THE FALL OF MAN


Word count: 1016                                       THE FALL OF MAN

By

ROBERT ROBINSON

There is only one certainty in fly-fishing: you will fall down. I’m not talking about the slips, stumbles, and trips that do little harm except to your ego. I’m talking about the nosedives, headers, sprawls, and plummets, the kinds of falls that break bones, fly rods, reels, and noses.

When explaining ripped waders, torn hands, shattered equipment, and noticeable limps to friends and significant others, proper nomenclature is helpful.

A sprawl is performed by pitching forward, leaving your feet behind, throwing your arms out to the side, and landing on your chest or face before your knees touch the ground.

A nosedive is any fall where the impact of the fall is taken above the upper lip.

A header, similar to the nosedive, involves a head-over-heels roll with the initial impact taken anywhere above the shoulders. When preformed on a steep slope, the header can be done repeatedly, gaining momentum with each roll until forward motion is arrested or deflected by a rock or a tree.

A plummet, my personal favorite because of the opportunity it affords for spectacle, must be initiated from a height of at least four feet—point of impact is optional.

Gravity is of course the root cause of all falls and is best illustrated in a fall I call the topple. You are busting through a stand of willows, get off balance, and just tip over, embracing gravity without a struggle—normally landing in a thorn bush. I recently did that and it had me preforming pocketknife surgery on my hands for a week as the thorns became infected and started to itch.

Gravity, mud, and felt-bottom waders can combine to produce some spectacular falls. I first became aware of this while contemplating my mud caked boots outlined against a clear blue sky as I went over a fifteen-foot embankment. I was able to break my fall by landing on a sixteen-inch diameter post that was sticking two-feet out of the mud. When I was able to breathe again and inspect the damage, I had a two-inch wide gash that ran from just under my left breast to the center of my back. Muddy waders are excellent for doing the moonwalk as well.

Unlike the popular dance move, which propels you backward, this moonwalk propels you forward, while you peddle backward as rapidly as you can. I once watched a friend of mine do the moonwalk for twenty-feet until he was waist deep in the Chattahoochee River. I did a version of the moonwalk on scree once. (Scree: an accumulation of loose stones or rocky debris lying on a slope or at the base of a hill or cliff, which enables stupidity to comes full circle.) My feet eventually shot out from under me and I went sledding and turtling on my back for thirty-feet, over a cut-bank, and into the river on my butt. The moonwalk can also be done standing in place, gradually picking up tempo until you tire and just sit down. (This is very entertaining . . . speaking as a spectator.)

Unless the good fishing is on the other side, or you are in a hurry to get to the bottom of the hill, slopes strewn with scree should be avoided; however, muddy or scree strewn slopes can be tested for stability by graciously allowing your fishing buddy to go first.

While form is important, proper falling etiquette should be observed as well.

All falls should be performed in silence. Unmanly shrieks, screams, and little girl noises only diminish the respect that can be gained from your fishing buddies through the degree of difficulty of the fall; however, an audible “oomph” upon impact lets any onlookers know that you’ve survived the fall, and from the reactions of my friends at least, adds comedic punctuation.

No fall is complete without proper follow through. Always assume that there are spectators and remember that it’s how you fall that matters. Do it with style. Staunch the bleeding—this is real he-man stuff—by packing the wounds with mud, then move off in a composed manner. When you are confident that there are no witnesses, curl up into the fetal position and wait for the pain to subside.

A couple of years ago, I took a fall that had me limping for most of the summer. I had spotted some rising Trout that were holding behind a large rock on the other side of the river. I was almost across and thinking that I had made it when I began watching the Trout and planning my cast. My feet shot out from under me and I came down hard on a sharp rock with my knee. (Knee: the part of the body most useful in locating sharp objects.) White pain shot through my brain; the kind of pain that shoots blinding flashes of light behind your eyes and makes you sick to your stomach; the kind of pain that causes you to wonder if you can make it back to the truck. I stayed on my hands and knees sucking air in short breaths through clinched teeth and waited for the pain to subside. I thought about the climb out of the canyon and wondered how long it would be before my body would be discovered. I thought about my friend who had just underwent a knee replacement and wondered if I would be getting fitted for a new skid. I pulled my good leg under me and stood up, testing the injured leg by slowly putting weight on it until I was satisfied that I could walk. I found my rod laying half in and half out of the water were I had somehow managed to toss it clear of the fall. The fish were still rising in spite of the commotion, so I gave the rod a quick inspection and caught three nice Browns before I decided to make the climb out while my knee was still numb. It was several months before I could walk pain free.

© Robert Robinson 2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Robinson and <flyfishingthehighcontry.com> with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

37 thoughts on “THE FALL OF MAN

    • Thanks for commenting. McManus was funny. I honored that you thought of him when you read my piece. I didn’t know I was writing humor until one editor wrote on the rejection slip that they weren’t taking any humor pieces at that time.

  1. I’m not going to lie, this doesn’t sound like fun at all, but it was damn near artistic the way you describe the various. . . tricks you can learn from fly-fishing. lol

  2. I never knew how much was involved in fly fishing. The times I saw people doing it, they made it look so easy and kind of graceful. It has the precision of a cowboy trying to rope a cow and a the grace of gymnast. Thanks for putting the skill associated with this technique into more perspective. I will always remember your article when admiring them on the shores.

  3. While I am quite sure none of these falls give any pleasure, your amazing way of sharing this certainly made me chuckle. Thanks for teaching us ignorant folks!

  4. My left arm throbbed as I read this piece. Broken arm, plaster cast and physiotherapy. Only in my case the experience wasn’t nearly as interesting as yours. Congratulations to you for turning a painful occasion into an entertaining one.

  5. Thanks for reminding me that there’s more to fly fishing than standing knee-deep in the shallows casting graceful arcs of line across the glassy surface of a pristine mountain pool. My dad would have loved this.

  6. Hmmm… maybe the fly fishing uniform should be changed to that used by NFL linemen. Go figger fly fishing is now a contact sport. Next you’ll be posting about how unfair the risk of concussion is in fly fishing… and sueing the state DNR for misrepresenting what their trout breeding can do. The bastards.

  7. Good stuff! I would only add that if you’re on one of the steep Northwest rivers after steelhead or spring salmon,you may encounter huge waterlogged dead-falls slipping downstream with very little visible above, like an iceberg. I once was ashore and had a better read on the green water chute when one almost got a very focused fisherman. River was so loud in that canyon I’m not sure how he heard me yell. He looked, I pointed, the expression on his face was sheer terror. He managed to evade without taking a tumble–not easy to do, running in waders in fast water to your ribcage. As the log got there it hit underwater structure, rose and turned and thrust out a stub of a branch for all the world as if reaching for him.

    The first McManus story I ever read was very different from the humor he came to be known for. It recounted a return, by bus, to waters fished by Hemingway and described in some of his short fiction. Hemingway’s character took a train to the fishing but the trains were gone. The story obviously made a powerful impression on me. But I never saw anything else by him in that vein, I’m sorry to say.

    Most of my pratfalls involved duck hunting. I may be one of the few to have filled my hip boots–horizontally. I vaulted a slough to chase one of those greater snow geese from Siberia floating along the front; the light was so flat its white breast blended with the water and my Lab couldn’t see it from dog height. I laid a pattern across the bird with my ten gauge and saw his ears perk–he spotted the black wing tips–and off he went I was jogging behind across the lumpy mud when I went down face first and skidded just like stealing a base. My hip boots scooped a couple gallons apiece–horizontally. By the time I found a snag to sit on to empty my boots Harry was back with the goose. (Purists please note–my gun was a single barrel and empty while I jogged.)

    • I like the Nick Adams stories as well. Thanks for the story. I’ve had a lot of close calls on bigger rivers. I started wearing hip waders instead of chest waders because the hip waders kept me from going in too deep and getting in trouble.

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