The Big One That Got Away

It had been a slow day fishing and we hadn’t caught a thing. My husband and I were heading back to the car when we heard an excited shout: “Hey, come back!” We turned to see a shaggy-haired man with a red beard, whom we had visited with that day, motioning at us to come back to the pier.

We hurried back and he was holding out his fishing pole for me to take. “I saw this fella jump up and he’s an old one. He wouldn’t be good for eatin’. I don’t want him. You want to try to land him?”

“I sure would! Thanks!” I said, as I grabbed the pole. Although I had only met this man that morning, after three hours of fishing near him he had come to learn that I’d always wanted to catch a big fish. (Up until this day, my greatest fishing experience had been catching a two-pound carp from the bottom of Lake Mojave when I was 12 years old.)

I followed all the advice my fishermen comrades eagerly gave me. “Reel in as you move the pole down to the water, then pull back,” my husband said. “Let him run with it for a while. You can tire him out that way,” said Red Beard. I reeled in and pulled back and let that big ol’ fish run as much as he wanted. A half hour of all that and he was getting closer to the pier. I saw him jump out of the water several times. Someone said it was a Chinook salmon. Unlike my fishing mentor with the red beard, I couldn’t tell anything about this fish’s age, but I could tell he was big-he was as long as a bathtub and as big around as a football! And I was catching him!

After nearly forty minutes of fighting, my arms were getting tired and I was hoping Monstro was also getting tired. He was very near the pier now, because all the fishermen were becoming electrified. One angler held a big fish net, ready to scoop him up when I got him close enough. My husband was getting the camera ready. Others were standing around cheering me on.

As he got within a pole’s length from us, we all thought I had him, but abruptly I noticed everything got quiet in the water around the pole. I tugged on the pole and it took just seconds for me to realize my prize had escaped. Red Beard explained what happened. It seems there was a big power cable in the water running between the pilings on the pier and Moby must have swam over and around that cable to snap the line. He got away with the hook still in him.

I was very disappointed, of course. There went my hope of catching a big fish. But now, twenty years later, I enjoy thinking about how that old fella outsmarted all of us. What’s even better than a salmon dinner, is to be able to talk about the big one that got away.

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