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