Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part Two

You saw the first part of this story, which amounts to me catching few fish and getting lost. So let's get to the meat of it, with the appearance of an archetype out of the proverbial mist and the catching of a large fish by me.

On my way out from the river that evening, I ran into another fisherman. The fact that he was older than me and black wouldn't matter except that he gave me advice and I'd later feel like it was the type of story we'd only read politically in lit classes these days. I asked casually if the fishing was usually any good around here, expecting "Eh. It's okay." Instead, the man told me how great it was just downstream, and what lures I should use, where I could buy the right kind of minnow, etc. It was a miraculous gift. I thought it looked good, so I knew I'd be back, but finding fish is at least half the challenge, so now I was psyched.

Just a few days after that initial adventure, I returned to the last place I had fished on the river, this time dragging my dad along on a hike that was longer and brushier than I had remembered. I dropped Dad off at the top of the run (his request) and I headed downstream to where I had caught the little bass before. I stepped out of the brush, and there was my new friend, waiting on the bank.

I squatted down next to him and we chatted a bit. He'd been there a while, and was taking a break waiting for the topwater bait to pick up. Rather than guard his hole, though, he pointed out a few spots on the far side of the river I should try, then encouraged me to take over his area. This is not the common behavior of anglers.

I waded across and made a few casts with my nightcrawler. I took a couple average fish, then I noticed the spot downstream, a place where a little eddy curled out of the main current behind a boulder, with an overhanging tree nearby. My first cast didn't quite get in far enough, and I took a decent smallie. My next one got back in the eddy and I let it drift. No big hit, just a change in the feel of the line.

I set the hook, and it was like a fantasy. I was tied into another kind of smallmouth. One full of fight and intent on frequent jumps. I panicked about my drag, which I hadn't checked, and my several-years-old line. Everything held. I considered how I had chosen to leave my net at home. I reached out and lipped the fat bass and raised him up. My friend wasn't watching. I measured him against my rod (he'd turn out to be not quite 17 inches) and put him back.

That was the most fun I'd had with a fish in a long time, but the preceding conversation really set the stage, talking about the challenge of fishing around family time and how to get out more. We exchanged our names at the end of the talk. My new friend is known simply as Monte Carlo.

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