Last week Tom and Jack, two of my Canada fishing trip buddies, called me to go fishing on the Mississippi. My family is taking social distancing seriously, so I told them I could not climb into a small boat with them. However, the blue gills should be hitting at Black Deer – and if they go to Black Deer, I could join them in my canoe. Black Deer is a small channel north of town that runs parallel to the main river. By summer, it is too weedy to let fishing boats in, but April is sufficiently open.  I gave them directions to the boat landing, we met there, and then I showed them one of my favorite secret spots. 

Fishing in my spot was excellent.  The other half dozen places we tried were not. At the end of the day, we returned to the boat landing. I pulled my canoe along the outside edge of one of the docks. I got out.  I’d intended to pull my canoe along the dock all the way to shore and pull my boat onto dry land. I immediately saw, however, people fishing the entire shoreline near the dock, and there was no place to pull my boat out without disturbing them. I was going to have to climb back into my canoe and paddle to a landing area away from people.

I sometimes sit atop an ice chest in the middle of my canoe when I fish solo. Sitting in the middle keeps the boat trim front to back. Unfortunately sitting atop an ice chest puts my center of balance too high, and the canoe can be tippy. When I sat on the ice chest, it shifted slightly, and the boat started to flip. Rather than lose all of my fishing gear in a capsize, I threw myself overboard in hopes the canoe would right itself.  It did. I was over my head in icy cold water, but I had my gear – or so I thought. 

With one hand on the dock and one hand on my canoe, I dragged it to shore. I plowed right into the people fishing from shore. If I could entertain them by falling in the river, the least they could do was crank in their lines for three or four minutes while I came ashore. Most of the people looked away, and I assumed they couldn’t keep smiles off their faces. Those who did look at me had big smiles on their faces; they just didn’t care whether I saw.

As I loaded my gear in my car, I realized I was short one pole. It must have fallen out of the boat when I bailed. I knew exactly where it had to be, and I was already wet. I hit bottom when I went in, so I knew the water was just over my head. The reel had some problems and was hardly worth retrieving, but my favorite panfish rod was at the bottom of Black Deer Channel. Was it worth diving back into the cold water for?  As I stood on the dock, weighing my options, Jack showed up with a pole with a heavy daredevle on the line.  He casted out over the area where I’d dumped, and on his fourth cast, he hooked my pole and brought it up. Good thing. I was starting to shiver a little bit, and jumping back into the river might not have been an option. 

Had I not been social distancing, I would have been in a relatively large, very stable, and very comfortable Lund fishing boat. Instead I was alone in my canoe. By doing the right thing, albeit clumsily, I fell In the river. 

Steven Simpson