Photo Caption: Roger Cook prepares to release another redfish.
The following story is true. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Allow me to set the story, please.
Tom called me to book a fishing trip. He wanted a Thursday. He was bringing his adult son, Todd. They wanted to fly fish. Normal enough.
Roger, a friend of Tom and Todd, called me a week later, also to book a fishing trip. He wanted to fly fish as well, with Tom and Todd, on the following day, in the no motor zone of the Banana River Lagoon.
When the Wednesday in question came around, Tom told me over the telephone, “We want to go where the fishing has been best.” That was in the no motor zone. Since we were going there on Friday anyway, that’s where I brought them on Thursday.
Wading in the Banana River Lagoon is difficult. One sinks into the bottom if one remains in one place too long. It is wadable, but not easy- for some people. For other people, wading there is out of the question.
Tom was in his 70’s, carrying several extra pounds. He did try wading. He fell down. Quite understandably, he refused to try wading any more.
It was too windy to fly fish effectively from the canoe with me poling. I couldn’t control the boat adequately. Tom was not able to see the fish, an absolute necessity for the fast response needed to get a bite. So, I did what I usually did in these types of situations. I got out of the canoe and walked it around, standing right by my angler, telling them when and where to cast and how to work the fly.
We missed quite a few shots but I finally was able to talk Tom through a proper presentation to a big redfish. The fish took the crab imitation.
Tom knew what to do once the fish was on. It turned out to be the biggest redfish he’d ever caught, and he lives in coastal North Carolina, prime redfish territory.
After we released the fish Tom said to me, “Now please help get one for Todd.” Yes sir, that’s what I’m here to do. “Will you be OK here in the canoe?” I asked him. He assured me he’d be fine.
Todd had paddled a kayak. We anchored it, and went wading. He had no more problem wading than I. We went looking for another red, leaving Tom behind in the canoe. The canoe had swung with the wind, and Tom was facing away from us.
After a few minutes I spotted a pair of fish, and pointed them out to Todd. He could see one of them and made a beautiful cast. The fish took the faux crab and off it went, so vigorously that we had to chase it.
I wanted to get back to the canoe. My cameras were there, and we wanted to photograph the fish. We were backing toward it, since the fish had gone the other way. We heard a splash and a yell, and turn to look. I see the bottom of my canoe pointing skyward, and no trace of Tom. Crap!
I tell Todd to play the fish, I’ll be back. And I hustle over to help Tom, to assess the damage. Tom is fine physically. He’s in knee deep water, sitting on the bottom. The water is up to his nipples. He’s sputtering and swearing. He can’t get up. He tells me he wanted to see what was going on, and had tried to get out of the canoe. I tell him to relax and just sit there. It’s a warm day and we have a fish on. The wind is blowing all my belongings away. There’s quite a trail of flotsam.
I retrieve the cameras first, then track down everything else. I pile it all on the kayak, since the canoe is full of water. By this time Todd’s fish is ready. I take out a camera, then leader the fish. Todd holds it, and we get some nice photos. It is the biggest redfish he’s ever caught, too. We release it and off it goes.
Except for the canoe tipping over we’re having quite the afternoon.
We put the rod and the camera on the kayak. We help Tom to his feet. We empty the canoe, and reload the gear. Things are wet. My fly rod is broken.
Tom is nearly apoplectic. I tell him not to worry. I have another phone, and more fishing rods. Things happen. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No one was hurt, which is the important thing.
That night I have time to look through things. My cameras are both fine, thank you! My wallet looks like SpongeBob. My phone has drowned- it’s dead. The waterproof bag containing my first aid supplies turns out to be not so waterproof. Everything inside is wet. Some of it needs to be discarded, the rest needs to be dried.
It was an expensive day between the rod, the phone, and the first aid supplies.
The next morning finds Tom in my canoe again. Todd has ridden with Roger. That’s fine.
I have a plan, to walk Tom around, to not leave him unattended.
I walk Tom around. He gurgles up a few nice trout. Then we get to the redfish spot. There are clouds and it’s hard to see. But there’s no wind and the fish are tailing everywhere.
Tom gets two bites. He misses one, then straightens the hook on the next. Let it run when you first hook it!
Roger gets a fine red, his best ever on fly. We are getting lots of shots. Everyone is excited.
Tom, still in the canoe, gets a cramp in his leg. He wants to get out of the canoe. The bottom is muck, and I remind him it’s not going to work, but we try anyway. Unsuccessfully. He asks if he can stand up in the canoe. I tell him I can, but that doesn’t mean he can. He tries.
When he comes crashing back down, at least it’s in the canoe. At least the boat doesn’t flip. At least he doesn’t get hurt. But the impact is more than the seat can take, and with a snap and a crash, it gives out.
Now we have a broken seat. There’s no way to fix it out there. Tom is sitting on the floor of the boat, very upset, mostly with himself. I feel bad for him. Nonplussed, I say, “Gee, Tom, you’re turning into an expensive date.” We still have the seat to deal with, though.
It’s not a big problem. He can get in the other canoe and Todd, considerably younger and in much better physical condition, can deal with the broken seat. Roger and I exchange passengers. The rest of the day goes smoothly. More fish are caught. Nothing untoward happens.
When I get home, that seat is repaired.
Or I thought it was repaired. When I next used the canoe, we discovered that it wasn’t fixed at all.
The next day the original drilled holes, and the enlarged ones that Tom made, were filled with J-B Weld. After curing overnight, new holes were drilled and everything put back together. It has worked well ever since. Hopefully, that will be the end of the story, right?
Months go by. I get a fishing rod in the mail, a two-piece TFO six-weight. What is this? I didn’t order a fishing rod. There’s no note, no packing list, no invoice. A delivery from Santa Claus! I put it in the rod closet, puzzled, and go on with my life.
That rod bothers me, just the slightest bit, for several months. Finally, I go back into the rod closet and get it. It’s in a plastic sleeve with a paper tag stapled on the top. I carefully examine the tag. There’s writing on it! It’s from Tom, replacing the rod he broke when he flipped the canoe! Gee Tom, I told you it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it. But thank you.
I wanted to thank Tom for the rod, so I called Roger (I didn’t have Tom’s contact information- shame on me!). During our conversation, he told me that Tom had enjoyed our two fishing days so much, he’d bought himself a kayak!
Hooray Tom, and good for you! I hope you enjoy many pleasant days in that boat!