Josh Letchworth

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Ok, its time that I drop this story. Awhile back, during Aaron Reed week, I promised one more story about him. Anyone remember? Anyway..Sorry for the delay, but it took me a hell of time to find these old negatives. I shot them on a Hasselblad Xpan panoramic camera. It was the only camera I had with me that day. You see…the best camera really is the one you have with you.

I know this blog sees its fair share of Aaron Reed stories, but for some reason, good shit happens when he and my camera are in the same place. This is undoubtingly my favorite Reed story of all time. (except the one about the crackhead bum that….nevermind)

So I’ll try to keep it condensed, but there are some details, so hang in there.

New Zealand. 2007. Red Bull Adrift.

Reed and I like to consider ourselves avid fly fishermen. Were not, but we like to pretend we are. We always promised ourselves that if we were ever in a place that lent itself to a great fly fishing experience (enter New Zealand) we would make it happen. So, in February of 2007, we did just that. We packed up our 6 weights, flies, amenities and broke away from the group for the day. We hopped in a borrowed car, drove on the left hand side of the road and made it up into God’s country safely. It was a beautiful day….just downright beautiful. One of those crisp bluebird days where you can’t stop huffing in the fresh air. We got out of the car and rigged up. We were just smiling at the fact that we had actually followed through on our word to make this happen. So, we set off down the trail towards the river. Anyone who enjoys fly-fishing can relate to the sounds and smells that accompany a trip on the river. It’s pretty intoxicating. We decided that the best way to fish this densely covered section of the river was to split up. Reed chose to cross over to the opposite bank and I stayed on this side. At that point we were pretty much on our own. We knew each other were close by, but now we could fully dive into the introspective head trip of fishing.

Only about 10 minutes passed before the silence was broken by the crackled sound of Reed’s voice calling my name. I’ve heard him call my name many times before, but never like this. It wasn’t panic or immediate danger like a bear was about to eat him, but something was definitely wrong. “Uh…Josh…Josh…Come over here. Come here.” Him knowing where I was in relation to him and knowing that in order to get to him required that I stop everything i was doing, walk back downstream to a clearing and cross a swift river, I knew he was serious. I did just that. A few cuts from briars, a near slip into the river and a stumble or 2 on some river bank rocks and i had made it to the trail that led to Mr. Reed. My curiosity had gotten the best of me and I increased my movement up to a light jog. There he was, with his back turned, facing the river, apparently alive and standing up. That’s a good sign. He voice was calm…very calm. I was confused. He wouldn’t look at me, so I asked him what the hell was going on. He said..”Ok, we’ve got a problem. I”m gonna turn around, so just get out all your laughs or whatever you wanna do and then we need to get serious about this.”. “Ok” I said.

I’ll be damned if he didn’t turn around and have a 2 inch secada fly stuck on the tip of his nose. And I mean STUCK. DEEP. The hook was completely buried. Ha, it indeed was funny…but more odd. Just weird to see a fly stuck right in the middle of his nose. He couldn’t have done that with more perfection if he tried. He said he was casting at a big fish down stream when his fly got stuck in on a branch behind him. He gave it a few good tugs and turned around to have a gander at it. Right at that moment, the fly snapped loose and bee-lined it straight for his nose. Bulls-eye…right on the fleshy ball of the nose. Turned out that what he thought was a fish he was casting at, was just a batch of weeds swaying in the current. Owww…salt in the wound for sure.

So, we headed back towards to truck. Rod in hand, fly in nose. Mind you..we are pretty far out in nature and getting to a hospital is really not at the top of the “cool things to do while hiking” list. We had a decision to make. He knew it…I knew it. The point is…the hook had to come out. Whether it was from some kiwi doctor in a faraway hospital or a couple of bro’s with a handful of common sense, the act of removing the hook had to take place. The truck we borrowed was a workers truck. A glass window installer to be exact. It had its fair share of metric tools on board. Our heads had started to connect and we decided to make this surgery happen ourselves. Right here, right now…in the woods.

Ok, how about some pictures…

Of course I had to shoot a photo of it.

Ok, so back to the story. We found a old pair of wire snips in the rusty toolbox in the bed of the truck. We knew the basic fishing hook rule of thumb…Never back a barbed hook out the way it came. Thats a disaster. So, we knew that if we could just push that sucker through the fleshy part of his nose and pop it through the other side, we were good to go. I remember Reed taking a deep breath and saying “C’mon, lets go.” He knew his pain tolerance, so I let him do the honors. I was really there for support at this point. He grabbed the fly with all of his fingers began to push, digging deeper into the nose, eyes watering severely and letting out some uncomfortable moans. I could see the skin begin to rise up as if a whitehead was about to burst. So, I decided to intervene. I placed my fingers on either side of the mound that was beginning to form and gave a good swift push back towards the outward force of the hook. POP! That hooked busted right out of his nose. It sounded like someone set off a ladyfinger. But the POP had signified one thing….that our battle with this beast was almost over. The relief was very present in Reed’s eyes. I reached for the wire snips, cut below the barb and we backed that hook right outta his nose. I was like a redneck piercing, right there on the riverside.

Here’s some photos of the aftermath.

So, here’s what really ties all of this together into the paradigm of life. When we were all finished, Reed was pretty quiet. However he did look at me say one thing. “Its hardship and perseverance, Letchworth.” He retied his fly, walked back to the river and caught a fish. That really stuck with me. You have to go through the hard things in order to persevere. That day could have went a multitude of different ways…but that path we took left us with an amazing memory and a life lesson that I apply everyday.

Thanks Reed. We hit that one on the nose.