Conservation

Thanks for the memories

A good bank to fall down to land a fish.

By Chris Wood

I woke this morning dreaming that I was on point on a two-on-one fast break. I measure the distance from my ground blind to a target through various pass patterns. “That’s a down-and-out; that’s a post;” and so on. I still consider myself a runner, although I haven’t gone for a run in at least seven years.

I was fishing with my friend, Tom, in Montana last week, and confessed to him the feeling of betrayal in my own body, as I gingerly stepped down a short stream bank that I wouldn’t have even noticed in the past. Not long ago a woman who was walking toward me stopped me on the street, and without irony pointed at my legs and asked, “Are you a cowboy?”

You may have guessed it. I am getting both knees replaced this week; or as my orthopedic surgeon calls it, a bilateral knee replacement. When I first met him, he studied my x-rays and watched me walk. He looked up and asked, “What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you gotten this taken care of?”

Thanks for the memories.

I remember walking behind my Dad when I was a sophomore in high school. He was dropping me off at a football game, and I noticed he was bow-legged. So I taught myself to walk on the outside of my feet to be like my Dad. Could that be the cause of my knee problems? My doctor says you cannot make yourself bow-legged. Still, I wonder.

When did I become another middle-aged person bemoaning his physical maladies?

On that same trip to Montana, I was fishing a small spring creek with five to six foot grass on the banks, I hooked a nice fish from the bank, and realized it was easier to fall backwards with my rod held high and then lean forward from a seated position than to bend at the knees to release the trout. So that’s what I did. The first controlled fall, high-sticked landing of a wild trout. Like standing on a rake and having it hit you in the nose, after landing the fish, I looked around to make sure no-one saw me.

I was ok when the elliptical and the bike replaced running. Not being able to wade streams or land a fish is unacceptable. So, like many of you before me, to surgery I go. Here is to the chance to beat my kids at least one more time in a foot-race (that may be wishful thinking), and being able to unhook a fish without falling down.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C., and works from TU’s Arlington, Va., headquarters.