Throughout my entire life I’ve been attached to the outdoors. And, the outdoors is what fixed me when I had an ailment. I gave up hunting 15 years ago, and my wife and daughter do not eat venison or any other hunting-related quarry, so I just decided to give it up. But fishing has taken the forefront since then. On any given day, years ago you could find me in a trout stream or at the dam in Gays Mills chasing walleyes and pike. Fishing was my anchor and it made me feel at one with nature.

A few years back I made a comment to an acquaintance about trout fishing being so important to me—he dismissed it. He said trout fishing was the least important thing that he does in life and I shouldn’t make it so important.

I wholeheartedly disagreed with him.

All of my outdoor adventures mixed in with work mishaps have taken a toll on my body. I remember vividly my first workplace injury to my knee that restricted my time on the water. I was in law enforcement, so I had a little light duty and I was also away from fishing for an extended time, so the knee eventually felt better. But that time off the stream nearly drove me crazy. My left knee never recovered fully and when I got back out by the end of trout season I was dragging it behind me. The closed season allowed it to rehab enough to begin the next season. This cycle went on for six years, but my injury was getting gradually worse every year.

Then it happened.

On an outing, my friend had a giant trout on and I was the net man. Adrenaline caused me to be a little careless when I saw the huge fish he had on; I hurried in the water to net it. I did the netting just fine, but getting out of the water was hard. I wrenched my knee and it swelled up.

Ten trips to a specialist later I was scheduled for micro-fracture surgery on the knee. With surgery and rehab, it erased a full year of fishing. During that time I was the grouchiest I’ve ever been. My wife must be a saint to have tolerated me. I felt like a boat with no anchor and felt adrift, and not in control of my life.

After all my physical therapy, my specialist told me I should go back to see my primary doctor because I was not making progress. After a knee replacement and regular sessions, I was later finally given the go-ahead to go fishing again. It was September 2015 now and my wife liked my progress. She said she was fine with me going for trout. After a vacation we got back and she said I was ready to get out there and fish for trout. My wife told me to pick a place close to the road so I could crawl back to the truck in case I hurt myself.

I found a stream, and I was hyper-vigilant while walking in around it. I was babying my artificial left knee, but the fishing was grand. I savored this outing and remembered thinking how sad I would be if I weren’t able to go after trout again. The outdoors had given my life direction again—without it I would be adrift in life.

Later, I decided to not overdo it and “anger” the new knee and I cut the outing short.

The road was 30 yards away, and the next thing I knew I found myself in a deep hole when trying to get back. My right leg went right down in this hole very hard and I caught myself as I fell. And to add insult to injury I snapped my rod in half. I accessed my other knee and it seemed like the artificial one was good to go. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for my good knee. It was now swelling up.

I lifted myself up and limped to the road. The weeds were tall and red thorn bushes were everywhere. I then got tangled up in an old abandoned barbed-wire fence; I couldn’t move either of my legs. I felt more sharp pain, this time in my left shin and in my right thigh and groin. I tried to free myself, but failed. My left leg was stuck and the right one was still wrapped in barbed wire, and was now pointing upward. My waders were torn on both legs and in the crotch and I was bleeding now. I then reached back and yanked my right leg free. Finally, I made it to my vehicle.

I later had to have my right knee scoped.

Of course, my fishing was very limited in early 2016, but I got back on the water enough to pacify me near the end of the season. I was never alone on a stream last year, by orders of my loving wife. But this is a new season, and here I come.