By Sam Larson
I’ve just fallen into the river. Perched one-footed on top of a slick rock and trying to cast into the deep part of the pool was too much for my boot’s aging tread. I’ve just splashed, magnificently, inelegantly, completely, into neck deep water. A quick, gasping lunge towards the bank and I toss my rod into the willows, rip open my chest pack, and throw my phone onto the grass. Because I’m just smart enough to keep this eye-wateringly expensive piece of cutting-edge technology in a water-resistant chest pack, but not in a waterproof bag. It lands on the grass, bounces once, stops right on the verge of falling back into the water. Behind and around me, down along the bottom and up under the cut banks on the far side, I can sense and see quick shadows, former residents of this pool that have decided, following my intrusion, to find greener, calmer, less populated pastures in which to live out their fishy imperatives. Looking at myself in the reflection on the pool’s surface, water dripping from my beard and with a couple gallons of river sloshing around inside my waders, I can’t blame them. Standards for admission to this particular party have taken a dramatic downturn.
I squelch heavily towards the bank. From the far upstream side of the pool Jeff turns my direction, his camera in his hand. He casually raises it and snaps a couple of shots of me while I drag myself up the bank. Every step I take makes the water inside my waders gurgle and surge. I flop heavily into the willows and stand, cold, wet, and irritated, beneath the hot August sun. I bounce on my toes a couple of times and feel the water around my feet swirl. That’s not going anywhere, I think. If these neoprene booties are waterproof one direction they’re sure to be waterproof in the other.
“How full are you?” Jeff calls from upstream. I start to break down my Tenkara rod so I can get through the willow and tamarisk that separates us. This stretch of the bank is completely overgrown. Not usually an issue when I'm able to wade upstream past it.
“Not above my ankles, but enough to be uncomfortable.” Every step is heavy and slow. I bat hanging willow branches out of the way and stumble along, walking heavily upstream through the underbrush. I make it back to Jeff and he’s trying to get a picture of a strike, his camera held up in his left hand and his Tenkara rod in his right, drifting a black foam beetle through the seam at the top of the pool.
“What are you going to do? Take your waders off and empty them?” I look around and there’s no obvious spot for me to do that. We’re standing on top of the remains of a beaver dam, all sharp, broken sticks and river debris. We’re surrounded by a wilderness of swampy willows.
“I’m not sure. I don’t feel like getting undressed on the stream side right now.” Jeff nods and tucks his camera back into the top of his waders.
“You know, you could find a tree somewhere. Just sit on the ground in front of it, stick your legs up in the air and then lean them against the tree. The water would come running out the top of your waders.” Jeff’s face is earnest, clear-eyed and open. There’s no trace of snark or sarcasm in his suggestion.
“Do you think that would work?” At this point I’m casually looking up and down the river for a large enough tree, one with a small clearing below it where I could turn myself upside down. I can already imagine the slow, steady trickle of the river water in my waders running up my back, soaking my shirt and pooling on the ground around me. It is not something I’m looking forward to, but anything has to be better than walking around with a gallon of water in my waders.
“I don’t know if it would work, but I’d sure love some pictures of you trying it.” I glare at Jeff through my sunglasses and stomp past him, water-logged boots crunching heavily along the beaver dam. Behind me, Jeff starts to laugh and I can hear his camera click-clicking once again.