By Chris Funk
My son Ethan and I were fishing our local flow with a friend and contractor who comes to my plant once a year. I was showing him the benefits of a kayak and we had just started catching a couple fish. I headed around a bend and heard a splash followed by "daddy he's in!" I shot back around the corner and sure enough, my friend was bobbing in the water beside the boat.
He had hooked a fish and it wrapped him deep in some brush. He was leaning over and trying to horse the fish out when he passed the point of no return. With Ethan's help we were able to retrieve everything he lost that day except for a pair of sunglasses. Had we not been there it could have been a much more expensive trip.
Let's talk a bit about how to help a buddy when they have a bad day.
There are two types of kayakers: those that have wiped out and those that will wipe out so these few tips may help us all in the long run. First off, don't laugh until you know they are okay! It is funny, yes, as long as it is not you in the water, but the first priority should be safety. Check them out, did they hit a rock or limb on the way in? Are there any cuts from line or any hooks impaling them? Try to reserve the laughter until after you know they are not hurt. Thankfully my friend was fine and the water temp was cool but not cold.
Next, help them get back in if they need it. Some folks are naturals at deep water reentry but some folks need some assistance. Just steadying a kayak from the other side is enough to help some anglers get back in. If that is not working well see if you can tow them to shallower water or use a bow line to form a rescue stirrup to help get them back in. My friend had never done a deep water reentry but that cool water helped him jump back in that kayak right quick!
Be observant and mark the exact location of the spill; this will assist in the recovery of gear. My friend told me where he was but I saw that he was upriver and further out than he thought. I tried to convince him of that but he was sure he knew where he was. We rigged up some weights and treble hooks and started dredging for the 3 rods he lost in his area with no luck. As soon as we moved over a bit my son hooked the first of his 3 rods. He was dumbfounded at the results but I figured he was so keyed in on the fish in the bush that he lost touch with his surroundings for a bit. After a bunch of dredging we were able to retrieve all 3 of his rods.
Lastly, learn from the experience. What happened and how can it be avoided? Can you use it as a tool to help other kayakers? I can't tell you how many lessons I have learned from more seasoned kayak anglers that have been beneficial through the years. If it helps a kayaker stay safe or keep from losing gear I want to share it with others. Hopefully these tips will help when your buddy wrecks or on that fateful day when it is your turn.