Wednesday, December 8 2021 - 10:38 PM
Man fishing in a river.
Photo by Dreamstime

Lessons from Fishing

I had woken up early that February morning, excited to further my fly-fishing skills in the dead of winter. The temperature had plummeted below freezing overnight, and I found myself shivering as the sun rose above the trees. Leaving the warmth of my car, I trudged over to the gorgeous Idaho river whose bank was encrusted with ice.

Safety Belt

I donned a pair of full body, insulated waders to protect against the chilly water and rough rocks. Ready to take my first steps into the water, I hesitated. It hit me that in my haste to start fishing, I had forgotten to tighten my safety belt. The safety belt is a simple device that should always be tightened around your waist and, while uncomfortable to wear, its function is to keep your waders from filling with water and drowning you.

The memory of my first time fly fishing flashed back into my mind. It had been a hot summer day in central Oregon, and a fly-fishing instructor had offered to teach me how to fly fish. Bubbling over with the thrill of this new sport, I waded out into the water without thinking. My instructor quickly pulled me out to caution me.

He said, “Adam, never forget to fasten your safety belt. The safety belt is there to keep you from drowning and is the most crucial component of your fishing waders.”

Torn Between Safety and Comfort

As my flashback ended, I found myself internally torn between the choices of safety and comfort. Do I wade out into the water and risk filling my waders with water or tighten my belt? The intense mental debate quickly ended as I grudgingly fastened my belt and stepped out into the crystal clear river.

I noticed an appealing stretch of water downstream. Typically I would exit the water and scout the new section of water for logs or drop-offs. Instead, I started to wade downstream oblivious to potential dangers.

As I approached the new section of rippling gorgeous stretch of water, I noticed some vicious looking rapids right below where I was planning on fishing. The rapids were about 100 yards long and gurgled around boulders as they made its way to a bend in the river.

As an experienced fisherman, I decided that the best course of action would be to find one of the boulders strewn in the river and brace myself upon it to provide stability. The current was stronger in this new location, and I needed to find a larger boulder. I observed a misshapen boulder roughly where I wanted to fish.

I took three shuffling steps right next to the boulder and then firmly placed my foot against the boulder. The boulder turned out to be a deep drop-off in the river. SMACK! My face and body slapped the water as I was sucked down into the depths of the river.

Held Hostage

Instantly I was held hostage by the cold relentless current, and it swept me into the mouth of the rapids. I was tossed and turned like a load of laundry set at the high spin cycle. My body was bashed by what felt like every rock in the rapids.  Unable to breathe or gain control, I could only put my hands over my head and hold my breath.

Reaching the end of the rapids, the river reluctantly loosened me from its grip and spit me onto the frozen mud bank. Exhausted, I rolled onto my side trying to catch my breath and assess how badly I was injured. Rising slowly to my feet and finding many ugly bloody scrapes from all the boulders I hit, I gingerly hobbled to my car. Thankfully, I had a first aid kit and a spare change of dry clothes with me.

Small Choices

Once warm and bandaged, I sat down in my car and started reflecting on my traumatic experience. It slowly dawned on me that if I hadn’t taken the moment to fasten my safety belt, I wouldn’t be alive.

This scary incident helped me understand how our everyday actions impact our lives. I look at life in a big picture way, failing to pay attention to the small choices. Because of this experience, I am now able to stop and take the time to process choices in my life no matter how large or small. I see the huge influence that small choices can make on the course of my life and the lifelong positive impact they can have.

If you liked this, you might also like I’m Gonna Die | The Power of Choice 

Adam Nakamura writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Adam Nakamura

Adam Nakamura

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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