I had it all planned out. Kayak loaded. Gear prepped. Rods rigged. Alarm set.
The next morning was free of obligations, so, naturally, I planned to do some local fishing. I had debated between a couple of local pieces of water. The early morning topwater bite had been great, and the afternoon carp fishing had been even better on a local reservoir that I frequent, with the second option being a local creek, filled with chubby, educated shoal bass. With a tropical storm tracking its way up from the gulf, it would likely be the last time I got to hit the water before the rivers and streams blew out for several days.
Hitting the snooze is a habit of mine. I’m often punched a couple times and threatened with further bodily harm before dragging my groggy ass out of bed, and this morning was no different despite the usual excitement I feel about hitting the water. But after getting vertical, and the first sips of coffee, I’m ready to throw on some clothes and hit the door.
On the water by six o’ clock was the plan, taking advantage of as much daylight as possible. The drive to the put in at the reservoir is quick. Maybe seven minutes. Barely enough time to squeeze in a couple Chris Stapleton songs. I turn down the main drag and, immediately, I can see that there is something unusual in the middle of the road. That gate to the park and put-in is closed and locked. Technically the park isn’t supposed to open until 8am, however the folks that open the gate usually have it open well before first light, but today this isn’t the case.
Not wanting to wait and hope that someone shows up to open the gate, I decide to drive back to the house, drop the kayak, grab my wading boots, and head for my “plan B”; the local creek filled with chubby, educated shoal bass.
A little further down the road, I found myself in the parking lot, ready to fish by 6:45am, and, after a little hike down the trail, I was fishing by 7:00am. Not planned, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The first nice pool is full of sunfish and bluegills, with some nice shoalies lurking amongst the rocks and timber. After several casts with no luck, I decided to move up to the next nice run/pool to try my luck there. This process would repeat itself a couple of times, until I made the decision to move well upstream to try my luck in some less-molested water. As I made my way up the rock outcropping, I decided to check out a run that always looks great, but is one of those pieces of water that just doesn’t hold many fish. Curiosity got the better of me though, and I stepped down the rock face to make a couple of casts. After all, today could be the day that I pull a personal best out of that run.
Settling my feet on a large boulder, I made my first cast into the run. It wasn’t the result I was after, and realizing there were quite a few obstacles in my backcast, I decided that by taking a step or two to my left would put me in a better position to present my flies where I needed them.
Here’s where things went wrong…. I never took my eyes off the water when I took that step to the left.
As a matter of fact, I was already false casting when I took this blind step. I was 100% committed to this move, and as I put my foot down there was nothing there. I was expecting solid ground. The boulder I was standing on was huge, but I was much closer to the edge than I had realized before stepping. In an instant I was falling, hard. With nothing around me but rocks, I knew however I landed on the granite surface, it was going to hurt.
The landing came, and then the pain.
My left foot and ankle had taken the majority of the brunt of my weight and the force of the fall. It was that pain that at first wasn’t so bad, but then quickly fired up and it was then that I knew I needed to start making my way out.
Convinced that something in my foot and/or ankle was broken, my fishing was done. I reeled up my line and pinned my fly to my rod, which, surprisingly, was unscathed. I used the big boulder to brace myself as I stood up. Surveying the scrapes and cuts, I came to my left foot. I wiggled my toes a little and felt immediate discomfort and I could tell my foot was already swelling. Looking around for the best route off of the rocky face, I knew I was in for a long, slow, painful hike back to the parking lot. The distance wasn’t so much the issue, however the terrain was a bitch with two good feet and I only had one. Most of the steep trail is either extremely rocky, or covered in tree roots that surface and slither across the path. Only once you’ve reached the entrance of the park does the trail become more flat and tame.
Though the pain began to become more and more intense, I managed to make it off the rock outcropping and to the trail. In an attempt to manage the trail I ended up falling again, blurting out a few choice words as I tripped over one of the hundreds of tree roots that intersect the trail. It was after that that I decided not to add insult to injury. I swallowed a little bit of my pride when I made the phone call to my buddy Ben to ask for some assistance. Luckily, Ben only lives about fifteen minutes down the road, and, on two good feet, he would be able to get to me within the half-hour.
Sitting on the trail, kicking myself (with my good foot) for doing something so stupid, I did feel fortunate that I was in a place where I could easily summon help if I needed it. I had cell service. Friends close by. And medical care within a short drive. We, as anglers, can put ourselves in some precarious situations, dangerous even, while chasing after these little green fish. Yet, we often don’t even give a second thought about what we would do if something like this happened hours, or days, away from help. I was less than forty-five minutes from home, but I physically could not get myself up the trail and back to my vehicle.
I was fortunate. It could have been much worse.
This wasn’t some nightmarish story of being lost deep in the Rockies, dragging my broken leg behind me for miles before I was lucky enough to stumble upon help. Instead, it was a best-case scenario given the circumstance, and for that I am grateful.
This incident was a lesson learned. First off, don’t get complacent. The next step you take could be the one that lands you flat on your back. I’ll certainly be inviting friends to fishing with me more often as well. Having a buddy there to be another set of eyes, ears, and even legs certainly isn’t a bad thing. The next time that you decide to head out into the wild to either fish, hunt, bike, or hike, make sure, first and foremost, that someone knows where you are going and around when you should be returning. If it’s possible, bring a buddy to tag along. The old saying “there’s safety in numbers” does hold merit. A friend can help, go get help, or even talk you out of doing something stupid in the first place. Think safety first and watch your step, and you’ll stay ahead of the game.Justin Pickett Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!