Word count: 1016 THE FALL OF MAN
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.
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