Every time I go fishing, I’m liable to die. I realize that this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. The number of innocent near-death encounters I have had fishing led to me making a promise to Jackie years ago, wherein I have to stop doing whatever it is I am doing whenever I get a bad feeling.
For instance; in 2008 I had a rare Friday off from work, and Jackie was working for the entire night. The apartment we lived in at the time was situated close to Chartiers Creek and I would occasionally wander over for a few hours of uneventful casting. On this particular day, some devilish muse inspired me to try fishing the other side of the stream, where I had seen some smallmouth bass attacking some frogs previously. The only way to get there was by a long trail, so I decided to use my bike. After carrying my bike and fishing equipment down a few flights of stairs and crossing the busy street in front of the building, I made my way down the long trail to try a frog imitation against the bass. This side of the bank had been rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers some time earlier, and was a steep embankment covered with riff-raff of sharp, hard stone. As I looked at my sandals, I thought that perhaps this wasn’t a great idea. But I had traveled far from the couch, and here I was with my fishing equipment. So down the hillside I climbed.
And I was actually fine. I made it all the way to the bottom unscathed. The small ledge where I was standing to fish was a little slippery, though, and as I threw my first cast I displaced one of the rocks around me. In a fashion that would make Rube Goldberg proud, this (eventually) caused a small rock slide, which resulted in a piece of slate sliding down hill and impaling my right foot. Bone scaring, nerve damage, and a few calamitous hours later, I was alright. (The rest of the story is actually more entertaining. Buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you the rest.) This story has repeated itself over the years, although with somewhat different details.
I had never thought I would live until I was 30, so now that I’ve proved myself wrong in this regard and am married as well I’ve decided that there is something to be said for self preservation.
I don’t remember my dreams, so when I have a nightmare wakes me up and sticks with me throughout the day, I’m a little off-center. I was awoken Thursday morning from a dream straight out of a course of percocets. In it, all of the things around me slowly turned into a variety of poisonous snakes, which then proceeded to attack me. Dozens of them. I feel that now is a good time to point out that I’m not afraid of snakes. No, seriously. I just have high-tuned reflexes should I encounter them outside, which came from growing up in an area populated by cottonmouths, copperheads, and all the other poison-spewing creatures of New Jersey. If I am walking and something snake-y darts under my feet, survival tells me to freak out.
After I dropped Jackie off at work, I decided to do some fishing over at Canonsburg Lake before the afternoon thunderstorms approached. The fish were being particularly un-cooperative, and after two hours of panfish stealing my bait without the decency of biting the hook as well, I drove around the lake to where the outlet from the dam forms a nice stream, having heard that other fishermen have success there.
As I got out of my truck , I realized that I have left my cell phone at home. This was more of a nuisance than care to admit; if I had actually caught anything, I wouldn’t be able to photograph it. It later occurred to me that I was also waiting for the mechanic to call about the inspection on Jackie’s car. But the photograph thing was important.
I parked the truck in the empty lot, and walked along the bank until I found a suitable place to fish. Someone had situated rocks into a kind of spillway, and left the middle open so that the water would rush through there. I cast my bait in this faster water, and let the current carry it towards the slower pools. I was startled from my focus by a childish, “Hey, Mister?” Behind me a kid was standing up on the embankment, fidgeting with his fishing rod.
If I’m not afraid of snakes, I want to be clear on one thing. I am VERY afraid of children with no neck muscles. Think of every horror movie child, head tilted eerily to one side, eyes unblinking, prophetising doom.
Flop-neck stared at me creepily and continued. “Did you catch anything yet?” I explained that I had just got there less than a minute ago. “Oh. I almost caught something, but it got off. Do you think trout are still in here?” I wasn’t sure. “Ok. This was were I first saw poisonous snakes. Copperheads started attacking my dad. Bye.” Just as quickly as he had got there, we walked back into the brush towards fishing locations unknown.
Again I found myself alone, cautiously looking around me for snakes. I had been lucky this year and had only seen two snakes, both from afar. I usually wasn’t that lucky. My searching eyes then fell upon my feet, wearing the sandels from the earlier story. (No, I didn’t get rid of them yet.) And I remembered that I had no phone, and couldn’t call for help. I quickly developed a bad feeling. Very bad.
Sometimes it pays to be superstitious. I wish I had a better ending to the story, but I beat hell out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t want to become another sacrifice to “He Who Slithers Behind the Bushes.”