Intro: My son Jimmie recently had an encounter with a set of treble hooks, so I suppose it runs in the family. As he described his hook-up, it reminded me of this old article I wrote – which unfortunately is true. It’s an oldie, but hopefully worth reading again.
Sometimes a fisherman has a day he’d just as soon forget. I’ve had many of those days, but one in particular stands out.
I had volunteered to take Jon Prather, a second year at UVA, on a trip to the Rivanna River. I said I’d show him a few things about fishing, which he is now trying hard to forget.
We would be wading near Milton, a nice stretch with some decent smallmouth. I tied on a Rebel Wee Craw and immediately hooked a few fish. Jon threw a Rapala and also had success. We had been fishing for about an hour when I hooked and landed a chub.
Chubs are trash fish. They are inedible, for one thing, and slippery and slimy for another. Their mouths are as tough as a garden hose. I grabbed my catch and started tugging on the tiny Wee Craw hooks. Why they make them so small, I’ll never know. While struggling for leverage, the fish made a sudden move and I found that Mr. Chub had transferred ownership of said treble hooks from his jaw to my left hand. The hooks were buried.
Casually, I strolled over to my young companion and asked if he was having any more luck and did he perhaps know anything about removing hooks from hands. Jon said that, unfortunately, he was a physics major, not a pre-med student.
But then I remembered an article I once read describing a method of hook extraction by using a shoestring to relieve the pressure on the barb, which allowed the hook to simply fall out.
I took off the shoelace from my left tennis shoe and we began the process.
“I think it’s push down on the hook, tug, then pull,” I advised my attending physician. Jon did as instructed and dragged me several feet along the riverbank.
The screaming lasted only a few seconds, but the pain would continue for several days.
“Maybe it’s pull, push and then tug?” Jon recalculated. “Wanna try again?”
“No thanks. You keep fishing, I’ll go to the emergency room, they’ll pop it out and I’ll be back in an hour,” I said.
I was still soaking wet as I sloshed into the emergency room with one stringless tennis shoe flopping along.
“Does anybody here know how to take out a fish hook?” I queried.
They had to admit me. Temperature, blood pressure, pulse, family history. Everything. Then I was led down a hall and put in a stall and told to lie down and wait. A certain Dr. Orlick found me dripping all over a cot covered by what was once a white sheet.
I assured the young doctor that I was an accomplished fisherman and this was a freak accident. I then asked if he knew the formula for the shoestring method of hook extraction.
“I’ve never done it before, but one of the guys at Orvis showed me,” he said. “I’ll numb the finger first, then we’ll try.”
In a few minutes, after the fire in the tip of my middle digit subsided, the numbed finger slumped over into a fetal position and was of no particular use the rest of the day.
The doctor pushed down on the hook and popped it right out with some line.
In ten minutes, I was fishing again. I wish the story ended there, but it doesn’t.
I resumed fishing, using four of my five performing fingers, but wasn’t having much luck. I looked in my box for a change of lures. Another Wee Craw? Hey, it worked before, so I tied it on and immediately caught fish. Smallmouth, perch, bream, what a great lure, and now it was time to go. But first, one last cast. I had a strike. It was another chub, this one a little larger.
Once again I grabbed the slimy fish and once again the fish made a sudden wiggle and voila! In 40 years of fishing I had never had a hook in my hand. Now, within an hour and a half, I had skewered myself twice.
But wait! I now knew how to use the shoestring method. I had seen it done.
“Put the string under the hook, push down on top and pull it out,” I carefully instructed.
Jon pushed, then pulled and drug me almost into the river. The treble hooks held fast. It was back to the emergency room where I was re-admitted. My temperature and family history were the same, but my blood pressure was now off the charts. Again, I sloshed down the hall. I knew exactly where to go, and plopped on the new clean sheets.
Dr. Orlick was still on duty. Shaking his head in disbelief, he used the line and popped the hook out quickly without having to numb the finger. I guess he figured stupid people didn’t require but so much novocaine.
With a sense of utter humilty and embarrassment, I slinked down the hall for the second time, tennis shoe still flopping, and bade farewell to all my friends.
“Will you be coming again, Mr. Brewer,” asked the nurse on call.
“I hope not. I certainly hope not.”
There is a valuable lesson to be learned from my experience. A Rebel Wee Craw is a very good lure for catching chubs.