whole lot alike and certainly don’t act alike. The bigger, dumber one, Dominick, has learned exactly what I want him to do when we go fishing. He stays right behind me and doesn’t go stick his nose in the exact spot on the stream I am trying to cast to. Munchie, the smaller, feistier, killer dog, is finally learning just how far he can get ahead of me before I yell at him, and cuss.

 

My wife is right; I am getting older. I don’t know when to quit working or fishing. She helps me a lot telling me to quit work around the house when I get tired. I never really notice that I am tired until I stop. She isn’t in the river with me to stop me when I tire.

 

Today I wanted to catch two more fish. Why? Isn’t 16 fish enough? After all I put them all back alive and nobody is there to see how many I catch and what difference does it make how many I catch anyway? Dominick knew I was getting tired. I stumble around on slick rocks, lose my balance, slide on mud, and he has to scramble out of the way before I stomp on him. I had already done that two or three times and I even told myself it was time to quit. But the moving water had me in its embrace and I had to keep moving upstream, casting, looking for fish—there has to be one right next to that rock if I can just get the fly to drift right in the braided current.

 

One more step and the wide, flat, slanted rock, covered with slime, took both my feet away. Usually I fall to the side or front. I can generally catch myself without doing much damage. Today I fell backward. I tossed the fly rod and my head snapped back against a pointed rock sticking out from the bank. The point struck an inch below my skull directly on the muscle on the left side of my neck. If it had been an inch higher I probably would have a fractured skull or at least been knocked out. A few inches to the right and I might have snapped my neck.

 

I lay in the stream for a few moments trying to regain my equilibrium. I thought about my billfold submerged in the water but couldn’t really do much about it right then. I got up slowly and checked my head for damage. Then I hoisted myself up the steep bank and trudged toward the road.

 

As I falumphed back to the car in my waders I wondered how long it would have been before I was found, dead, there in the river. Would my dogs summon help? Lassie, go get help! How would my wife in Kansas know where to send someone to look for me when she realized I had not answered the phone after a day or two? You see, I am just about the only person who fishes that river. There is plenty of truck traffic on the dirt road serving the many gas wells in the area, but none of the drivers would have seen me or known where I was. There are many bears and mountain lions in that wild area. Would one of them eat me? How long would my dogs survive without food?

 

This fall scared me. It won’t stop me from fishing alone. However, I think I will leave a note in my car telling which direction I went. I must remember to take an energy bar and some water or Gatorade. When I forget those things I get too tired and fall.

 

My wife says I am getting old and shouldn’t be doing things alone.