I was out on a quest for some late season reds and specks, and was having a decent afternoon, tagging a good number of fish for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s Game Fish Tagging Program. The day was unseasonably warm and my mind was wandering as I trolled a small jig over an oyster bottom.
The spinning rod stuck in my right rear flush holder was my favorite, a companion dating back to my childhood, serving faithfully in my arsenal for as long as I can remember. As I took a leisurely paddle stroke, in the blink of an eye, the rod bounced twice and sprung out of the holder. I looked back in disbelief, and futilely lunged backwards as the rod sank slowly out of sight. Over the years, I’d lost plenty of gear in the depths, but never a rod.
“B”: The handiwork of 10-year-old me with a magnifying glass
Losing any item overboard is painful. We are reminded of our stupidity whether the offering to Poseidon is a knife, a piece of tackle, or a cell phone. In this case, the rod was an Ugly Stik and the companion reel a Wave ZTR—from a cost perspective, this was much better than one of my flyrods going into the drink (I’m primarily a fly guy, as the quality of my conventional gear shows). I was bummed about the reel because I was in the midst of compiling a review, but this disappointment paled in comparison to the despair of losing my trusty Ugly Stik.
Retaining my composure, I cut the rig from my other outfit and tied a MirrOLure directly to the 20 lb. braid for a dredging operation. The water was approximately 5 feet deep, but murky, and I was somewhat optimistic about recovering the outfit. After half an hour of collecting oyster shells, I managed to snag the line of the lost combo. I couldn’t believe my luck. In an excited stupor, I reeled tight to the jighead instead of simply paddling over and grabbing the line. It practically goes without saying that as I reeled myself over, the MirrOLure and jig parted ways.
The rod and me in happier times
A string of my expletives echoed across the water and I sat dumbfounded, looking at the setting sun with a sinking heart. I continued the search for the next 45 min., alternatively casting and trolling the MirrOLure. My foul mood was interrupted by a familiar thump: a small redfish, which wasn’t deterred by the lack of leader. Despite the interruption in my search, I smiled as I tagged the fish and set it free.
By this point, daylight was rapidly waning and I resigned myself to a few more casts before making the long paddle back to the ramp. A retrieve here, a retrieve there, and I had nothing to show but more oyster shells. Another cast, another drag, and there was an odd resistance, followed by the unmistakable tug of a fish. My MirrOLure soon emerged from the water, hooked to a wildly dancing strand of braid.
My mouth fell agape and I held the rod aloft with one hand and awkwardly paddled closer with the other. When my fingers closed around the braid, my face broke into what must’ve been the biggest grin I’d displayed in all year. Inexplicably, I first pulled in the fish by hand—another small red. My jig was hooked squarely in the corner of its mouth. Only then did I gingerly retrieve my favorite rod, hand over hand. I tagged the red and sent it on its way, feeling victorious.
Rescued rod, red, rescuer rod, in nest of braid
And that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . .