If life is all about calculated risks then I must be pretty at maths.
The fishing situation in Thailand
Recently the weather in Thailand has been a little abnormal. It’s July but the seasonal monsoons are a little scarcer than usual and to make things worse, the government is so afraid of last year’s super flood reoccurring that they are 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 means less vegetation, less vegetation means no where to make spawning nests, no spawning nests means less new fish. But, there is still some silver lining to the slow 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.
The water upstream was, during my visit, both clear and rapid. Usually we’d wait until the rainy season was over to go there so going there in the middle of July really was something different. The stream itself continued all the way until the Burmese border. Boat trip there would take about 7 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 before in the blink of an eye. Unlike fishing 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 Mytherbusters and there was a sexy intelligent redhead making things explode involved.
I’ve recently taken up to 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 amazingly made 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 character. As he taught her the art of fencing he exlaims, “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 scene popped up in my head.
The poor thing has never caught a fish and now it is to die a death one 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 B300 (about USD$9.5) Rapala lure but I had a plan to minimize the risk.
KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS.
After several stupid attempts of just “going in and try to grab the lure” and getting washed downstream, I gave the idea a bit of thought.
Having done some white water rafting before I was familiar with the 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 my 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 into where the lure had snagged.
The short walk up took a little longer than expected. One 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. Eventually I made it, after several slips and knee-slamming-into-rock moments. 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 of lines of grabbing onto the big log with one hand and undoing the lure with the other while the rapids try to force the rest of my body downstream. Yup. Ingenious plan. Even Bear Grylls would be impressed by this level of quick thinking (sarcasm).
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 would be hard to fully capture the conclusion of this story.