Or should I say “MISadventures” in Trout Fishing? Probably.
Up until Saturday night, every single trout fishing expedition has been a pleasure; perfect temperatures, no bugs, nibbles on my line, etc.
And then Saturday night happened.
My first clue that this was going to be different was that I hadn’t been planning on going. I knew I was “on deck” to go, but my cousin Carl was planning on going with this friend of his they call “The American” (why they call him that I have no idea). He’s an avid and experienced fisherman. He’s also not altogether reliable to make plans with. Hence, the 7pm “Wanna go fishing?” phone call.
My second clue that this was going to be different should’ve been my cousin’s over-exhuberance. First, he was a bit exuberant because he’d had a good day at work AND a good bike ride. So, he was eager to hit three-for-three. Also, he was very excited about the “sweet spot” he wanted to fish. Usually, his energy about the fishing holes he takes me to is sort of “It’s a good one. You’ll enjoy it. The hiking’s not too bad.” So on and so forth. THIS one, however was different. THIS one, he was “Oh, this is the most awesome spot! The American caught a 23 incher here! It’s a bit of a hike, but it’s really worth it!”
The “bit of a hike” bit should’ve tipped me off.
Also, had I any sense, the long drive through a fairly remote part of Minnesota should’ve had me worried. I had no idea there was still that much remote land in the midwest that wasn’t the Upper Penninsula.
He picks me up at 7:45 and by around 9pm, we were getting out of the car in a place that looked like the middle of nowhere. A really green middle of nowhere. It was lovely. But I couldn’t hear any river water running. (In retrospect, maybe that should’ve concerned me too.) We climb down the hill under the little overpass and he says “Now it’s going to be a little wild here, this is public land, but there is a path that other trout fisherman have made so once we find that, it’ll be easy.”
Easy, he said.
Now, keep in mind, it’s 9pm and the sun has already set. It’s not really dark yet, but it was going to be. And the moon was just a sliver.
So here I am, gallumping along behind my cousin, clinging tenaciously to my flashlight, not letting him know how weird I think trudging through the woods at night seems to me. We find the “path” and I use that term loosely (it was really just a bit shorter than the rest of the overgrowth) and off we go…until the path ended.
Then, and here’s where my cousin gets really adorable, he says “Oh, it’s a bit overgrown here, but it’s not a problem. We’re really close now. And Oh,” he says oh so innocently as he shows me some leaves, “These look soft, but they’re called stinging nettles and if you touch them, it burns and hurts.”
Delightfully, they were all at my face level.
Also, I now know “overgrown” can mean anything from weeds to your knees to towering weeds and slimy roots and fallen logs buried under brush.
Finally, we make our way to the stream and we have to cross it. No problem. I’ve done that before. Except this time, instead of the water just covering my ankles, it covered my knees. There were also slippery rocks and a decent current. But I thought, well, it’s better than the bushwhacking our way through the weeds.
Once we got to the other side, then, OH Look! Joy! More overgrowth.
He kept saying, “This is the best spot. TRUST me. I’ve been fishing here for years. I know it like the back of my hand. No worries, it’s just up here. You’re going to love it!”
Fine. Why I’m trusting at 20-something is beyond me, but fine.
More overgrowth is plodded through and at one point, he even said, “Wow, this is the worst I’ve seen it.” That was SO not comforting.
Finally, I hear him say, “Just 100 more feet or so” and we’re making our way to what I thought was “the most glorious fishing spot on the planet.” I could practically hear the Emerald City munchkin chorus. Maybe I got a little giddy with excitement. Maybe I was just trying to prove that this old bird (me) could keep up with the whippersnapper. I haven’t a clue. What I do know is one minute I was up, jauntily following Carl through the overgrowth, the next minute I misstep, I hear a snap, and I’m down on the ground making the Peter Griffith “oooo, aaaaahhhh, eeeeeeesh” noise.
So now, I’m pretty sure I’ve done something bad to my ankle and we are at least a mile and half from the car in the middle of nowhere. I had Carl help me to the water and I soaked my ankle in it try to reduce the immediate swelling and slow the blood flow (wishful thinking, I know.)
Now, at this point, I feel like an idiot. I’m older, I should know better. I should’ve been more cautious, I should’ve done a bunch of things differently. Hell, I probably should’ve told him about 10 minutes into it that I wasn’t sure I was up to hiking through the woods like that I mean, Hell, I’m from Brooklyn! Honestly, after about 15 minutes of hiking, I was thinking I’d rather be dealing with muggers than 6-foot tall stinging nettle plants.
I asked him where the spot was and he pointed to a point a bit up but not far. I said “I have to rest anyway. We’ll go to the spot and you can fish. It would be a waste to have come through all that and not fish.”
What a trooper I am, huh?
Fortunately, Carl is NOT an asshole and he cast like four times and was like “I can’t enjoy this. I’ll get you out of here.”
Whew. Thank God… or not. The thought of walking through all that again was daunting to say the least.
Now, luckily, I knew I didn’t break my ankle. Well, I was pretty sure I didn’t break it. There was this one time, in grade school, when I broke my ankle playing soccer and continued to play on it for the rest of the gym period. So, I’m either an idiot or I have a really high tolerance for pain. (40 years later, I’m still not sure.) I had to hold onto Carl’s backpack like a baby gibbon the whole time though. I just kept my head down a let him lead while I hobbled along. Carl kept talking stupid shit, trying to distract me. I appreciated it.
It was really dark. I mean my god I couldn’t see anything. He had a headlamp and I had a flashlight, but still. Wow. So we were going along and he stops to listen to where the water was and I thought, “uh-oh.” He turns to the right and walks 10 feet or so. Stops. Listens for the water, and I’m like “Oh shit.” Then he says “Wait here.”
Crap. We’re lost. I knew we were lost. At one point, I had asked him if we were walking in circles and he just sort of laughed it off. He was all like “Oh, no. I know this place like the back of m…Huh. Where did that freckle come from?”
He goes off a bit and I lose sight of his light. I call out for him and he yells, “I’m coming back… wait, where are you?” I had to turn on my flashlight so he could find me. That DID NOT instill any confidence in me whatsoever.
Eventually, even he starts to get fed up with pushing the both of us through the weeds and he decided that we should wade through the water on the river’s edge. As far as I was concerned, that had to be better.
Well, it sort of was and it sort of wasn’t better. It was because the cold water felt good on my ankle, which was swelling to such a degree that the top of my shoe was rubbing up against it. It wasn’t better because the water was deep, like up to my nether regions (and I wasn’t wearing waders…because according to Carl’s dad, nobody should be THAT guy.) AND the edge was super muddy and I almost lost both of my shoes, which would’ve been hilarious.
Somehow we made it to the other side of the river, which, as it turned out, was only one of what seemed like a lot of treks into the water (it may have only been three or four, but it seemed like 20). At some point, I might have started to giggle from the abject insanity of the situation. I mean, we were lost in the deep woods of Minnesota. Obviously, no humans had been through this part for a long while. I was starting to have visions of our desiccated bodies being found years later by a couple of potheads searching for wild dope.
Finally we found the “path” which trust me, at this point, seemed like the goddammed yellow brick road. (And Carl seemed WAY too relieved.)
When we got back to the car, and after I finally (half-heartedly) yelled at him for putting me in that situation, I sat down, pulled off my shoe and sock and got a look at my ankle. It was the size of a baby’s buttocks. It was huuuuuge. Carl just looked at it and said “Oh my gawd! You’re amazing! How did you not bitch and complain and yell at me the whole time? Let alone walk on it?! If you blog about this, please feel free to make me out to be the biggest asshole on the planet.”
But I can’t do that. He’s family and you can’t get all that mad at family.
So now, I’ve got a psychedelic ankle and a really good story about that time my cousin Carl thought it would be hilarious to take his Brooklyn cousin on a 10th level Trout night fishing expedition.
And now he knows, I don’t want to ever go higher than level 4 everrrrrrr.
Or I’ll have to kill him.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that when I told my mother about my sprained ankle, the FIRST thing she tells me is about some young guy who JUST died from a blood clot from a bad sprain. (Turns out, the guy had deep vein thrombosis, NOT a sprain.)
Thanks for that sleepless night, mother.