While I’m not nearly the fisherman that the other BlogFlyFish writers are, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the subject of falling in a river, having done extensive personal research.
My fly fishing buddy, Doover1, has been an eye witness to much of my research. Invariably, I always fall when he happens to be watching. We’ve known each other a long time and D1 is a little on the melancholy side. Were it not for my little unscheduled swims, I don’t think I would ever have heard him laugh out loud.
I need to say, for the record, that I didn’t fall a single time during 2020. OK, I had my little stumbles and close calls.
Once I stayed upright after doing a Camel Spin followed by a Triple Axel that would have won a medal in the Olympics. But this past year, I didn’t have a single one of those falls where, after taking the plunge and regaining my footing, I just had to stand there in my waders and wait while the cold water seeped down my back, past my wading belt, into my swing easies, and down to my socks. You know the feeling.
Of course, by bragging about my sure-footedness in 2020, I transgressed the only verse in the Bible that was specifically written for fly fishermen, “Pride goeth before the fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). Now that we know what’s about to befall me the next time I go fishing, if anyone wants to come and watch, tickets are available.
I suppose there are more than five ways to fall while you are wade fishing in a river. But there seem to be five recurring patterns for me when I get doused. Here they are:
The Titanic is the most frustrating of all the falls. There’s really no cause for it. It usually happens to me (and maybe I’m the only one it happens to) when I’m standing in water that’s mid-thigh deep.
I’ll be casting or looking around, compensating for the river’s current by leaning my body slightly into it. Inexplicably, it’s like the river current hesitates for an instant, and I begin to list. One second I’m standing upright and the next second all the trout in the vicinity are yelling “Timber!”
As verticality begins to become a lost hope, my legs try to come to the rescue and they start moving frantically to try to get back underneath me, but all they do is slip on the bottom. When they do gain traction, they just push me forward into the water, as if the captain of the Titanic gunned her engines just before she capsized.
The insidious thing about the Titanic fall is once you start listing, it all happens in slow motion. You realize you are falling, you realize there is nothing on which to grab, you realize that you can’t stop yourself, and you realize that once you fall in that it’s too deep to push yourself off the bottom with your arms to enable you to regain your footing.
You just have to body surf downstream until you can get your feet under you. Copious amounts of river water come to reside in your waders. The Titanic may be the worst of all the falls.
The Benedict Arnold
This fall happens when your wading stick, which is supposed to help keep you upright, turns into a traitor and causes you to fall.
Usually for me, the Benedict Arnold doesn’t happen in the river, but beside the river as I am walking to the next pool. My wading stick, attached to my wading belt, drags along beside me because I am too lazy to fold it up while I am out of the water. As I pick my leg up to step over a log, the wading stick gets caught on the log which then catches my foot. And there you have the perfect Benedict Arnold fall.
Once I was walking alongside the Chattooga River in Georgia when I suddenly came upon a snake on the path. I impulsively tried to jump over it when my wading stick got caught in between my legs. Before I knew it, I was eye level with the snake. Strangely, I heard the voice of a young girl screaming. Then I realized it was me. It probably gave the snake a heart attack, and it didn’t do a whole lot for my heart either.
Doover1 has seen me trip over my wading stick so many times that he’s started calling it my “tripping stick.” It kinda fits.
The Gibraltar fall is one that usually occurs when you can’t see the river bottom. You step on a rock and your foot starts slipping down the slope of the rock. You say to yourself, “No big deal. This rock isn’t that big. My foot will come to rest on another rock soon.”
Soon is not soon enough. As your legs begin to spread wider and wider, you begin to say to yourself, “This is not good. If this goes much further, something has got to give.” Usually, it is your balance that gives and soon you give yourself a walk to the car for some dry clothes.
I believe it is Dominick Swentosky, author of the Troutbitten blog, who calls a trout over 20 inches a Whiskey. The Whiskey fall is when you have hooked a large trout and it requires extraordinary measures to be caught.
When a large trout runs down river, a fishermen usually runs after it. Let’s just say that the Whiskey fall occurs because trout are better at running down river than fishermen.
There is little we won’t do to land a large trout. Deep pools, treacherous pocket water, ice shelves, domestic terrorists – it doesn’t matter. We are going to do whatever it takes to land that fish. That usually involves a Whiskey fall.
If we do land the fish, we don’t care about the water in the waders. If we don’t land it, two things magically happen. Our wader-wetting effort becomes a Homeric saga, and the trout becomes twice as big as it really was.
The 36th Street Subway Station Stairs
Brooklyn’s 36th Street Subway Station is like most of the others in metro NYC except one of the stairs is a fraction of an inch higher than all the other stairs. See the 2 minute video here.
That slightly raised stair step causes hundreds of people to trip each day. I think you know where I am going with this. The 36th Street Subway Station Stair fall happens when the river bottom is fairly uniform but one rock is just a little higher than it should be.
As you are making your way up or down the river, you think you have picked your foot up high enough, but lo, it wasn’t quite high enough for that one rock. That’s all it takes. You can’t stay upright when one foot is pushing your body forward and the other foot is stuck on a rock. This fall works just as well, or maybe even better, if you are walking backwards in the river.
Well, there you have my five favorite falls. Which fall has led to your Water, Lou? Maybe you have a favorite fall that you could share in the comment section below.