During his latest fishing trip, this time in some swift-moving water, Oz gets lured into a daring rescue plan.
The weather in Thailand was a little abnormal last July. The seasonal monsoons had been a bit scarcer than usual and, to make things worse, the government is so afraid of last year’s super-flood recurring that they were willing to keep water levels in all the reservoirs of the country extremely low. For us freshwater fishermen, continued low water levels is definitely not a good thing. Low water mean less vegetation, less vegetation means nowhere to make spawning nests, no spawning nests means fewer new fish. But, there is still some silver lining to the underperforming rain season. With inconsistent rainfall, the stream that feeds into Kaeng Krajan reservoir has been rising while not getting too muddy, allowing for boats to go upstream to fish, which Tap and I did.
During my visit, the water upstream was clear and rapidly moving. Usually we’d wait until the rainy season was past to go there, so going in the middle of July was really something different. The stream continued all the way until the Burmese border. Boat trips there would take about seven hours and way too much petrol. Our target: the jungle perch swimming upstream to breed, just the same way a salmon would. The fish swimming upstream would stop and rest in pockets of calm water and eddies before continuing upstream to mate and lay their eggs. To catch the fish here, all you would have to do is cast a small minnow lure or fly into these little pockets of calm, retrieve quickly and simply await the strike. Or so it seemed in theory.
One miscalculated cast and the lure would get caught in the white water and drift into some obstruction in the blink of an eye. Unlike when you fish in calm water, a snag in the rapids is much harder to undo. You can’t just bring the boat closer to the snag as the rapids will carry it into some rocks. Last time I checked, boats smashing into rocks wasn’t exactly the most ideal way to spend an afternoon unless you were on some sort of show like MythBusters and there was a sexy intelligent redhead making things explode involved.
I’ve recently taken up watching the first season of the show Game of Thrones. I am definitely a little late in watching it and I have to say it’s quite an amazing show. In it, there is a sword master by the name of Syrio Forel who teaches the art of fencing to the daughter of one of the main characters. He exclaims, ‘There is only one god and his name is Death and there is only one thing we say to him: “Not today”.’ So, when my brand new virgin Rapala lure decided to get stuck on a log in the middle of the white water, this particular line popped into my head.
The poor thing has never caught a fish and now it is to die a death on some stupid dead log in the water just because I didn’t cast straight? Not today. If life is about calculated risks, then I must be a terrible mathematician as I was choosing to risk my life in white water rapids to save a 300 baht Rapala lure. But, I had a plan to minimise the risk.
After several stupid attempts of just going in and trying to grab the lure and then getting washed downstream, I gave the idea a bit of thought.
Having done some white-water rafting before, I was familiar with rapids, but the water was too strong for me to simply walk in, and I was also getting a little tired of being smashed into the rocks. I needed something to keep me afloat. I did not have a life jacket with me at the time but I did have a 15-litre dry bag that I used to keep my electronic devices away from the water. I emptied out its contents and placed them on the driest part of the taxied long-tail boat. I lifted the bag to my lips. With both hands, I pulled at its ends to tighten its seal before blowing in some extra air before sealing it up. I pressed it into the water first to test its buoyancy. It worked. I wrapped the bag around my torso with the strap and began my walk upstream in order to float to where the lure was snagged.
The short walk up took a little longer than expected. I had to be careful walking up against the current, with the rocks below being so slippery from the grime it had collected from centuries of flowing water. After several slips and knee-slamming-into-rock moments, I made it. My friend was already there holding my rod with the line and lure still attached to it.
My cleverly thought out plan was simple: hold on to the fishing line, dive as far into the rapids as possible and hope to be able to get close enough to the lure to unhook it. Somehow. The last part of the plan wasn’t exactly thought out yet, but it would have probably involved something along the lines of grabbing the big log with one hand and undoing the lure with the other while the rapids tried to force the rest of my body downstream. Yup. Ingenious plan. Even Bear Grylls would be impressed by this level of quick thinking.
The rapids were definitely a lot stronger than anticipated, but the dry bag life jacket kept me afloat in the white water. I’ll let the video below tell the rest as words wouldn’t fully capture the conclusion of this story.
For more on Oz's fishing adventures, visit http://bangkokhooker-fishing.com/.
09/08/2012 - 12:44