Monday, October 26, 2009

Fish of a lifetime?

Two friends in recent days have emailed or called me with reports of their "fish of a lifetime". David called me on a Sunday morning with the news that he had landed and released a huge (8.25lb) Calico Bass that, had he decided to keep it and submit it, would have been a new fly rod world record. Jamie emailed me with a picture of a 30lb plus Permit that was made all the more special because he was on a treasured fishing trip with his Dad. What defines a "fish of a lifetime"? Is it the size of the fish or the circumstances under which the fish is captured. Both of these guys will cherish the memory of that special catch, but for different reasons. I guess what I am saying is that a "fish of a lifetime" is what you dream it to be. I remember one special "fish of a lifetime".
Fifteen years ago I was fishing with my young family on the wonderful Williamson River in South Eastern Oregon. My oldest son, Chris, was about 10 or 11 at the time and was already a skilled fly fisherman. It was early morning and the river was shrouded in a fine mist that was penetrating and cold. The water was an even 57 degrees and the fish were not cooperating. I had waded out into the cold currents and Chris was positioned down-current from me with his short 5 wt rod. We were high-stick nymphing in search of some of the giant rainbows that migrate up from Klamath Lake to seek sanctuary in the icy currents of the Williamson. The very cool air temp and the icy currents combined to start Chris' teeth chattering and I was concerned that it would deteriorate into hypothermia.
"Go back to the tent and warm up" I told him and, despite his protestations, he complied disappearing into the campground toward our tent. I continued fishing my way down the wide run covering the water with successive fan casts that covered the holding water thoroughly.
I became aware of a disturbance to my right and turned to discover Chris wading out toward my position. My first inclination was to scold him for not following directions but the look on his face made me pause. I remembered wanting a fish that badly. Wanting to please my dad, wanting something sooo much that I was willing to face whatever came along to get there.
Tears welled in my eyes as I watched this determined kid brave the cold currents in search of a trout. I choked down my feelings and coached him on how to position his cast to get the best angle on the run below him. And, inside, I prayed to the fish Gods to smile on this little angler and give him a strike. My prayers were answered within seconds as a 20" rainbow slammed his Hares Ear wet fly with a savage boil and a twisting acrobatic run and then stayed pinned long enough to slide into the net. A pure silver hen fish lay gleaming in the net, but I could only see the face of that little boy and the pride of his accomplishment through a blur of my tears.
A fish of a lifetime is what you make of it. Get out there!