Monday, December 23, 2019

A Near Disaster

I’d describe myself as a cautious shore fisherman.  I don’t take chances.  But, I found out on this early September day that even the most cautious of us can find ourselves in dangerous predicaments. Yes, there is an element of danger to shore fishing that most of us don’t even think about.
I was out in search of my first albie of the year along the rocky Narragansett, RI, shoreline from the Avenues to Black Point. You may have read in other places that some fishermen name this mile stretch of shoreline the deadliest along the East Coast for surf casters because of the dozens of fishermen who have fallen in and drowned along here over the years. This area is known for rough water, dropaway ledges, deep water and very slippery rocks. It’s a place where a lot can go wrong.
I have fished this area since I was a kid and thought little of the danger.  On this warm day I was wearing steel studded shoes for protection against slippery rocks.  I was also wearing shorts and a t-shirt. There was a moderate surf, nothing too dangerous.  I was standing on a dry but steep sloping rock casting away. I was also alone with no one around me.
I hooked my first albie of the year and had a terrific battle getting this fish ashore. As I excitedly got the fish ashore, I grabbed my line and pulled the fish up the wet, black slime on the sloping rock. Once it was right next to me, I decided to take a quick photo with my cell phone.  The light was beautiful, the fish had my fly in its mouth and the contrast with the fish on the wet, black rock made for a great photo.  I perched my rod above me and the fish. Note that I was on a completely dry rock taking the picture.
Suddenly, just as I snapped the photo, the fish started flopping around. It was still attached to the line.  As it flopped on the steep rock, it began to slide back down to the water. With the fish attached to my line, the rod also started sliding toward the water. I put my phone down and went to reach for the rod.  Only problem was that I put my phone onto the wet rock, and it also started to slide down toward the water. As I reached for the phone I was now facing the water, and little did I know, I was also on the very edge of the wet rock and I started to slide down toward the water.  I could not stop. It was like I was on a sloping hill of pure ice.  Yes, I had my studded shoes, but I was going head first, and they did me no good.
It was pure luck that I hit a slight edge to the rock just as my face was inches from the water and an underwater “cave” in the rocks. I was now stopped, and I knew I had little time to right myself  because one decent wave would wash me into that rock cave which was inches from my head. Slowly, while slipping, I managed to get myself around and get my studded shoes onto the rocks.  Ever so slowly, I began a slow crawl upwards with the shoes giving me some grip. As I moved up clawing the wet rock with my fingers, my bare knees and hands were being cut by the sharp barnacles on the rocks. I grabbed at every crack in the rocks and pushed with my feet, and finally pulled myself onto a dry rock above.
 I was able to grab my phone on the way up the rock and was able to grab the rod also. Nothing was lost, but I was rattled.  I had to sit there on a rock just to catch my breath as my heart was pounding out of my chest with fear. All I could think was, “Man, that was so close”.
After about 20 minutes of just sitting there, I stood up, blood dripping down both legs from puncture wounds in my knees and scratches all over my hands and arms. I was a mess, but finally in a safe place.
I was reminded on this September day that fishing along this stretch of shoreline can be a dangerous game, even for those of us who are expereinced and cautious.  You never expect things to go this wrong while doing something you love doing, but it can happen. Yes, a lot of things went wrong on this day, but in the end, I was lucky.