Angler’s of Honor - Through the eyes of Al Noraker
The van from Craig Hospital arrived as I waited to meet my new fishing partner for the day. My life was about to change forever!
Last off the bus was a young man, just 19 years old. It would be the first time he had left the hospital after his life altering injury. It was clear he didn’t want to be there and had only agreed to attend this event at the strong request of his father and brother. Inside he wasn’t ready.
Just barely out of high school, he had lost the use of both legs for the rest of his life. I introduce myself and invited him to go fishing with me. I soon learned that we were both born and raised in Montana. He accepted the offer but didn’t want to participate, just watch. I put my fly rod together, slid the line through the guides and attached my favorite fly. I spoke to his father and brother as I began to make short, rhythmical strokes to send the fly to my intended target. I learned that fishing had been a favorite pastime before the incident. I offered the fly rod to his brother who was quite a skilled angler. In a short time, he was fighting a nice rainbow trout that was quickly released. Then another and another while we laughed and enjoyed the time. It wasn’t long before we started to see a change from the young man whose life and mobility would now only come from a rolling chair. “Can I give it a try”, were the first words I heard from him. Those words brought a huge smile to my face. Without hesitation, he started making beautiful casts to waiting trout and with each fish hooked, a change had occurred.
In the beginning there was a hopelessness in his eyes. A sadness with his circumstance was evident and before our eyes, he began to emerge and remember the joy that fishing had brought him early in life. By the end of the day, he was laughing, driving the motorized track chair up and down hills, doing 360’s and living life again. Fishing didn’t change his situation, but it did change his attitude towards his future. It was a day I’ll never forget, and I feel privileged to have witnessed the transformation that fishing brought to a beautiful spirit!