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01: Advocatus

Narrow Escape

"The will of God and a small amount of good luck made me most certainly survive a drowning and hyperthermia that will haunt me for a long time.

It all started planning a trip to a private river some 10km as the crow flies from Jeffrey?s Bay. As I knew that the pre-spawn would invoke some good fishing on the beds, I started phoning some friends that would be interested in going along, well to cut a long story short I was on my own for this trip.

I immediately got my gear together with my old faithful 3.5 inflatable Sea Hunter, a couple of oars and a flask of hot Java, well I needed a couple of those for the weather man predicted some 2 degrees for the morning of my trip.

This was to my knowledge the very first time I have ever fished without a fishing buddy and decided to take one of my life jackets from my bass boat to accompany me on the trip. Thinking of it again, it must have been my guardian angel that fetched it for me because I have never taken it with me before on the dingy.

I arrived at the river edge as the day broke. Not a breeze in the air and with the prospect of a beautiful day, I got everything down to the river edge and decided to get something hot to drink before I pushed off.

I sat down, lit a cigarette and planned some strategy while trying to stay warm, as it was extremely cold outside. I got up, checked if everything was locked and saw my life jacket lying in the back of the bakkie. I got it strapped on, feeling very uncomfortable wearing my complete winter closet.

As I pushed myself away from the bank I wanted to get everything organized on the boat for I had plenty of space with no fishing buddy, but for some strange reason decided to drop my new June bug lizard that I got the day before into the water so that I don?t waste any time.
This was my very first cast for the day and thought nothing of it putting my rod down. I immediately had a massive hit and the rod flew off the boat.
Every keen bass angler would think nothing of it to instinctively go after an expensive rod and reel that has just landed in the water that is exactly what I did, before I knew it I was in water of unbelievable temperature and alone.

I got hold of my rod with one hand and securing my other onto the safety ropes on the side of the dingy with a nice fish pulling for dear life. I had no choice but to bite the line to free myself from the fish and threw the rod back into the boat.

Funny at first but I just could not get myself back into the boat, no matter what I tried. When I returned home later that day I weighed everything I had on and it clocked the scales close to 18kg; that was after it laid in the vehicle for the duration of the day.

The fun only just started. There was no ways I would let go of that safety rope. I did not want to depend only on the life jacket. I knew I had a lot of extra weight with me and did not want to take the chance.
The whole incident happened not further than 20m from the bank. I got myself secured to the boat and knew that the odds of drowning was now minimal.

I only had to paddle the 20m to safety dragging the boat behind me. The trip back to the bank took me nearly 15min. Hypothermia was my next major issue for I started to loose all strength and feeling in my legs and had to stop for a couple of minutes get my breath.

I got my legs up under the boat to minimize drag and eventually got myself to safety. The wet clothes were now my biggest problem and I immediately removed everything, but my muscles ached like you could not believe.

I got the vehicle heater started and stuck my fingers and toes in my coffee to relieve the pain that I was experiencing. I must have sat there for half and hour before I decided to go home get dressed and once again go fishing. This time both my personal records were broken. My total catch of the day totalled close to 25 and the heaviest landed a beer drinking belly of 3.1kg.

It was an unbelievable day of near tragedy that I would never forget. Personally I would never go fishing by myself again as the risk involved when something goes wrong is just too enormous. If I had not worn my life jacket I am absolutely sure I would not have made it back to the bank.

The reason for me writing the article is not to entertain or to get my 30 seconds of fame on ?what were you thinking? but to stress the dangers of fishing alone and without a life jacket. My personal opinion is that clubs should enforce strict rules for alone fishermen to wear life jackets at all times.

Colin Smith
Eastern Cape Bassmasters
Port Elizabeth

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