Whereas many people view the fishing TV business as this glamorous, playboy-like lifestyle, most are clueless as to how totally opposite it really is, and how much effort and dollars are required to put together a single episode, let alone an entire season. It’s a real “eye opener” for a lot of folks who try to jump into the business, only to find all this out the hard way! But I will admit that when lady luck is riding with you, it seems you can’t do anything to shake her free; On some shoots, the fishing and weather are remarkable, and everything simply falls into place. Then, of course, there’s the flip side of that very same coin, and when things go wrong, they sometimes really, really go wrong!
A case in point was a TV episode we set forth to do several years ago in Oriental, North Carolina. I was going fishing with friend and premier coastal North Carolina guide - Captain Gary Dubiel, for the trophy red drum that migrate into the Neuse River. Mako had shipped up my inshore boat, a Mako 171, at the time. I flew up from Fort Lauderdale with the production team, and we stayed at a condo owned by a friend of a friend. As bad luck would have it, the wind was really blowing, forcing us to postpone the first day of shooting. The second day wasn’t much better, but we set forth anyway, since we were now up against a ticking “clock”.
ROCKING AND ROLLING - We dropped anchor in the rolling slop, pitched out four baits, and waited. Typically, the action with 20- to 40-pound red drum can be excellent; Well, either the fish weren’t “in” or we weren’t on the “right” spot – or perhaps it was even a combination of the two, but we couldn’t buy a strike – save for a runt of a drum that would have made for embarrassing fish TV. The winds kicked up even more on the final day, causing us to throw in the proverbial towel. We were done.
Now, when a shoot goes bad, it’s not a good thing for the production budget; There are travel expenses and the production team gets paid, but you walk away with no show. You must now go back and reschedule a shoot to take the place of the one you just lost, which equates to more time on the road and another round of expenses. But, hey, it’s the nature of the beast.
Dejected, we all turned in early for the night, as we had a 7:00 a.m. flight home the following morning. I was first to rise the next day, so I showered, dressed and went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. The two production team members also made it down for a cup of coffee.
GLASS VERSUS FLESH - Being a “neat” freak, and also respectful of the property of others, I became a little irked when my team left dirty coffee cups in the sink. So, I proceeded to wash them. After washing and drying the first cup, I was reaching to put it away in the cupboard, when I began losing my grip. I squeezed the handle in an attempt to regain control, but, in turn, “popped” the cup free from its handle! I instinctively – and unsuccessfully - chased the cup downward with my hand, hoping to keep it from shattering on the granite counter (somehow, my mind didn’t register that the cup was already “broken”).
The cup hit the counter and shattered. What’s worse, is that one large broken piece of glass flew back up, as my hand was racing downward. That broken piece of glass and my wrist met forcefully. I felt a sharp, deep pain, only to look down and see my badly severed wrist. Blood had not yet begun to “flow”, so I had a very good and disturbing look at my tendon - and even a bone.
Trying to keep my cool and not freak out, I calmly showed the wound to my crew and asked: “Think I can bandage this up and get back home”, to which one promptly answered: “No”. I countered: “Is it that bad?”, to which he replied: “YES!”. Fortunately, my guest angler, Gary, was a nurse by profession, so we immediately called him at 5:30 a.m. He came over, had a look, and said he needed to take me to the hospital. I sent the rest of the team home, whereas Gary and I took a drive to the hospital.
ANOTHER EMERGENCY ROOM - Gary got me right in, the “perks” of working at that hospital. Best yet, is that I waited only minutes before a doctor introduced himself and had a look. He explained that the wound was “very bad” and that he would have to call in a surgeon to take care of it. He also said my tendon was severed and that I would likely need months of extensive rehabilitation to regain “some” of the use of my right hand. Hearing that, I nearly sunk into a state of depression. I thought: “That’s it! “This is how my career has ended”. It was a very depressing and scary thought. The only thing that kept me somewhat sane throughout all this was that I have a very good disability policy. But, still, that was little consolation for losing most of the usage of my right hand. That would pretty much be it for any kind of serious fishing. I just laid there, dejected. By the expression on Gary’s face, I sensed he knew exactly how I felt.
THE GOOD DOCTOR - About an hour later, in walks the Surgeon. He was a friendly chap and, best yet, a fisherman. He took a long look at my hand. During the process he asked me to move my fingers, which I did. He said, “I’ve some great news - you didn’t severe your tendon, you just barely nicked it.” He went on to explain that this “cut” was so perfect, that it could never be duplicated again, to where I just missed my vital arteries, veins and tendons. My “mood” swung 180-degrees!
Some four hours and 40-stitches later, I was released from the hospital, with the prognosis that I would have full use of my hand in less than six weeks – save for a removable cast I had to wear during that time. This guy was A-OK, in my book!
The next challenge I faced that day - albeit very insignificant compared to what I had just gone through – was getting back home. We booked our air tickets at “non-refundable” prices, and I knew I’d likely have to splurge for a new full fare ticket to get home. Before I left the hospital, I asked the Doctor if he would mind writing a note to the airlines, explaining my situation and asking if there were any “courtesies” that could be extended. He happily wrote a note. So off to the airport I go, with a hand/wrist bandage the size of a boxing glove, a “Doctor’s note” and a prescription for pain killers.
WINE ME UP - I presented the Doctor’s note to the airline representative at the counter. She explained how there shouldn’t be a problem with me getting on a flight. I then asked if there’s anyway she could move me to “First Class”, since I had gone through so much that day (hey, might as well “milk” it for all it’s worth!). To my surprise, she did!
Here I was, sitting in an extra-wide leather seat and with my right arm propped up to keep the blood from flowing to it and the pain and “throbbing” to a minimum. I had never taken a pain pill in my life, and this “pain” wasn’t bad enough for me to start now. I crumbled up the prescription and asked the flight attendant if they had red wine. They did. So, to “ease” the pain, relax and reminisce about what the hell happened to me that day, I did have a couple glasses of wine during the flight home!
What a trip that was. And it never made it to TV!
The ironic thing of it all, is that so many people view offshore fishing as a dangerous sport. Yet, it was a coffee cup that nearly did me in!