Monday, June 15, 2015

Fishing for my shoe ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

I finished up work on Thursday and got home just as Jilda was leaving to go teach. There were things around the house that needed doing, but when I stepped out on the back deck, the sky was denim blue with doughy clouds drifting listlessly toward the east, and I heard a different calling.

I’d been reading “The Sun Also Rises” by Earnest Hemingway and just finished the part about him fly fishing in Spain with friends. Standing on my deck, I thought to myself, “Fly fishing would be a better use of my afternoon.” I loaded my gear and headed to the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior.

Pulling into the parking lot of Riverside Fly Shop, I stepped inside to get the fishing news. Randy, who works with his son at the shop, gave me the scoop on the types of flies the trout were hitting.

He also mentioned in passing that the power company would turn the turbines on at 4 p.m. When I looked at my watch, it was 3:45 p.m. “Well shoot!” I thought. When the turbines are running, the water level rises three or four feet. Wading would not be an option.

I thought my trip was a wash until Randy gave me the skinny on a lesser-known spot where I
could fish even with the turbines running. With the words of Hemingway humming in my mind, I was ready to give it a try. One drawback was that I’d have to walk an extra half-mile to the fishing spot.

Finding the place he described, I clench-knotted a dry fly onto my tippet. After a dozen casts with no action, I tried a nymph, and then a salmon egg, but I didn’t get the first strike.

As the sun edged toward the horizon, the shadows grew longer and a blue heron drifted down the river on the evening breeze searching for supper. I thought to myself, “Who cares if the fish aren’t biting? There is still no place I’d rather be than on the water.”

The evening was warm, and I’d worked up a sweat, so I kicked off my shoes at the water’s edge and waded ankle deep into the frigid water to cool off. My fly line whispered overhead as my weightless fly teased the brush on the other bank.

Everything seems to be in slow motion when I fly fish, so I guess that’s why I didn’t know the water was slowly rising. I wouldn’t have realized it at all had I not noticed out of the corner of my eye, one of my shoes floating away on the water like an untethered canoe.

“Oh no! I’m going to need that for the trek back,” I thought. I stepped into the stream to grab it but quickly found myself in waist-deep water. The shoe drifted further away. It seemed to be taunting me.

I began casting my fly at the shoe in the hopes of snagging it and bringing it back to me, but I saw how badly my casting skills were. My flies kept getting tangled in the brush on the other bank. I tried rolling casts, side-arm casts and straight overhead casts.

After getting $12 worth of flies tangled in the brush without coming close to snagging the shoe, I decided to call it a day.

I hobbled back to the truck like the peg-legged pirate Long John Silver. Driving home I wondered if Hemingway ever had to fish for his shoe.


  1. Anonymous8:33 PM

    His shoe sank, but then it popped up in the water. He wrote a book about it--"The Shoe Also Rises"!!

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  2. Can't top fishduck's comment.

  3. This is too funny! I've been caught in the rising water without warning, and it can be scary, but the floating shoe is a new twist. Then the snagged flies trying to catch your shoe...funny visual. I'm sure it was not that funny at the time.

  4. Oh my goodness Rick... I can see you fishing for your shoe to no avail.. wonderful story ;-)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. After the earlier entry with a short preview, I knew it was gonna be a good story. I did smile, it is refreshing to know some one still gets the 'skinny' . AND Yes, I did smile 'seeing' the side arm casts trying to snag the shoe..Definitely a 'keeper', THANKS. (I need a proof reader. I had 'sang the shoe')

  7. Rick

    Hilarious post. I'm sure your readers will have smiles on their faces when they read it - especially the part about the fruitless casting to try and retrieve the shoe.

    Ms Soup

  8. Glad to finally hear the rest of the story. I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but your description of the fly fishing for your shoe was hilarious.

  9. Best fishing story I ever read. I bet Jordan has been giggling about this and that tall fish story will go down in history. hehe.

  10. I wonder where your shoe is now.

  11. This had me laughing my head off! Thanks for a fun article...I'm betting your readers loved this!

  12. I found this funny maybe because I could just picture it

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