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A muddy fall from grace
Downed trees provide cover for fish and logs for fishermen to fall off. - photo by Photo by JEFF LUND

If you’re lucky, there’s a moment as you’re falling that provides a chance to do something about it. 

You’re still going down, but if that moment presents itself, the ensuing face plant can be less severe. The moment might be malicious though and only enable you to exacerbate a simple stumble into a full-scale, bone-marrow-sloshing crash. 

Thanks to a fair amount of snow melt, the island rivers are running a little higher than the previous two Junes, and I’ve been making my usual rounds to the hot trout spots from last summer while I wait for the salmon to invade. 

The Thorne is my favorite river because it is lethargic, almost lake-ish in spots. It’s tough to get a drift, but that doesn’t matter much because habitat is the place to catch trout this time of year.

I went to the place the two Steves and I assaulted last summer and pulled out a bunch of cutthroats that varied in color from olive to gold and a 22-inch rainbow.

I worked downriver to a set of submerged logs that looked fishy, but technical. The shore was spongy and wading was impossible in the mud, so I could only reach two of the drowned logs. A third was deep and beyond my cast, but I knew another two-foot trout had to be waiting in there. I couldn’t make the cast where I wanted, so I stepped out onto a fourth log that seductively slid into the river from dry land. It was solid and exactly what I needed to get the distance. I stood on the old barkless spruce for just over a half hour and the spot gave up eleven fish between 12 and 16 inches.

There was even a Dolly Varden that hit my strike-indicator, then moved down to nail the hares ear nymph. I netted it, released it and set out for more. I could do little wrong.
But just about the time you start to think you are cooler than you really are, the moment comes. 

In one of the greedy last casts before heading home to scrub the house in preparation for painting, my left foot slipped slightly — enough to get my frame wobbling.

I was going down.
The three feet of water were of little concern. The foot or more of delicately-settled, life-sucking mud that I’d be plunging my thick heavy boots into was. 

I'd hit the water and keep going. My waders would flood and the mud would cement my feet long enough for angry trout to peck at my flesh.

There would be a River Monsters episode based on the rumor that a 30-year old went fishing in Alaska and was eaten by a school of angry cutthroat trout. 

As I teetered to the right, my left foot regained grip, I swiveled frantically, and lunged for shore. 

Anyone who has watched the Olympic long jump knows how the human body can propel itself. 

I looked nothing like that. 

My arms flailed, and I let out a sound that was probably similar to what my 8-month old nephew does when my brother takes away his favorite snowman. It’s not a cry, pout, or whimper, but an outburst when all hope is lost. 

My right foot broke through the top layer of river bed easier than the surface of the water and provided an anchor as the rest of my body continued toward shore. 

Just before my hip Bo Jackson-ed, the mud gave a little and I was able to flop forward onto all fours in a few inches of water, then up to the grass. 
Nothing was dislocated, stuck, impaled or lost, so I got up, laughed, went back out onto the log like an idiot, caught another fish and went home. 


To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail