Always be prepared. Not only a motto from my youthful days as a Boy Scout, but also sound advice in most, if not all, situations in life.
Fishing is no exception. Yet, recently, in all the hurrying and hubbub of trying to sneak a few casts in before work, I learned once again, how important it is to always be prepared.
My wife and I started the day like many others. We left the house half-awake within 30 seconds of the alarm going off, in what seems like a futile attempt to be the first ones on the water.
We, of course, rarely are first, but we never stop trying to be. Besides, the earlier we hit it, the more time we can put in before rolling into work reeking of fish, much to the dissatisfaction of some of our coworkers.
Anyway, we pulled up to one of our favorite locations at dawn, and as we started to unpack the car, I noticed my first mistake in preparedness.
Although we had our fishing licenses, rods, waders, landing net and a cooler, I had forgotten spare tackle.
The reason for this rookie mistake, at least as I've rationalized it, was that I had recently received a fishing vest.
This vest is wonderful in its utility, holding every piece of tackle I could possibly need. Unfortunately, I'm not used to taking it yet.
So, all we had to fish with was what was on the end of our rods, which luckily consisted of a 3/4-ounce weights and flies.
We briefly discussed our options. We decided it was pointless to go home and that mooching flies from fellow anglers was poor form, so we would just try and be careful not to lose the hardware.
We gathered our gear, and in a rush to quickly get to the water, I made my second mistake in preparedness.
I left the landing net in the car, thinking if I couldn't land salmon without a net, I wasn't meant to land them anyway.
This train of thought may sound a little cocky, but I like to give the fish more of a chance by not using a net. You may loose a few, but you will usually land a few, too.
That day was different, though.
Somewhat surprisingly, I was able to get right into the fish. However, as I got the fish into the shallows and attempted to lift it over the deadfall that lines the shoreline, the fish shook off and swam away. At first I just shrugged it off, but by the third and fourth time I was starting to get a little perturbed. The same thing had happed to my wife, as well.
I had the net in the car, but I knew if I went for it there would undoubtedly be people in my spot when I returned since there was already a line of people on the shore behind me waiting for anglers to limit out so they could get a chance to fish. I stayed put, but a fellow angler, noticing our situation, cordially offered up his net. It wasn't long until we needed it.
My wife yelled "Fish on!" as a 10-pounder took to the air. I made eye contact with my fellow angler, and in the nanosecond nod he gave me, he had used the secret male code to communicate that the offer to use his net was still valid.
After a brief fight, my wife wore the fish down and brought it to shore where I merrily scooped it up. We bonked it on the head, removed the hook from its lip and put the fish on the stringer. However, in the fish's fit of thrashing it tangled my wife's only tackle.
We both began to do our best to get the bird nest out before our fellow angler could say ...
"Fish on," he shouted. It seemed Murphy and his stupid Law were out to get me once again.
We moved as quickly as we could in a desperate attempt to get the tackle untangled before this nice guy's fish shook off.
In the few seconds we worked the man was patient, but fish often can be landed or lost in a few seconds, and all three of us knew it. He broke the silence my bellowing as politely, yet urgently, as he could, "Net please!"
My wife and I moved from a state of fear to sheer panic at the thought that we would cost this guy his fish after he compensated for my own stupidity of leaving the net in the car.
"Bite though it and break the line," I yelled to me wife, and she did her best, but curse the one time our 25-pound test leader wouldn't break off at this slightest tension.
"The net would be nice," shouted the man, still fighting the fish in the shallows just behind us.
"Please don't let him lose it," I said in my head over and over, while my wife gnawed on the line.
Now, I don't know if it was poor orthodontics, the rushing of the attempt, or just plain bad luck, but I knew for sure the line wasn't breaking.
As a last resort I just shouted, "Flip your bail," to my wife, and turned to the river with the net in hand. I trailed slack the whole way.
I scooped up the guy's fish and we all breathed a deep breath of relief. It was tough to say who was more afraid he was going to lose the lunker, us or him.
We had a good laugh after it was over, and then went back to trying to get the tangled line out of the net. My wife finally did and took a few casts more, but on her first bite, the line broke right where she had been chomping on it and the fish took everything.
We headed out shortly thereafter feeling like we had put on enough of a show for the other anglers on the water, and had also likely worn out our welcome with any net hospitality.
I headed off to work having learned several valuable lessons. One: leave the fishing vest closer to the fishing tackle at home. Two: always, and I mean always, bring your net to the water. Three: despite the mobs that line the banks of nearly every peninsula river in July, a few nice folks still can be found in the crowd. Thank you to the guy with the net, whoever you are.
This column is the opinion of Peninsula Clarion reporter Joseph Robertia. Comments may be e-mailed to news@ peninsulaclarion.com.
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