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Unexpected dip couldn't spoil return to trout stream

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The rocks under my boots felt familiar enough - not too large, not too small, and as slick as greased bowling balls.

More on that later.

It had been far too many months since I'd last waded a trout stream, and my first few steps convinced me of two things: One, I'm getting old and unsteady; and two, I need to invest in some carbide-studded wading shoes.

Fortunately, the stream was not that large and the current, though swift, didn't have enough volume to push me around.

So I took a few steps forward, made a couple of false casts and dropped the little yellow dry fly into a seam between two current tongues. It floated downstream a couple of feet and disappeared in a sudden swirl.

"Well, that was easy," I said as the rod tip bent and 10 inches of wild brown trout pitched a fit at the business end of the line. After a brief tussle, I slid my hand under the fat-bellied fish, unhooked it and let it slip back into the pool.

Five minutes of fishing, one trout landed; not bad. Maybe the rust on my angling skills wasn't as heavy as I'd feared.

Twenty feet farther upstream, an 8-inch brown shot to the surface to intercept my fly.

"Dang! This is starting to look promising," I mused as I released the fish.

And then I fell in.

One of the greased bowling balls was a little larger than it appeared. My foot slid down its front side, and the toe of my boot wedged between two greased softballs. The other boot slipped from its once-secure perch on a greased basketball, and I went down like a sack of wet cement.

"Can't stand prosperity, can you?" I grumbled as I rose to assess the damage.

My side was soaked, from just under my right armpit to my crotch. A quart of trout stream sloshed about in the hip boot on that side.

I thought about walking back to the car for a change of clothing, but then I realized that I'd forgotten to bring along my trusty "falling-in kit."

"You're out of practice, man," I observed with a wry smile.

With the air temperature hovering near 90 degrees, the fall into the 62-degree water actually hadn't felt all that bad. Besides, my nylon shirt and pants would dry within minutes.  

Fishing days don't come frequently for me nowadays, so I soldiered on despite the mini-aquarium in my boot. I squelched upstream, flicking the little yellow dry fly from pocket to pocket and hoping the rest of the trout hadn't killed themselves laughing at my impromptu ballet.

They hadn't. A hundred yards on upstream, another 8-incher nailed the high-floating fly. After I released it, I noticed that one of my casts had put an overhand knot in the tippet section about a foot up from the fly.

"No big deal," I thought. "The fish in this section of creek tend to be small; and besides, there's only 100 yards of water left before I get back to the car."

Famous last words.

Ten minutes later, almost within sight of the car, a brown poked its nose through the surface and slurped down my offering. I set the hook - a little too hard. The tippet snapped exactly where the casting knot had been. I tied on another fly, but no trout rose to it by the time I reached the car.

Soggy sock aside, I can think of few more pleasant ways to spend 2 1/2 hours. And if I ever learn how to walk on greased bowling balls, I'll be golden.


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