My story is most likely going to be a little different from a majority of the entries you received for this contest. My story does not discuss a “Trophy” catch, extraordinary number of fish landed, or any kind of victory to mention. Please enjoy a simple tale that changed my life as an angler.
It was on a bone chilling 14 degrees one a February Saturday morning when I realized how passionate I was going to become with fly-fishing in the Ozark Streams. I was very early on into the hobby of fly-fishing and had very little equipment but had a great amount of interest and excitement about the sport. It was a three-hour drive to the Current River in Salem, Mo where I normally fished. As the sun came up, I was standing at the edge of the river waiting for enough light to get in. It seriously cold, but my excitement and pure need to land trout had me standing in alone among the wilderness as just about every other sane fisherman was still in their warm cozy bed. This time of year the water is very low and gin clear so I knew my odds where slim, but I had to give it a shot.
I waded down river fishing every inch for little over a mile, which is my typical turn around spot as heading up river is a challenge with no banks to ease the return back to the car. At this time, a blue heron (at least I think it was one) had landed just down river from me and seemed to be very interested in what I was doing. With its sideways looks and squawking, I believe he was telling me I was a crazy fool! He began leaping from rock to rock down river while looking back to me. I took it as a sign that the massive bird was telling me “down a little further” so I followed eager to get into some trout. This went on for a few hours when I found myself over two miles downstream! I realized that I was hungry and it was way past lunch so I needed to turn back. As I tried to follow my exact footsteps back through the few deep pools, I made an incorrect step and slide uncontrollably into the deep water going fully in over my head. If you remember, it was 14 degrees! I pulled myself out of the water and began stripping off my waders and clothes. I was literally freezing, and quickly squeezed every bit of water I could out of my clothes and waders and put them back on. Thankfully, I had some training from my Army days on how to make it through these scenarios. I had to high tail it back to the car just to keep my body temperature up. I ended up getting out of the river and tracking through the thick woods. By the time I reached my vehicle, both legs of my waders where destroyed and I lost about half of the gear out of my hip pack. After getting the car running and heater blasting, I warmed up and began to head home while making a quick phone call to my wife just to let her know I am alive. During the conversation she asked, “How was the fishing”, I replied “No fish, but It was quiet, beautiful, and I can’t wait to do it again”. Even after experiencing that awful day on the river, I still enjoyed, and loved my opportunity to be out in the Ozarks fly-fishing. It was at that moment that I realized, I will be spending a majority of my life fly fishing rivers, lakes, ponds, and even toilet bowls if that is all that is available.