Tale with a hook and a sting

fishing lines
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The Independent Online
IT IS hard to believe that fishing is right up there with cliff- diving, motor-racing and plague rat-catching in the dangerous sports league. But it's quite astonishing how many people are killed or seriously injured while dangling a line.

The dangers of piranha- or shark-fishing are obvious. Quite a few people are drowned every year, or wave carbon rods under power lines and get frizzled. Some people grasp poisonous fish or have heart attacks after catching a big 'un. Then there are bizarre incidents like the angler who was pulled in by a marlin, or the Russian who tied the line round his foot, went to sleep in the sun and was drowned by a giant catfish.

The most common injury inevitably involves hooks. Some while ago, there was considerable debate in the doctors' magazine GP about the best way to remove hooks. The consensus seemed to be attaching a piece of string and yanking. This is the sort of caring treatment you would expect to find in Sadists' Monthly, and it's about as medically advanced as removing a tooth by attaching string to a doorknob. Certainly, the angler who appeared at an outpatients department last week, clad only in swimming trunks, must have been praying that the duty doctor was behind in his technical reading.

The fisherman in question was after carp on a lake at Reading, in Berkshire. It was a warm day, and he had stripped down to his swimming trunks. Suddenly a big fish took his bait. After several minutes, he brought the carp close enough to net, but the hook pulled free. The line was under severe tension, the hook shot out of the fish's mouth - and into the angler's, er, lower waist.

It was a pretty big hook, more than an inch long, and it was lodged as firmly as a donkey in a carrot factory. lt also hurt like hell. There was no question of following the traditional unhooking manoeuvre (GPs please note), which involves pulling the hook point right through the skin, cutting off point and barb, and pulling it back out the way it entered.

Any such fumbling would only have resulted in the hook becoming more deeply embedded. Cutting the line but leaving the hook in, he packed his (fishing) tackle away, carried it painfully to the car, and headed for hospital, still clad in swimming trunks. His arrival in outpatients, I am told, created quite a stir. Much as he tried to whisper his predicament to the nurse on reception, she appeared to be deaf. He had to shout, which caused all those who had been reading two-year-old copies of Reader's Digest to turn around and gawp.

It can't be easy to look calm and unembarrassed when you're sitting in a crowded outpatients in your swimming trunks, with a large hook stuck in your todger. Word had spread through the hospital, and when eventually it was his turn for treatment, several nurses were there to offer assistance. A hole was cut in his swimming trunks, and the medical staff pondered, with barely concealed mirth, how best to treat it. It's strange how jokes like "Your thing's got a bit of a hook to it" don't seem half so funny when you're in a room full of young nurses.

Finally the decision was made. "We've got to cut it off," they said. "The hook, of course," they added, having seen his face change from red to white. And that's what happened. The hook shank was cut. With a splodge of local anaesthetic and some forceps, the rest of the hook was teased out. That wasn't the end of his misery. He had to be bandaged up, and then remind the nurse that unless the hospital lent him more suitable garb, he would have to walk back to his car with his bandaged member sticking through a hole in his swimming trunks.

So, the angler didn't die. He said his experience was far worse.

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