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Did Fishing Nearly Kill Me? Or Was I Reasonably Chasing Muskie...

Blog by: Matt Snider , Colorado 2/17/2017
I’ve got a little story to tell.  When my college buddies and I first started fishing remote fly-in lakes in Canada for muskie years ago, I thought “what would happen if, say, one of us had an appendix burst up here?” – just wondering as most would about being disconnected from many modern amenities.  One of the lakes we fished had no way of communicating – no satellite phone/cell/radio –  only an orange tarp we could place on the dock for the pilot to see when he flew over on his daily trips.  The other lakes had at least some small connection to the real world like a radio.  We never really needed any help though, just a few hooks in the skin here and there, maybe a hangover or a few, you know…the normal stuff.  But that wouldn’t last.  

Before I get on with this story though, I want to first thank the Winter Giveaway sponsors who provided all that good stuff and trips.  I haven’t had a chance to thank you all, but I will be doing so personally in the next week or so.  Tom took over (thanks Tom) in the closing days to announce winners and fulfill all the prizes, as I was cooped up and unable to finish the event that I got started in November. I hope everyone got their stuff, and I will be fulfilling my end of my prizes soon – looking forward especially to picking up trash somewhere with bardkin fishing by my side.

OK back to the story…  I returned to Canada in September for some fall muskie hunting at the Weather Station on the Lower Manitou.  It was very tough fishing, didn’t see hardly a fish in a few days, and ended up catching just one 40-incher trolling a super-sized 14” crankbait (which my 12-yr old son dubbed “tank baits”, after the term we use for big fish, “supertanker”.)  While this isn’t a huge fish, it was definitely important.  It’d be the only fish (muskie) I caught on this trip, and my last fishing trip for a long time.

A few hours after landing this fish I’d be curled up on the bathroom floor in the wash-house at 2am, wondering what pain had kicked me in the stomach this time. Early morning turned to day, the cramping would ebb and flow, and so I just laid in bed for most of my remaining rainy couple of days left in the beautiful north.  

When you’re in Canada, and muskie swim within 50 feet of your bed, it is hard to stay indoors no matter what sort of pain you are in and no matter what sort of spitting cold rain exists – so I did manage to sneak out twice for a few hours fishing, crumpled up like a half-smashed beer can on the boat.  Still no follows, no hookups.

By now I knew the pain was either an appendix or some sort of infection.  I’d soon find myself on a 30-mile boat trip at full-throttle to the nearest launch (cursing every wave,) catching a taxi for a 1.5 hour trip on logging roads (cursing every bump,) getting inspected in a random pullover at the border crossing (just cursing,) sitting at a small airport for 3 hours, sitting on the runway for an hour waiting for clearance, worrying about being late for my connection in Minneapolis (ultimately making it,) and landing in Denver where my wife picked me up and drove me home.  By midnight I was in bed.  I’d wake at 9am with my wife telling me we’d be going to the ER to get my appendix out after she consulted docs.  Apparently this is one scenario answering my question posed years ago.  

So I was put under, the organ was removed, and I made it through.  Recovery was rough – which is common when you leave something of this nature unattended for too long – and by around mid to late-October I was feeling a bit more myself.  I organized the Winter Giveaway, and all was going OK.  I even started feeling like fishing again.  Then November 11 hit.  

I woke up with vertigo.  I was falling over, room spinning, right ear ringing, hearing gone, nausea - the works.  Never had anything like this before.  I’m hardly ever sick.  This went on for weeks as I went to multiple doctors and specialists – all of whom diagnosed different things.  I was still dizzy, deaf in my right ear, and nothing they prescribed was helping.  So much for fishing. 

Then I decided to get an MRI – even though the docs said there’d be a 1% chance anything showed up.  Well I hit the lottery and I am now considered a 1-percenter.  The December 7 MRI showed a tumor growing in the canal from my ear to my brain, pushing on the brain.  First time I’d ever been on this side of news like that.  And this also marked the first time I stopped complaining about health care costs.

So here I am, really looking forward to getting better, maybe doing some ice fishing this winter, and my focus completely changes.  The news hit hard with me and my wife and my two young kids.  At the same time it was nice to have a definitive answer to what was wrong.  The race was on to make prudent and wise decisions.  We met with a few capable surgeons, and finally found our guy who was not only considered one of the best in his field but also available to perform the surgery by year’s end.  So we planned, we organized, and hoped for the best.

The day came, I was put under, and they worked on me for 6 hours.  I came out alive, knocked on my ass, but alive.   I came home four days later, feeling rough, battled for several weeks, and here I am 7 weeks later, finally starting to feel close to myself again.  The brain is OK, the tumor is gone, the tissue was benign, and I am alive.  I’m so thankful for all that.  

I’ve not been able to fish, am only driving short distances, and I haven’t really had the desire to do more than read, plan, write, and think.  A lot comes to mind when you can hardly sleep (damn steroids) for 5 weeks after a scary health issue.  FishExplorer has been near the top of my thoughts.  I will be writing more, and I will definitely be fishing more.  Someone told me during a post-op appointment that it isn’t often you get to hit the reset button on life.  I plan to take advantage of this reset in mine.

Things kept rolling here on FishExplorer without me being involved every day, and that is a huge testament to how great you all are.  Thank you all for your contributions to the site.  Special thanks to Tom and Dave for their continued work in keeping the core of FxR on track, and the state editors for their efforts in their states, and all the skippers etc. that help keep it all going. 

There are tragedies we all face at some point in life.  Some more than others, some worse than others.  I am glad to have come out the other side of this relatively small issue with all my faculties except for one little thing (the hearing on my right side will not return, which ironically happens to be the side my wife sits on when I drive!)  I resurface with a renewed sense of compassion for others in dire times, and a renewed zest for life.  

I'll never know whether I was alerted to the tumor by the appendix, which was initiated by muskie fishing, therefore leading to the theory that muskie fishing saved my life. But it's worth considering.
Me with my lone muskie on the September trip on THE day that started a wave of issues that would last months...
Blog content © Matt Snider
Blog Comments
FISHRANGLER, CO   2/17/2017 4:39:34 PM
I can see the connection too. So happy to hear everything is better.
anglerwannabe, CO   2/17/2017 5:15:39 PM
Wow Matt I was going to congratulate you to getting out a blog early in 2017... now I'm just very happy everything turned out well!
Matt Snider (Matt), CO   2/17/2017 5:31:00 PM
Thanks FR and AWB. Feeling better daily now, so more fishing and writing will come I am sure.
culinarypunk, WY   2/17/2017 5:39:33 PM
lol AWB Matt, glad you are feeling "better"!
bron, CO   2/17/2017 7:18:56 PM
Very glad you are on the mend and in the clear Matt. When we fish together we will make an interesting pair since I am basically deaf in my right ear too. Mennierres disease. Had MRIs checking for worse but I lucked out.
Matt Snider (Matt), CO   2/17/2017 7:52:41 PM
yep bron, that's what they thought I had at first too. In a weird kind of way it was kind of nice to have a definite cause that could be removed.
Ryan, CO   2/17/2017 8:31:51 PM
You have two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one. Glad you are ok. Life is short. Take advantage of the time you have.
IceFishingFool, CO   2/18/2017 3:01:16 AM
Its been said, if you are not healthy, what have you got. ?? Glad you shared that Matt.
KAK, CO   2/18/2017 6:18:18 PM
Matt, thanks for sharing your story. It should cause all of us to appreciate what we have. We need to stop wishing and start fishing. May your improved health continue...
fom, CO   2/18/2017 8:39:11 PM
Awesome read. God bless !
pikeNcolorado, CO   2/19/2017 8:02:03 AM
There are very few things in life that are precious.... Family, health and Muskie/Pike fishing. It sounds to me that now you can convince your wife you will have to fish more often. Afterall, it did save your life. Haha. Thanks for sharing.
Lloyd Tackitt, TX   2/19/2017 5:10:56 PM
Glad you have overcome the issue Matt! I like your logic too!
Matt Snider (Matt), CO   2/20/2017 11:46:00 AM
A lot of things pass through your head in these situations. I've never been on this side of things before where I am the one that people need to take care of. It is eye-opening to say the least. I've obtained new levels of compassion, new perspective on priorities, etc. I am glad I can basically look back on all this now. I find that keeping a level of humor in whatever you do is important, and thus I am able to draw the correlation between muskie fishing and it saving my life. And my wife buys it, only because she knows I am joking, but the same time not! And she's awesome. Thanks for all your support and compassion.
Flyrodn, CO   2/21/2017 9:45:22 AM
"Tis good to have you back on the mend. Here's to a great fishing season after overcoming adversity.
opencage, CO   2/22/2017 9:35:24 AM
To answer the title question, I believe that your very reasonably chasing muskie may have contributed to the successful resolution of this issue. I was happy to help out and now realize the amount of effort you put in to the Giveaway! Lucking forward to chucking and ducking with you in the future.