Perhaps because of this safety overload, once outside of work, I am less inclined to overdo my own personal risk assessments. From drunken, bareback riding of random horses to standing waist deep in tropical waters trying to get close enough to a big shark to get a shot in, I tend to enjoy myself without much consideration for the potential consequences. There have been a few instances in the past year that have made me think a little harder about things though.
The first one was on the river Dee in Wales when I was momentarily swept downstream, I’ve written about this previously here. Although this ‘incident’ didn’t even result in a drop of water entering my waders it was a clear indication of the power of running water and how a seemingly controlled situation can quickly get out of hand. In hindsight I was saved from having to swim, in full fishing gear, by pure luck – the river shallowing up sufficiently for my feet to gain purchase on the river bed, allowing me to wade out as if nothing had happened.
The second incident was in the Bahamas and involved a rather large lemon shark. I was strolling along a lovely beach when I spotted a small school of bonefish, one of which I duly caught. I played the fish from the sand with the wash from the waves lapping up over my feet. It was the kind of shoreline where this wave action created a step in the slope of the beach with it dropping to around knee-deep, although this depth change was somewhat obscured by swirling, suspended sand (this patch of murky water was only about 1 metre wide). It was here that I knelt down to allow the bonefish to recover prior to releasing it. I only spotted the shark that was hunting down ‘my’ bonefish by sneaking along the step when it was less than a metre from my hands. I quickly recoiled away from the water, still holding the bonefish, and watched the 100lb plus lemon glide past with its dorsal fin now prominently visible.
As an aside, I was recently talking to a chap who was on a group trip to Exuma when one of the party got bitten by a lemon shark in similar circumstances, i.e. when releasing a bonefish (I’d previously read about this in the press). Apparently things could have been an awful lot worse, but as it was tendons in his hand were severed – and that doesn’t sound great for a future of waggling fly rods to me.
Finally, I’ve had a number of incidents whilst wading on rocks. In Jersey I stumbled twice in one day, the second of these flooding the internal pouch of my waders where my mobile phone was stored – killing it instantly. I’ve also fallen on rocks in the Bahamas, although taking a dunking there is almost a pleasurable cooling down moment. What is obvious though is how easy it would be to break an ankle or leg over such ground.
So have I changed my ways looking back at these instances? No, not really – I’ll still be wading deep on the Dee, hunting sharks in the Bahamas and rock hopping wherever there may be rocks. However perhaps I’ll be doing so with a greater appreciation of my own abilities to get myself in or out of trouble.
Stay safe, James
P.s. you may have seen in the press recently that the most dangerous fish in the UK is the dover sole. One nearly killed a beach angler recently, and only the quick actions of his mates administering CPR and the close proximity of an ambulance crew with a defibrillator saved his life. Who’d have thought a pocket-sized flatfish could possess ninja fighting skills that could kill? Some hazards are more obvious than others, clearly.