Monday, February 9, 2009

How to enjoy fishing with a bad back

Bill Baughman
Virtually everybody at some point in their lives will suffer a back injury.

That's the grim lesson I've discovered since badly injuring my back about eight years ago.

I spent the next six years in severe back pain but now, thankfully, I'm back to being pain-free nearly 100 per cent of the time. I won't bore you with how I did it but if you're interested just drop me an e-mail and I'd be more than happy to relate the actions I took that helped me.

In those six years I learned a whole bunch about how to go fishing with a bad back and I thought I would mention some of it here.

For starters, know that it can be done: you can have a bad back and still have a great time fishing. It just takes some planning and, perhaps, some modification of your habits.

I'll assume you are doing all you can at home to get your back in shape and pick up the story about the time you get into the vehicle to drive up here.

If you are like me, sitting for long periods such as when driving is a killer. So, as they used to say on Hee Haw, if it hurts when you do that then don't do that! Stop every hour and get out for a short walk and stretch. Won't that take forever to drive here then? No, it will take 5-10 minutes longer per hour than it did before. There's no rush. The fish will still be here. Just make sure you're in good shape when you arrive at the dock in Red Lake.

Before you leave home, make sure you bring any medicine you need, plus four soft-compress cold packs that can be frozen again and again. Also bring an electric heating pad and extension cord.

OK, now you're at the dock and ready to board the Lickety Split to camp. The trip to camp is going to take about 35 minutes, in good weather. If you're concerned about the boat bouncing and jarring your back then sit near the stern. There's no wave movement back there. You can also stand inside the cabin of the boat. That's usually the best option: stand and hold on to the hand rail near the back of the cabin. I've got a bad back and I'm standing at the front of the boat where it's bumpiest and I'm fine.

Once we're at camp and you've let the young whipper snappers carry the heavy luggage to the cabins, it's time to go fishing! Put two of your freezer packs in the cabin fridge freezer and take two in a small cooler with you on the boat. You might want to take a couple cans of pop or bottles of water with you in the same cooler.

Our boats all have swivel seats with padded backrests. Most people find them comfortable as is, but if it's not right for you, let us know and we'll give you some seat cushions or even change seats in the boat for you.

You will probably want to be the boat driver as you will be sitting at the stern which, again, offers the smoothest ride when going over waves. However, whether you're the driver or not, make sure to slow down when there are waves. Nobody likes to have their vertebrae compressed by a rough ride in a boat.

All of our 20 hp Honda four-stroke outboards are easy starting but we also have some electric start models that start with a push of a button. If you have a bad back, let us know in advance and we'll reserve an electric start motor for you.

As you fish, put your ice pack between your back and backrest. Stand up as often as you like. There's no danger in capsizing the boat by standing and fishing.

If you have difficulty getting out of the boat, use the spot we have where you can hold on to hand rails while stepping out. You're buddy can then take the boat over to your own dock. (With any kind of a break we might have several of these "haul-out" places next summer.)

Back at the cabin, find the chair that fits you best. If none of them does then let us know. We've got various models of chairs in the cabins and we'll find one that is comfortable for you.

If you need it, hook up the heating pad. You might also want to have a beer, or two, just to relax.

But I'm guessing I didn't need to tell you that part.

If you are coming on the American Plan, know that we recently got all new dining room chairs and purposely chose them for how comfortable they are for people with bad backs.

Finally, know you're not alone out there. In fact, you may be in the majority.

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