My first fishing experience didn’t happen until I was 11. I was introduced on my first overnight camping trip as a boy scout. We went camping near a mountain lake in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver.
We got up early, got to the lakes edge around sunrise and were fishing away. Being young scouts, most of us didn’t have any of our own gear so our scout leader broke open is tackle box and identified the lures we could use (obviously they were the “its’ okay if I never see them again” lures). A quick instruction about knots and casting and we were off.
Me and another scout, now a Major in the Air Force, had to share one of our leaders old rods. I began. After several casts with nothing to show for it, my leader informed me that one of the reasons he let us use that lure is because it was the one lure in the box he had never caught anything with.
I almost immediately gave up and handed the rod to my buddy, Ty, who was eager to prove to the leader that it’s the fisherman, not the lure that makes the difference. He is so naive, I thought.
Not expecting much, we all turned our attention to other people. But shortly after his first cast, he is jumping around trying to get help with the fish on his line. Unbelievable. One cast and he caught something with a useless lure. Turns our, the lure truly was useless. He had in fact caught a nice lake trout by hooking the gill. Dumb luck.
He was so excited about his success that he quickly got the fish off the hook and onto the stringer and was ready for another cast. He apparently didn’t hear me when I told him to wait. I was standing right behind him.
At first, I just thought some large insect had bounced off my cheek. It wasn’t until Ty started wildly waving the rod around to try and see his line in the water that I realized that it was his lure, still covered with fish guts, and it was connected to my face about 1/2″ below my right eye.
At first it didn’t hurt much, but before long it was throbbing. I don’t know if it was the velocity of the cast, or the waving of the rod, but 2 of the tri-hook prongs were deeply set in my cheek and we were hours away from professional medical help.
My leader and I decided that the best course of action was to have him take the hooks out there at camp and then I could get to a doctor later that evening when the trip was over. No big deal, he thought.
With the barbs and how deep the hooks were implanted, he couldn’t quite figure out a good way to pull the hooks out backwards so he decided to clip the individual hooks off with wire cutters and push the hooks through. I knew I was in trouble when the pain from him just trying to cut the hooks ripped through my face.
Well, after many tears, screaming and some blood, I had 4 nice holes in my face. For about a year and a half afterwords, those four holes served as a reminder every time I looked into the mirror, don’t stand behind the guy with the rod.