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Poor Decisions and Leaking Waders

David Kirkpatrick

I can’t remember whose idea it was to go fishing on Halloween on a particularly cold fall day, but after some handwritten directions and a general “there may be some fish around” from the fly shop, we decided to give it a try. Handwritten directions were necessary because there was no way to navigate where private land ended and public land began without using landmarks (at the old red barn turn left).

When we pulled up to the river, I could see I was gonna have to make a decision. The river split and the best run was on the far side, requiring a wade across to the island in the middle. Not usually a problem, but for the pinhole I knew was somewhere in the groin area of my waders. I sat staring at the 42 degree water not even aware of conversation around me and others putting their waders on.

Once my decision had been made I didn’t hesitate. While everyone else was layering up, I strip down completely naked. To their credit, no one ever asked me why I was standing beside a cold river stark naked at the end of October, they just waited to see what would happen next. Once naked, I hoisted all my gear (waders included) over my head and began the waist deep wade to the other side. Once I made it to the other side I simultaneously became aware of two things. First, everyone was laughing hysterically and second, I was being filmed. The fact the lower half of my body was completely numb wasn’t registering for some reason. My plan had been to stay dry by not wading waist deep up to where I knew the leak was. In theory, I could then avoid wading that deep the rest of the day and stay dry, but shivering violently now I began to question the prudence of that decision.

Fully clothed once again, I strung up my rod nonchalantly and tied on a #16 orange stimulator with a pheasant tail dropper. This was perhaps the last chance I would have at catching a fish on a dry that season and I intended to take full advantage. It did not take long to get the first rise, a beautiful 13 inch native cutthroat. A few minutes later, my stimulator disappeared with no warning. I set and felt ferocious headshakes, followed by an impressive aerial display.

As I walked further down river, I found a likely spot on the other side of the river. Wading that deep was out of the question for obvious reasons, so a long cast with a hard upstream mend would be required to tuck the fly in to the soft spot right behind the rock. As I let my first cast go, I knew it wasn’t going to get the job done. To my everlasting surprise, a fish came out of the water from where I had been trying to cast to and caught my fly mid-air. As it landed it hooked itself, though I don’t remember much of what happened next. The image of that fish going airborne for my fly is forever etched in my memory, though.  

This was the last time I fished that season, partly because I got sick from my naked wading experiment (a consequence that didn’t merit a consideration in my decision making paradigm) and partly because I was going to school full time and working 30 hours a week, so there wasn’t a lot of time. Writing this half a decade later and finding myself just getting back from a fishing trip that involved camping in the snow, I’m pleased to discover not much has changed in five years.