This edited excerpt from An Alaska Flyfisher’s Odyssey by Daniel P. Hoffman is shared with permission from the author.
It was a glorious morning on one of my favorite Kenai Peninsula streams, as the mosquitos were pleasingly absent. This was a damned good thing, as I currently found myself sitting buck-assed naked along the banks of the creek’s gurgling waters. Perched somewhat precariously atop the only dry, moss-free boulder that I’d managed to find, I marveled at the complete lack of biting insects as I luxuriated in the warmth of the early-morning sun. And…before you go jumping to any conclusions…let me assure you that I’m not some kind of posey-sniffing nudist.
If my presence were to be discovered, any competent streamside detective would quickly surmise my situation. Draped across the span of every available alder within arm’s reach, my wrung-out assortment of socks, polypropylene long-johns, and overshirts were strategically positioned to catch the maximum amount of sunlight. Hanging from the lowest branch of a nearby spruce, my inside-out chest waders provided their own slowly dripping cadence, subtly mocking me in their dampened state of amusement.
In what normally constitutes one’s “famous last words” preceding any calamity, things had been going just fine. I’d been working my way up the tumbling stream, fishing the pocket water in search of rainbows. Picking my way along the margins, I had stepped up onto a rock that jutted outward from the bank, comfortably stepping back into the stream’s eight inches of water.
Well…that’s what was supposed to happen. I’m not sure of what I thought I’d seen, perhaps misinterpreting a reflection from the morning’s low-angle sunlight, but the “eight inches” of water had somehow turned into a hole some three feet deep, pitching me forward with the unexpected, downward momentum that results in full-fledged belly flop. Ever protective of my fly rod, I had kept it raised and pointed skyward throughout the course of my fall, reminiscent of a biblical staff as I proceeded to part the waters with the authority of Moses himself. (Although, if I remember my catechism correctly, Moses used the power of God—and managed to stay dry in the process—whereas I used the divine power of my face and chest to divide the flowing waters in a somewhat less-than-miraculous fashion.)
As I paused to dry out, I immediately took advantage of the break in my activity to begin a close inspection of the water’s surface in front of me. A hatch was starting to come off, and the trout were already keying into the activity. While the rise-forms heightened my impatience to get geared up again, I had a far more pressing motivation to re-enter the ranks of the fully clothed angler’s club. My best friend and longtime fishing partner Glen had accompanied me on this sojourn, and had stopped to fish one of the creek’s lower riffles as I had hiked ahead. Unless he’d stumbled upon an exceptionally productive stretch of water, he’d likely be working his way around the nearest bend at any moment, discovering me in all my sundrenched and pasty-skinned splendor…