by Dan Marranca
Even at the young age of twelve, my friends and I were avid fisherman. We would often tie our fishing rods to our bicycle frames and ride down to the Hamilton Bay to try our luck. Could you imagine the excitement when one of our friends mentioned that we should try spearfishing!
It was spring and the fish would be spawning in all the creeks and streams flowing into Lake Ontario. However, we were ill-equipped. Most of us couldn’t afford chest waders or proper spears. We made our own spears by driving four nails through a block of wood and attaching the wood block to a broom stick. My closest friend had chest waders and the rest of us used our knee-high rubber winter boots. So off we went. One of our fathers dropped us off at Bronte Creek early one morning and said he would be back at 4pm to pick us up.
With the spring runoff, the water was high, fast, cold and murky. We stayed close to the bank, wandering in as far a possible without soaking our feet because of our knee high boots. We couldn’t see any fish because of the murky water and consequently by 1pm hadn’t speared any fish. The four of us came to a spot in the creek were a tree had fallen over the river. My best friend with the chest waders thought the fishing would be much better on the other side of the creek, so he straddled along the fallen tree to the opposite bank. All of us protested because he would be too far from the rest of us if anything were to happen. He ignored us and proceeded. It took only minutes before our protests rang true. My best friend stepped into an unforeseen hole and his waders were quickly filling up with water and dragging him under. He was unable to slip off the suspenders because of the fast flowing water weighing him down and pulling him downstream!
The three of us on the opposite bank were helpless. We tried throwing branches at him so he could float on them, as we chased him downriver, but to no avail. In seconds he was swept under the water, his head bobbed up once and we all heard our friend cry out in panic! It was at that moment that God intervened in our lives to make us act in a way we never thought possible. I jumped into the creek, and as fast as I could, swam to the middle of the raging current, reached under the water and blindly caught hold of a suspender strap. Miraculously, I pulled my friend up enough to get his head above the water. He was in shock and gasping for air and I was slowly able to pull him to shore. We were all screaming and crying and angry at him for doing something so irresponsible. We all built a small fire on shore to help dry out, which didn’t help much but did attract the attention of a conservation officer who told us how very lucky we were and kindly waited with us until our ride came at 4pm.
Some say that as Catholics we have blind faith. I ran into that creek blindly that day but I truly believe that it was God who helped me to reach under that water to rescue my friend from certain death. Only looking back in retrospect, I believe that my faith and hope in God moved me to act on that spring day. As we grew and matured, we fished and hunted together often as friends. However, none of us ever went spearfishing again!