Kayak Fishing Fueled My Recovery

Kayak Fishing Fueled My Recovery

Everyone’s story is different and taking the time to learn an angler’s story is one of the many rewards of the fast-growing sport of kayak fishing. A great example is the story behind Chris Caluori. He didn’t follow in the footsteps of family anglers that had a love for the sport nor follow a golden-brick road full of successes leading to his kayak fishing career. His path to kayak fishing is unique and one that we want to share with the world! His journey started with trials, tribulations, and disappointments that evolved into perseverance, faith, and lifelong friendships. Written directly by Chris, here’s a glimpse of what his journey looked like and how kayak fishing has changed his life forever:

“I’ve had a passion for fly fishing for as long as I can remember. As a veteran fly angler, my love for the sport drove me to spend hours walking through the woods and unsteady creek bottoms in search of trout and steelhead…but five years ago my passion was ripped away from me.

So, let’s rewind five years to February 14, 2014, yes…Valentine’s Day. The day started off as usual and I anticipated it to be an average day at work, but what I didn’t know was that was the day my life was going to change forever! That day at work I was welding a commercial humidifier 15 feet in the air, and I fell.
I fell from a ladder straight to the ground, landing flat on my feet. Due to the height that I fell from, the impact shattered both of my legs and ankles. This was by far the worst pain that I have ever experienced, and BELIEVE me, I felt every little sensation of the impact.

This is what my left leg looked like the next morning. After a long three months and eight surgeries later, I was finally on my way to recovery. I knew my days of forging through the woods to find new water filled with trout were over. I was devastated and overwhelming depression quickly set in. My doctors that only knew me due to physical therapy could even tell that there was a light dimming inside me. As a member of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, I was still able to be involved with things related to fly fishing, and I found some joy from that, but it wasn’t the same anymore. I thought my days of fighting trophy fish were behind me until I met Noah Heck at Kayak-Anglers Western PA Chapters Lake Wilhelm event in July of 2014.

Noah introduced me to kayak fishing and it was love at first cast! I instantly had new life breathed into me, because for the first time since my accident I realized I could fish again and even be competitive. This was a whole new learning experience for me, though. I had never been in a kayak before, let alone fished from one, but I was willing to give it my all. So, I started saving up funds, and thanks to the great folks at The Rivers Edge Canoe and Kayak, I found a kayak that fit all my needs.

After my rookie kayak fishing season, I was still having trouble with my legs and dealing with the pain associated from sitting still in the kayak for long periods of time. Neil Andritz, the owner of the Rivers Edge, introduced me to Hobie Cat and the Pro Angler 14 (what some consider the flagship of all kayaks on the water). And from that point, the Hobie Cat has changed my life! The most amazing thing about the design is that they’re patented Mirage Drive and the functionality mimics one of the machines I used during physical therapy!

Due to my accident, my ankles are now fused, with my left ankle being fused at 90 degrees solid, so utilizing a pedal-drive kayak with a traditional bicycle style pedal was not going to be an option for me. The Hobie Pro Angler14 and its Mirage Drive allowed me to step up my game in tournaments and provided me with more physical therapy to my legs, which I consider a win-win!

I’ve learned that in life some doors must close so others can open. I thought my accident was going to be my demise, but kayak fishing and the comradery of the anglers involved with the sport brought light back into my life. If there’s one message that I can convey to others through sharing my story I hope its this: Never let a circumstance define you or dictate what is going to become of your future. Never let the fear of the unknown cripple you. Let strong faith in the Lord, your willpower and self-determination define you and be the light to your path. Without those things, along with great friends and family, I would probably still be confined to a wheelchair.

I am forever indebted to Hobie Cat, Kayak-Anglers, Neil and Evelyn Andritz, and Noah Heck! To my family and friends, I’d like to thank you for always pushing me, having my back, being my rock and shoulder to cry on, and most importantly, for believing in me. Kayak fishing has forever changed my life in ways that I never imagined could. I was able to turn my tragedy into a testament, and I hope if there is someone else out there, thinking that their life of adventure is over due to a circumstance out of their control, they read this. And please know that your journey is not over, it’s just beginning. Thank you to all!”

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