by Larry Herscovitch
Anyone who has spent time in small boats has at some point dropped something overboard. Usually, it’s minor stuff, like maybe a fishing lure, a soft drink, or an outboard motor. Personally, I have lost enough gear over the side of small boats to outfit a decent sized fishing camp. I’m not proud of it, but I figure it’s just the cost of being on the water.
One of my more memorable losses was a brand new ultra-lite fishing rod purchased only a few hours earlier. My wife and I had just launched our inflatable raft on a lovely trout stream in the Kootenays and were casting small spinners toward the shore when I hooked up on a rock in mid river. With the boat moving briskly downstream, there was no way I was going to be able to work the lure loose, so I grabbed the rod around the shaft with both hands, planning to break the line and re-tie. Unfortunately, I hadn’t set the drag tight enough and as soon as I wrapped my hands around the rod the six pound test sizzled off the reel and sliced into my palms. I reacted without thinking and immediately let go of the rod with both hands, only to watch my precious new ulta-lite shoot upstream like a bolt shot from a crossbow. It must have sailed 30 feet before it hit the water and disappeared. I didn’t even have time to check my injured hands before my wife turned around from looking downstream and said “where’s your new rod?” All I could do was grin sheepishly and point at the water.
I’d like to say that was the only rod I’ve lost overboard, but I’m not that good a liar. Soon afterward my friend Norm and I spent a few days bucktailing for giant rainbows on Quesnel Lake. I had maintained a firm grip on my flyrod, even though we hadn’t had so much as a sniff of a fish all morning, when nature called. Considering how slow the fishing had been, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to lay my rod down resting over a seat in the rear of the boat for a few moments. Ten seconds later a huge trout (with a remarkable sense of timing) struck my fly with authority and the rod cart wheeled over the transom before I could even make a grab for it. All I could do was watch it sink into the depths while I finished the business at hand. Norm turned around just in time to watch the rod flip into the water. He looked at me, shook his head and said “man, you must have really had to go.”
On that same trip, Norm and I motored our boat into a small bay, with the intention of casting towards the mouth of a stream that drained into it. I mentioned to Norm, as I dropped the anchor, that I was concerned it wasn’t big enough to do the job of keeping small boats in place with the breeze that was blowing. The anchor faded into the depths along with about thirty feet of line, the end of which I had neglected to tie to the boat. As we watched our only anchor disappear from view Norm nodded and said “you’re right, I don’t think that’s going to hold.”
It could be that losing things over the side of small boats is a family trait. As I recall the time my brother in law and I were fishing a small lake near Kamloops in belly boats. They are really small boats. He hooked a nice Rainbow of about 20 inches and after a lively battle, the fish tired and came to hand. He held the fish up with one hand intending to release it with the needle nose pliers in his other hand, while I snapped a picture from just a few feet away. Then, he carefully and ever so gently, released his pliers into the lake – while he kept hold of the fish.
Or, the time I was trolling for salmon with my father near Bamfield when he dropped his hat into the salt chuck. Bending over to pick the floating cap from the surface, his sunglasses fell of his head and into the drink. For a man of his advanced years, I thought the grab he made for the specs was admirably quick, though ultimately unsuccessful. Leaning over the side of the boat with his arm in the water up to his shoulder watching his sinking glasses, he shouted a word that I dare not repeat in print. That should have been the end of it, but when he opened his mouth to yell his upper dentures fell out of his mouth and followed his sunglasses to the bottom of Barkley Sound. To this day, that remains the only time I’ve ever seen half a smile sinking.
So the next time you drop something overboard from your small boats, just remember it’s no big deal and we all do it. However, if you’re ever out on the water and you hook into a piece of gear like an anchor or an ultralite rod – just remember, it’s mine and I want it back.