Standing midstream, I peer down at the rocky bottom through strands of broken light, calculating my next step across the slick stones toward a deep run of swift water in the bend flowing around a gravel bar downstream. A six foot length of stranded log, at knee-height, is obstructing my path, so I choose my route accordingly, navigating my way through water barely shin-deep.
The juxtaposition of light and shadow, early morning sun beaming through the trees, glinting off water and stone alike, and the dark pockets where current seams merge, gives a false sense of assuredness of a path laid out before me. Allowing my feet to feel their way as they carry me along, I take my eyes off the bottom for a moment and examine the edge of the run, just as I reach the head of the captured log.
Before I have the chance to retrain my line of sight to the riverbed beneath my soles, my foot finds no hold on an oblong stone, sloped just enough to let my shoe slide the length of it, and both feet shoot out in the air in front of me, my back crashing on the rocks, and my head submerging enough beneath the wash of impact to fill my mouth and nose with water.
Somehow, my right heel comes to rest on the log, which makes my attempt to rise out of the riverbed a bit awkward. My fly rod, still gripped tight in my left hand, is not hurt, but the knuckles on that hand are not so fortunate. Neither is my backside after I bashed it on the rocks, nor was my right knee that I somehow scraped and had punctured a small hole in sometime between when my feet came out from under me, and it found its place propped on the waterlogged section of hemlock.
Back on my feet, I try to shake off the water as a dog would do, and I look back over my left shoulder to see I had a witness. The man, another angler with a wide-brim hat, looks upon me as if waiting for an encore. After about a ten-count, the man looks away,makes a short, obligatory cast, and treats the situation as if it didn't happen.
I take great care the rest of the way to the gravel bar. The water washes around the bend in front of me, offering to carry my double nymph rig along the bottom to search for the trout hiding in the deep, but I do not fish. Instead, I replay the spectacle I had created, consider the other angler's take on my pirouette and subsequent fall, and imagine what his story will sound like the first opportunity he has to tell it.
My knee is bleeding, my leg and glute are bruised and sore. I choose to continue downstream to find a path worn in the bank to escape the river and find the paved road, so that I can get above him without our eyes ever having to meet.