I’ve been fishing out of my 8-foot-long kayak for years without much trouble. Even when it’s gotten windy, I’ve been able to turn it into the waves and slice my way through the water back to shore.
I’d like to say it was a harsh, whitecap-wave-inducing storm that caused my streak of staying above the water in the kayak to come to an end, but that wasn’t the case.
I’d also like to assert that a massive northern pike or world-record-sized bass I hooked into caused me to go into the drink — because that would be a heck of a fishing story — but that wasn’t the case, either.
No, it was that familiar foe I’ve run into a time or two: miscalculation mixed with a side of stupidity.
The fishing on Fish Lake — you’d think I’d just be piling up the bass and bluegills on a lake with a name like that — wasn’t real great Friday morning. I’d only caught a couple of sunfish during the first hour on the lake that I had thrown back because they were too small to fillet.
Thinking bigger fish might be lurking around the bulrushes, which is often the case, I cast my line near them and waited for something to hit.
Something did, but I lost it and ended up snagging the line really low on a bulrush; I couldn’t get the imbedded hook out by tugging on the rod and reeling, so I paddled over to it and attempted to remove the hook with my hand.
Holding my rod in my right hand, I dunked my left arm into the water and was about shoulder deep when my hand started to near the hook. That’s when I lost my balance.
I felt the kayak shifting toward the hand I had in the water, so I leaned back in an attempt to right the ship, but that just made things worse. My momentum caused it to rock too hard in the other direction, and it rolled.
I went into the lake, back first, and got completely drenched. After I got over the surprise of what had just happened, I thought to myself, “Wow, Derrick, that was dumb.”
My cellphone, which I always put in a plastic bag when I fish, survived unscathed, but my wallet got soaked. It has since dried, but I think I can still smell a bit of lake funk on it.
I was only in about 3 feet of water, and I didn’t want to bring the kayak over to the nearby shore to try to get back in because the shoreline was a dense forest of tall weeds, and I didn’t know if I could get solid footing on it and then settle back into the boat.
So my first attempt at getting back into the kayak involved a not-so-graceful belly flop onto the top of the boat. This failed and caused the craft to fill with a substantial amount of water.
My second attempt was successful, albeit awkward. I held the boat with one arm, lifted my left leg up into it and then quickly my right before my weight caused it to roll again. That’s as far as I’ve stretched in a while and probably will be as far as I will stretch ever again.
Being back in the kayak, I calmed down a bit, but now I was wet, cold and my boat was filled about a third of the way with water.
So I paddled back to shore, tipped it up and let the water drain out. I then went back to my car to get a towel. A man was smoking a cigarette on a nearby park bench, and he introduced himself to me, commenting on how nice of a morning it was.
I could tell he was eyeing me a bit strangely because here I was — soaked shirt, shorts, hat and sandals that made a “swooshing” noise when I walked.
I said to him: “Yeah, I’m a little wet. If you ever fish out of one of these things and hook into something deep, just cut your line.”
Feeling kind of drained from the whole capsizing experience, I did what any fisherman would do: I got back into my boat and headed to a different part of the lake where I caught enough fish to bring home and fillet.
After that whole experience, I wasn’t coming home empty handed.