It’s not everyone that is fortunate enough to have a fly rod case worth $5,000. I count myself among the lucky ones. Now, you’re probably wondering why I would have such a thing. You may even be thinking that ‘the ol’ man has gone around the bend.’ Let me back up and start at the beginning.
Saturday the 10th of September arrives and promises to be a day of relaxing on the float tube at Strawberry. I wasn’t disappointed. The afternoon on the lake, though overcast, was perfect. Lots of fish swimming around me, and at one point for about 10 minutes, I had the granddaddy of all fish on my line. We exchanged glances a few times as I brought him to the surface, but he was more determined to stay free than I was to bring him in. In the end, he came up one more time and looked at me with a smile and said, “Not today grandpa”. With that he made a quick turn and snapped the line and was gone. Probably just as well. I would have let him go anyway.
As night approached, I made my way to the shore and went about gathering my stuff up and getting it into the truck for the trip home. As age has crept up on me, I have made it a priority to be comfortable when the situation allows. So I changed into my ‘comfy’ stuff–pajama pants, worn out slipper mocassins, and a tee shirt. With a final look around to see if I had left anything, I was on the road. About the time I reached Jordanelle, (roughly 35 miles down the road), my mental check list told me that when I reached the truck after coming out of the water, I had put my two fishing poles and my ‘Fly Rod Case’ on top of the shell. But I didn’t remember putting them in the truck. I pulled over and debated on the value of the items I had left behind and decided it would be worth the return trip to w
here I had been fishing. After calling my wife and explaining to her my intentions I found the next exit and turned around. As I left the pavement and turned onto the dirt road that led to the lake, I found my fly rod. Excited, I stopped and picked it up and put it in the back, further on, I found my spinning rod and did the same. I continued on and as I came to the lake shore, there was the $5,000 ‘Fly Rod Case’. It was now about 10:30 p.m. and I was anxious to get back on the road. I pulled up next to the case, opened the door to the truck and bent down to pick it up. I couldn’t quite reach it, so I took my seat belt off and reached down again. I just got my fingers on it when I lost my balance and slipped and fell, and actually fell out of the truck onto the ground. This was quite a shock to the system since the ground was hard and cold and where I had just been was warm and soft. In the instant that I felt the ground around me, I noticed that my truck was moving forward, and gathering speed as it did. Did I mention that I had stopped about ten feet from the water? I scrambled to my feet and ran after the run away truck and caught up with it about the time the front tires entered the water. As I reached for the door, the rising water level swung the door shut just as I got to it. At just that instant, I got hold of the door handle and it was then that I came to understand what that click was as I was falling out of the truck. It was my hand grasping at the arm rest and hitting the door lock button. Although time was standing still for me by now, the truck was still in forward motion. I held on the bumper and tried to stop the direction the truck was going, but when it had dragged me up to neck deep in the water, I realized that nothing I was going to do was going to make any difference in the outcome of this event.
I made my way back to shore and my waiting ‘Fly Rod Case’ that had been faithful and had stayed where I left it. As I turned around, my 1997 Ranger 4×4 was still running and the lights were still on and the radio was still playing a sad country western song. As it disappeared under the water the lights finally went out and the engine stopped running and the radio went silent as it was overcome by the water. It came to rest on the bottom of the lake about fifty feet off shore in about fifteen feet of water.
If this was the only problem in my life at this moment, I would have been OK with it, because I was alive and nothing in the truck couldn’t be replaced over time. But, I had bigger issues to deal with and needed to address them post haste. It was about 10:30 p.m. and I hadn’t seen another soul on my drive back to the lake. I knew that the closest phone was at the marina and that I had better start making tracks while I still had the strength and while the weather stayed calm. I took my clothes off and wrung them out as best I could and then noticed that the slippers I had on were literaly ‘not made for walkin’. I wrung them out as well and got back into the entire wet ensemble. I figured that it was about five to six miles to the marina and that if I was lucky, I might find a ranger out making rounds looking for stupid people.
I’m not real sure why, but as I started out on my journey, I picked up the only thing I owned – my trusty ‘Fly Rod Case’ – and took it with me. Maybe it was just to have something to hang onto, or to use as a weapon should I be attacked by deer or elk or bear or marauding gang members. So off I went trying to reconstruct the events in a different way so that things would turn out different. My mind was short circuited for a time. I wanted to blink my eyes and say ‘whoa what a dream’ and make it go away. About fifteen minutes into my walk I had thanked Heavenly Father for protecting me from harm as I had fallen and I became very calm about the whole episode. Now I just needed to keep moving. It wasn’t necessarily cold because it was still overcast. I put my arms inside my tee shirt one at a time because I had to carry my prize with the other hand. I had my wristwatch on and was using it as my only companion as I walked. My slippers kept coming off as I would step and about every twenty feet I would have to stop and reposition them. That got old in a hurry. It was an uneventful two plus hours on the road, just keep moving was the only thing I could do.
As I turned onto the road to the marina, I picked up the pace some. I figured I had about a mile or so left. As I passed the entrance, I could hear the faint sound of a vehicle coming toward me. The lights of this truck came up in the distance and I was thinking that this nightmare may soon be over. Not so. I put on my best smile and stuck up my hand, but they kept on going. So much for that chance. I continued on and about ten minutes later I heard another truck coming from the highway. Again I stuck out my hand and again they drove right by. I watched as they turned into one of the camp grounds. Further on, after I had passed the campground entrance this same truck came by again headed for the marina and again he/she passed me by. As I was talking to myself by now, I evaluated why no one would stop. It’s now Sunday morning about 12:05AM and I haven’t shaved since Friday morning, I am still soaked to bone and I’m carrying an object that looks like a sawed off shot gun. Looking at it that way, I wouldn’t have stopped either. Oh wait a minute, I couldn’t stop anyway because the thing I would have been driving was at the bottom of the lake starting the corrosion process. I digress.
Finally, I reached the goal. I was at the marina and the hotel. I went to the office but the sign said ‘Please come to the store’. I went to the store but it was locked and dark. There were two pay phones, one of which worked and at last I could alert my wife that I was OK. That was the driving force that kept me moving and covering the distance. I had to let my wife know that I was OK. I placed a collect call to her and said that I had had car trouble and would she please come and get me. She was very concerned, but I didn’t have the patience to go into detail right then and so she agreed to set out.
It was 12:20P.M.. I was starting to feel the cold. There was a slight breeze coming off the lake. I walked around to see where the wind was blowing the least and noticed a light on in the restroom. I went in and found it to be a little warmer and to my delight, there was a hand dryer that blows warm air. If you stand real close to it and lift your shirt up a little it blows hot air up your shirt and makes you warm all over. I did that every five minutes for an hour. I had time to watch bug make his way around the floor in what seemed to be a pattern. He never stopped, just kept going. Maybe he was looking for a phone to call his wife??
About an hour after talking to my wife, I heard a car coming. I was thinking that if it was my wife, she had been smokin’ to make it in less than an hour. It takes me an hour to make it to the visitor’s center once on the road from home. I walked out into the parking lot and waited for the distant lights to reach me. I must have been quite a sight standing in the headlights of the on coming vehicle. As it drew near, I could see it wasn’t our Pathfinder, instead, it was a Wasatch County Sheriff’s deputy. He pulled up next to me and asked, “are you Steve Nuddy”? I looked around the empty parking lot and said, “Maybe. Is he in trouble?” He assured me that I was not in trouble and that my wife had called them and asked if they could pick me up because as I had told her, I was wet, tired, and hungry. He said that my wife was waiting at the station in Heber City and we would be going there. As we started out, in an effort to make small talk, the officer asked how I came to be in the situation I was in. I asked him if he knew where Chaplin Point was and he said yes that it was about six miles down the road. I said that a few hours earlier I had watched my truck disappear from view in fifteen to twenty feet of water and that I had walked to the marina to call me wife. In what I can only describe as the ‘deer in the headlight look’, he stopped the car and said. “Huh???” I went thru my story with him and, after it was over, he said that he should make out an accident report. He first called his captain, getting him out of bed, to ask if we needed to extract the truck from the water right now or if we could wait until morning. Fortunately, he opted for the latter, saving me hundreds of dollars. He then asked if it was OK if we went to the site of the incident and took a look. I was just glad to be alive and getting warmer so I didn’t care about much of anything beyond that. We arrived at the site and as we pulled down to the exact spot I was hours before, the headlights were hitting on something out in the water. My pontoons that I had deflated, had enough air left in them to come to the back of the bed of the truck, push open the shell window and stick out about a foot each. In so doing they raised the back of the truck so that about six inches of the shell was sticking out of the water. Some items had floated out of the back and had drifted to shore — half of an oar, a can of bug repelent, and my box of flies. A bucket was about five feet off shore upside down that I had put all the straps in that go on the pontoon to secure things with. It was upside down and floating. I figured that I was warm and dry and so what the heck, I walked out into the water and retrived it. In the end, there was nothing missing from the bed of the truck. Amazing.
From there we proceeded to head for the station in Heber City and to my wife. As we pulled into the station, I met my wife and our son who had driven her there. After filling out a report for about thirty minutes we were on our way home. We hit the sheets about 4 a.m. and the alarm was set for 7:30 a.m. I still needed to get back to the scene the next morning and fix the situation. When the alarm went off, I got up and started calling for wreckers to help me. The first one I called told me it was out of their way and to call someone else. After a few calls, I found someone that could do the job and would be willing to be on the road in about thirty minutes. My wife and I got on the road about 9 a.m. and upon arriving at the shore of the lake we noticed that the truck was in plain view but the two dozen or so folks in the area were just fishing away. There was one guy that had driven down to the shore on a quad that was on his cell phone to 911 to get help. He told me that it looked like there may be someone in the back because he could see a foot sticking out of the back. One of the legs of my waders had floated up. Interesting, however, that no one made any effort to swim out to see for sure.?? Go figure.
Our wrecker driver showed up with diving mask and swimming trunks and made short work of hooking up and dragging the truck to dry ground. We hauled the truck to my mechanic and emptied out what we could and left a note to call me in the morning and I would explain why I thought there was water in my oil.
As I was relating this story to one of my friends, we were discussing what kind of a lesson there may be here. He commented that to him the glaring truth was that NO ONE is immune from tragedy. At any time any of us could face a life changing situation. For me, I made peace with myself about this and moved on. I thanked my Father in Heaven for his love and for saving me from harm and as I dropped into bed that evening, I realized that life was and is good and that I will go fishing again and that there is a fish with my hook in him and I intend to find him. So if you come by the house and notice a Fly Rod Case hanging above the mantel, you’ll know why it’s there. The $5,000 price tag is what the number is going to turn out to be after I replace the truck and the items that were ruined.