dangerous and fruitless fishing

Toronto, 2016.09.10

The Boy and I were supposed to go fishing, but it rained and I decided to go out at sunset - this was a mistake. I got to one of my place, set to try a new combination of a bottom-bouncer and a single-hook worm rig. The lake is supposed to be unusually warm for this time of year, but I was curious to see if there might be any pike or walleye lurking about.

When I got to the waterfront, I could see the challenge I hadn't expected: the wind was no longer too strong, but the water was still pounding across the pier and rocks. There are a good number of lights from the buildings there, so I wouldn't be bumbling about in complete darkness, but I was certainly going to get wet. It had rained on and off for hours in what I presumed was a passing warm front. The sort that comes with gentle winds and at this time of year an only incremental increase in the temperature. It wasn't, at that point, actually raining but it was dripping and there were fantastic lightning storms in progress over the horizon to the south; maybe Niagara.

No matter, I'd worn clothes that would keep my core dry, and the rest could get wet. Which indeed happened, as the larger waves (always in sets) set up a great deal of spray.

Where things started to go wrong was in the gear. I'd recently packed up the rod & reel for a trip to Buckhorn Lake, and in leaving home I'd merely reassembled the kit without checking to see how tangled the line might have gotten. I'd failed to remember that it *always* gets tangled in these cases. Not bad, just a loop or two hanging loose around the reel.

Which was all it took. On my first cast, the line cinched into the hinge of the bail arm and the line snapped with all that weight being cast. The terminal tackle sailed off into the coffee-stained roiling waves.

To fix the mess, I stepped away from the rocks at the edge of the beach. Which, at an hour after sunset, was then visited by a group of people who charged off into the dark, pounding surf. Two adults and four kids about ten years old. The water is still quite surprisingly warm, but this surprised me on a couple of fronts. First, the "riptide" at that very stretch of shoreline has killed at least one adult that I'm aware of in the past five years. Second; four ten year olds is a recipe for parental over-reach in any circumstances, let alone such a dicey situation.

But, what do I know. I didn't even know if they'd seen me, huddling against some weather-blasted bushes as I worked.

It wasn't an easy job, it turned out. I make it a ruled to cut off any line that's gotten pinched inside the mechanism of the reel, as it's likely scratched and therefor week. This took time in the dark with the wind gusting and a bit of rain by now picking up. But I did it. Using the weatherproof USB-chargeable headlamp of my bicycle, I rethreaded the line through the rod's guides, and onto a new jig. I fished for about ten minutes and decided, with the waves persisting, to get off the pier and along the beach - which by now had been abandoned by the adults and their kids, in favor of the beach on the other side of the pier.

But I never got there. A gust of wind grabbed the meter of line hanging off the rod and tossed it into the branches of a bush growing through a crack in the pier. As the branch waved in the wind, I heard a second snap.

There is a fallacy called the sunk-cost fallacy, in which people incorrectly identify the energy and losses they've put into a lost cost to be of some value. Recognizing that any further fishing this evening was the pursuit of sunk cost, I packed up and left.

As I got back to the sanity of the road above the beach, I called down to the dad of the family. He'd never gone in the water himself for whatever reason, and had been watching the mom and the four boys intently the whole time. "You guys are fun parents," I called to him.

He shrugged, "It's a birthday party." Blinking at him in the now-steady rain, I looked out over the lake and the distant lightning and the deepening cloud and realized that the day's rain hadn't been the storm after all, but a prelude to a coming cold front that was now hitting the city. And these "fun parents" were taking other people's kids into the surf to play a good hour plus after the sunset. Hmm. The father called the family in, and after a great deal of cajoling, the boys came along.

I went home, restrung my rod in safety and warmth, and vowed to try again tomorrow.

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