I knew better. Wading the Haw is no joke. It's hard enough if you're in good shape and have the right wading boots. Couple that with dying light and panic and you have a recipe for disaster.
When I hit the river the flow looked perfect. The water was clear for once and I figured I could finally fish this one spot I've wanted to for years. With my first few steps I became concerned with the amount of algae lining the bottom. I couldn't understand why there was so much. I thought the cold water from winter was supposed to kill this stuff. Had it grown back this fast already? It made navigating the uneven boulders slick. I was able to see the bottom and made my way to the rocks I had been eying. I figured the white bass had to be stacked up in an eddy right in front of these rocks. Several casts yielded nothing and the sun fell behind the trees casting a shadow across the water. I glanced back across the river and noticed I could no longer see the bottom. The problem with this there were several deep holes along the way to get to where I was standing. I couldn't remember exactly where they were. I figured I should start heading back before it got any darker. I was basically wading blind just feeling with my feet and the Haw is the last place where you want to do this. I would have been fine if I kept my composure but seeing where I wanted to be so close I started to rush my steps. I slightly slipped off a slanted rock and went down into a run knocking me off balance. I tried to give a good kick with my other foot in a attempt to jump over the run and hopefully hit shallower water where I'd regain my balance. This was a guess however. I couldn't actually see that there was shallower water anywhere near me. My guess was wrong and when my foot missed the ground I expected to find I started going face first into the water. The next few seconds were a blur. I remember see the sky then the tree line then the water coming at my face. I didn't totally go under, my feet found some ground just as I was going in. I did manage to soak my torso and splash water all over my face. I was happy to be upright and not floating downstream. I took two steps and felt this excruciating pain in my knee. Why are the worst injuries always the ones you never knew happened? I must have knee dropped into a rock when I went face first. I couldn't have hit the rock any more square with my knee cap if I tried. I ignored the pain until I got to a shallow spot where I could access the damage. I couldn't really tell how bad it was. It hurt like hell but I could still walk so I knew it couldn't be that bad. I tried to fish it off but the pain was impossible to ignore. When I stood still I was fine but I dreaded having to take another step. I called it a day. When I got back to the car I slowly shed off my waders and got a really good look at my knee. It was swollen but I've had worse. Hopefully less of my fishing trips will end with ice and ibuprofen.