June 4th, 2001

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Fishing or Swimming?

By John McBride

I have been fishing one way or another for about thirty odd years. From river casting to trout out west, to snagging mossback snapping turtles in private ponds, to a stint on a lobster boat in Maine, but because of the area I live in now I mostly fish for 'panfish' from a boat.

Over the last 30 years I have gotten very wet twice. I went under ice fishing once, and fell out of a speeding pontoon in a power turn while trying to spear Gar while drunk. (Both of which were out of sheer stupidity while younger.)

I have reached "Geezer" status now, and I thought I had learned some things. Having fun with the grandkids, preparing them for a life of fishing when they get older always spouting safety this . . .and be careful that. I am a pack-a-day smoker, a tad overweight but I had always thought myself a safe fisherman.

The state where I live requires there be a class III floatation device for each person in the boat. Don't say you have to wear them though! Of course on hot days I don't wear a vest, and opt to sit on a boat cushion. I fish alone most of the time so jumping around in my 12' boat doesn't happen.

Two weekends ago I was out at the 8 foot break enjoying the Bluegills on the "popper" hatch and doing pretty well, so I put out a pike minnow deep to see if there were any in the new private lake I had just gotten access to . . .OH LIFE IS BLISS! Catching HUGE Gills off the break, and enjoying myself, and then I see a large ripple ring that means a monster is sucking under bugs, but is off to the side that I can't reach in my current position.

I was in the middle of swinging my leg over the seat when my Pike reel started screaming. Without any thought, (Obviously!) I jerked around and gave the saltwater rod a yank. Next thing I know I am underwater with an upside-down boat above me and everything sinking down around me.

It is very hard to swim with two strands of 4lb. test wrapped around one leg, (while attached to two poles off ten feet to the side) pulling on you and a mass of 30lb. test line wrapped around one arm with a Pike of undetermined size sounding to deep water.

I grabbed my knife that I wear on my belt when fishing, and cut the line off my arm to let the Pike free. (Sounded quick didn't it . . . seemed to take forever!) I had enough air to swim to the surface and looked for my trusty boat cushion. No glasses . . .I think it was bright blue . . .SQUINT . . .THERE . . .about 50 feet out in deeper water . . .no help there . . .try and climb onto the boat . . .but I am wet and slippery, and so is the bottom of my "V" bottom boat . . .can't do that either . . . guess I'll grab the end of an anchor rope and swim to shore thirty yards.

I haven't swam for about 25 years, and boy am I going to quit smoking and loose weight! (Ever hear yourself promise stuff in a crunch?)

By this time I am mad! Lost my glasses, poles, cooler of fish, and my flybox.

Here is a little hint for avoiding lower back pain . . . Don't ever try to pull a boat to shore while it is full of water, and then turn it upright by yourself. It isn't easy even with my 250lb. fat old wet body!

Got one oar and paddled to where I went down, and had to make NINE dives to get all my stuff off the bottom. (Swimming to find your glasses is a real trip!) Eight foot of water doesn't seem like much till you are trying to bring up a cooler with ice, and fish! Needless to say I let them go to fight another day. Back to shore and sit there for about a half an hour and try to catch my breath!

Here is the moral of the story I guess, or at least PLEASE learn from my mistake! Don't count on any help except for what you take with you . . . and then only if you wear the floatation device will it do anything for you! At least tie a rope to your belt and to the boat cushion if you are going that route because they FLOAT AWAY!

You aren't that safe on the river either, because waders full of water will pull you under faster than you think too!

I have been checking out those SOSpenders but they don't look to fit a guy of my girth, and the X-Mart stuff just don't look safe or comfortable. And if it isn't comfortable old stupid me will probably take it off sooner or later.

Maybe I need a pontoon instead of a row boat? ~ John McBride

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