When I went to school, and for years after, I’d have a reoccurring dream in which I’d go to class and discover, to my horror, an important paper hadn’t been turned in or a big test was scheduled that I hadn’t studied for.
The helpless feeling and fear of the results were overpowering. The empty, desolate emotions such dreams brought remained in my subconscious for days.
Nor were such nightmares absent from my outdoor activities. Many times I’d dream a huge gobbler was strutting in from of me and despite me shoving with all my might the safety wouldn’t slip off or the shotgun fell to pieces in my hands.
Big bucks escaped often during these nocturnal tortures, the bolt handle falling off, the scope disintegrating or the trigger freezing in place. Since hunting was of the upmost importance to me and because the bucks were always record book these disturbing dreams seemed to fore-ordain the fates were against me.
On the bright side, I occasionally had dreams in which I was successful and bagged a trophy or huge fish of some type or another. The joy and happiness I felt was sweet, but upon awakening I realized it was only another dream, but at least a happy one.
Every fishermen has fantasies of catching a monster fish, impossibly large. It keeps you going, knowing that the unlikely might take really place, much like winning the lottery. Also, experience has shown almost every dedicated fisherman does tie into one of these leviathans sometime during their lifetime, though they seldom land them.
Their names are in the records books, their pictures appear in newspapers and magazine and even on lure packages. Even if it isn’t a record-book fish, the unusually large ones allow you a certain status and renown among your friends. Yes, any cast it might happen, the chance exists.
When the thaw and rain hit a couple weeks ago I was cutting firewood. It was Monday and the streams were rising. My thoughts immediately turned to fishing; here was a little winter window of warmer weather that might raise the streams enough to stir up the big ones. I determined to fish the next morning.
I awoke around 5, filled the woodstove and went back to bed, but couldn’t sleep. Before 6 I was back up and in the dark, foreboding morning fishing didn’t seem like such a great idea. I hesitated, indecisive as what to do. Oh, the drag of age. In my youth the thought of skipping a fish trip would never even have entered my mind. This realization fired me up a bit.
Dang it, I’m going, despite the long drive!
My gear was already in the trunk, it seldom if ever leaves, so I skipped breakfast, chugged some water, dressed warmly and hit the road, the headlights cutting through the predawn gloom.
When I finally arrived at the pulloff I was relieved the snow was unbroken, not a tire track cut the parking lot or footprint showed on the path to the stream. I grabbed my equipment and hustled down to the water. The stream, to my surprise, was clear, but high. I’d hoped it would be cloudy, but yesterday’s rainfall hadn’t been heavy. At least the stream was up and flowing swiftly.
I immediately walked to the biggest pool. If the fish were moving 1 or more would be holding here. Positioning myself at the best spot I began quartering the pool. After several minutes I cast up into the rapids at the head of the pool and as the silver blade came in sight I saw a nice brown trout turn and quickly follow it. It saw me, though, and turned away. Drat.
The wind started blowing and since the temperature was only in the low 30’s my hands quickly became uncomfortable. Since the stream was icy cold from the snowmelt the fish would be a little lethargic, maybe I should switch to a small crankbait, allowing a slower retrieve. But, did I really want to cut the spinner off and retie? My fingers were hurting already. Well, forget the fingers and just do it.
New lure on, I began casting using a much slower retrieve with an occasional pause. The second cast the lure jolted to a stop. A hit!
I snapped up the 7-foot UL and felt my knees tremble, when a huge, white belly rolled and bucked. I gasped and the 4-pound line felt like gossamer as the weight and unbelievable power of this fish flowed into my hands, the rod doubled over and throbbing.
What was it? Then the fish came up and rolled again and I saw the broad red and silver side of a giant rainbow. Oh, my word! My eyes simply couldn’t believe I had a fish that large on. I gulped, prayed and began talking to myself, trying to keep calm.
“If the fish is well hooked and you don’t panic or horse him, you have a chance, keep cool.” I was literally a little scared of this fish.
For 10 minutes the huge trout stubbornly sulked, then unexpectedly made lighting quick runs across and down the stream. It was incredible how strong it was and how rapidly it stripped off 100 feet of line, the drag screaming in protest. All I could do was hold on, every nerve stretched to the breaking point.
The rainbow then began moving upstream and as I tenderly kept the pressure on it came into sight across the stream. When we made eye contact the fish shot to the top of the hole, his rush threatening to pull the light pole from my hands. A sunken log lay in the rapids and I was forced to raise my rod as high as possible and pull upward to discourage her.
Surprisingly, the light, additional pressure stopped her and she turned, going deep. She bulled around several rocks, the line scraping; my heart was in my mouth, but the light line held and after 20 minutes the trout was in front of me.
No doubt she was tiring and hope gleamed. Then the worst part of any battle with a big fish. At least 10 times I had her at my feet. The front hook had worked free, only the rear held tenuously. Ten times she flopped wildly and rushed back out into the current. Now the tension was unbearable, now’s the time most fish are lost.
My net was too small, but I led her into it and lifted. Only her front third was in and she flopped crazily, the repaired net rim cracked, the hooks snagged in the meshes.
Instantly, I dropped her back in the water and used the net to push her against the shore, put my waders against her sides, stuck a trembling hand in her gills and tossed the huge fish onto the snowy bank.
Shaking all over I stared and stared. Was it possible I’d really landed this trout, that this time it wasn’t a dream? I reached out and touched her and then the realization this was all real burst like the sun over me. My soul swelled with pure emotion, an intense joy that seemed to lift me off the ground.
Thank you, dear Lord, what a gift!