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Your Last Day Fishing.


LHarris

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Erik Springer and Frank Denallo (Best Friends)

It was the 24th of September. The phone rang. It was my buddy Frank Denallo from Cleveland

on the phone. He usually calls me and jokes with me and asks how the fishing was. This phone

call was different. His tone on the phone was different than usual. I could tell something

was wrong from the get go.

Frank and his buddy Erik Springer use to be clients of mine when I guided. I did the guide

thing with them a couple times and we became good friends. When I quit guiding, I still continued

fishing with them each Fall and Spring when they drove up all the way from Cleveland to Southern

Wisconsin to trout fish with me.

They always camped and lived life to the fullest. Their camp site was a fun place to hang out.

Lots of camp fire stories/lies were told on the banks of the Kickapoo River. Many beers drank

and many wild crazy stories were told. Frank and Erik loved to trout fish and it was evident

in their zest for the sport. There was friendly competition and a little rivalry. Frank and Erik

were the best of friends and it was a joy to fish with them because it was obvious they loved fishing

and really enjoyed each others company.

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Frank and Erik had just been up fishing with me about 4 days prior and they had an excellent 10 days

fishing the Driftless Area. They packed up their vehicle and head back to Cleveland. I got a call

from Frank to tell me that they had arrived back home. They had five more days to fish and they were

NOT going to waste a second of it. They decided to hit the stream around Cleveland before they went

back to work.

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I assumed Frank was calling me to give me a fish report. That was not the case. Frank and Erik

had fished non-stop for 3 days and Frank needed to regroup and get some sleep. Frank and Erik

made their battle plans and Frank needed to sleep a little because he was burnt out from all the

fishing and driving in the last 2 weeks. Erik dropped off Frank and off he went after noon to hit

another stream before work called and destroyed their wonderful vacation.

Erik did not make it to the stream. Frank was calling me from the hospital. Erik must have fallen

asleep behind the wheel and hit a tree at 55 miles an hour. The impact was on the passenger side

and the vehicle was basically wrapped around the tree. If Frank had been in the passenger seat he

surely would have died.

Erik sustained many injuries and was on life support. He had a brain injury and brain swelling and

the doctors had him in a drug induced comma until his swelling came down. Erik was on ventilator

and had a tracheotomy and breathing tube in place. He had many broken bones and was NOT expected to

make it. Frank was going to stay there as long as he could and keep a watchful eye over his buddy

Erik. They finally kicked him out of the hospital when visiting hours were closing.

Frank has called me once a week since the accident. Two months ago Frank called me and said out

of the blue Erik woke up and wanted the breathing tubes removed. Erik could not talk because of

the surgery he had to put the ventilator in place. Frank was so happy he called me right away.

Erik has had about 5 surgeries since then and is now in physical therapy to try to be able to walk

again. Erik does not remember the crash and lost lots of short term memory. He is already talking

about going fishing this spring in Wisconsin with me.

Life is precious. Life long friends are hard to come by. What is even harder to come by is a good

friend that enjoys your love of fishing and the outdoors. The next time you go fishing you should

treat it like it could be Your Last Day Fishing.

UPDATE:

Less than 11 months later Erik has returned to The Driftless Area and resumed his passion.

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Erik came up to Wisconsin with his mother and father this time. Frank was taking summer

school and could not come.

Erik needs to relearn how to cast. His distance is lacking and he sees everything close

up in double vision so his tying on of flies was frustrating. He has made great strides

back in the last 11 months. Erik had a couple surgeries on his casting shoulder. Erik's

balance is quite poor and his ability to focus is lacking.

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Erik has not lost his touch.

Erik is fishing here just one more day and his Father and Mother will drive him back

to Cleveland. Erik is a testament to how ones passion can help one overcome a life

changing event. I consider Erik one of my best friends and hope for many return trips

by him to the driftless area

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Thanks for sharing this very inspiring story. Glad to hear that he is on the mend and back on the water.

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WOW! Great story and definitely food for thought. I'm glad the ending turned out much better than expected.

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Neat story and it really makes you think about not taking the small things in life for granted.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • gimruis
      I'm quite shocked to hear that a walleye tournament is still doing a live weigh in.  Virtually every event these days around here is doing a catch, photo, and release format.   Regardless, nice work.  Congrats.
    • LakeofthewoodsMN
      On the south end...   A great week of fishing with walleyes and saugers caught in good numbers.   The go-to presentation, again, was a jig and frozen emerald shiner.  Emerald shiners are a staple in LOW and walleyes love them.  Other minnows worked also, but emerald shiners are a favorite of anglers for good reason.   The Lighthouse Gap area, Morris Point Gap and just in front of Pine Island held nice fish in 17 - 21' of water.  Various schools of walleyes and saugers across the south shore.     A quarter ounce jig in gold, glow white, pink, orange, chartreuse, or a combo of these colors tipped with a minnow worked well again.   Some big pike and jumbo perch being caught by walleye anglers. On the Rainy River...  Some nice walleyes were caught on the river this weekend, although most anglers normally head to the lake.  12 - 15' of water is holding some nice fish.   Sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River is closed until the keep season starts up again July 1st. Up at the NW Angle...  Some nice walleyes being caught along with a mixed bag.  12 - 25 feet of water.  Points, neck down areas and bays with warming water were holding good fish this week.    The go-to presentation was a jig and minnow as on the south shore.  A mixed bag as is common around the Angle.  
    • leech~~
      Nice work!   Here's two words you hardly ever hear anyone say anymore.  "grateful and humbled"   
    • Brianf.
      RLG, thanks for the shout-out!     Jeff and I are still trying to wrap our heads around what happened this past weekend.  We are humbled and full of gratitude  for having won 'The Classic' for a second time.     We practiced through all the rain on Thurs and the wind on Friday and found six different spots holding big fish.  Fishing was good on both days with several 'overs' in our catch...but would it hold up for another day?   We didn't know.     On tourney day, we made a long run to our first spot where I lucked out on a 26.5"er on my second cast.  Jeff followed up with a thick 27" er a few minutes later, which turned out to be the big fish for the event at 7.26lbs.  We finished out our limit and weighed-in at 10:30 am for the welfare of the fish in our livewell.    There were some big weights in this event which would have won in most other years, but - for whatever reason - this was our day.  Everything just went our way.  Again, we are just super grateful and humbled by this success.  We also want to congratulate all the other anglers who did well and give a big 'thank you' to the tournament organizers who put on such a great event!  
    • SkunkedAgain
      I had a good start to the season on opener. Fishing was slow but consistent. I had four eaters in the box by lunch dragging perch raps. Crappies were biting. I haven't been up since so don't know how things have changed since then, but I'm sure the walleye continue to migrate out into the main basins.
    • redlabguy
      Let’s start this by congratulating Brianf and son for winning their second City Autoglass Walleye Classic last weekend. These guys know how to fish.  We just got to the lake for the season. Chores are almost done and I’m ready to fish.  red(new dog is more yellow)labguy
    • Jetsky
      I tried starting a 2024 Lake Vermilion Fishing Report topic but it doesn't show up on this board.   Maybe somebody else knows how to do it?
    • Mike89
      then use the BB gun after catching them!!!    and then enjoy rabbit dinner for revenge!!!   
    • leech~~
      Yep crazy. 🤪 I played goalie in HS and my two grandsons play hockey now.  
    • gimruis
      Hockey gear in general is very expensive.  I was in a Pure Hockey last month to get my skates sharpened and while they were doing it I looked around at gear.  A new pair of CCM/Bauer customized skates can easily top 1000 bucks.  Then you need everything else.  It would be several thousand before you had everything.  And then your kid grows like a weed so you need to buy bigger gear.   Then there's goalie gear.  That's enough to buy a small boat.   Nothing cheap about that sport by any means.
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