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Dealing with the implications of a near-tragedy

The other day, a good friend of mine called to tell me about an unfortunate thing that happened to him. He was fishing for brook trout in one of our favourite rivers when he hooked into a good one. From there on in, things went downhill.

The fight went well until the end when he stepped forward to net the fish. The netting part was not the issue either. No, that came with the stepping forward part.

For, as any angler knows, in a river, one small step can make the difference between a nice experience and driving home in wet underwear – which, by the way, is harder to explain than you might think – and only truly comfortable on a hot summer’s day.

According to my friend, he found himself dealing with a big brook trout that he said did not fully fit into his net. This was complicated by the fact that he had stepped into fast flowing water that was over his head.

This meant he had to choose between drowning and abandoning all hope of landing a brook trout he excitedly described as “huge.” Ask any angler – this is never an easy choice.

“Well, what did you choose?” I asked.

Admittedly, this was not the most brilliant question I have ever posed.

He answered me with a tale of woe that would make any true angler weep. He chose to swim to shallow water and, by the time he got there, the “huge” fish had shaken loose.

Let that sink in: my buddy was forced to choose between saving his own life or taking a selfie with a “huge” brook trout. Talk about horrifying.

After, a moment of silence, while I considered the implications, I said what any fishing buddy would say at a time like this.

“No photo, huh?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “It was huge.”     

“Well,” I added. “I’m glad you are all right.”

At this point I suspect he must have felt a bit silly, so I did not think it was the right time to tell him the entire disaster could have easily been averted with the use of an underwater camera. 

As I said, however, that was not the time or place for that.

Instead, I felt it was now my job to console him and make him feel better. So I immediately offered a few kind words: “Well, look at the bright side. At least it wasn’t an even bigger fish.”

Go on. Call me sensitive. But I thought he needed that.

He then went on to describe the next part of his fishing trip, which involved emptying waders and wringing out socks. We steered clear of the uncomfortable discussion about what he did with his underwear and what he said to the gas station attendant when he had to stop to fill up again. There is still plenty of time for that. And that’s because he understood the position he was in and made the right choice. Also, this has caused us both to  decide it’s time to invest in an inflatable personal flotation device.

I know I joke about this, but the frightening truth is not lost on me. This could have been truly tragic. It could have turned into an event that would have haunted me for years, made our friendship a sad memory and probably ruined those waters for me.

Yes, he could have landed that fish.

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