A new breed of fisher-persons
By ANDREW J. CREMATA
Her memories are not complete. Like a dream that enters our mind throughout the day in fragments of images she can recall her first time. She was on the catwalk of the bridge with her mother and uncle. The heat of the sun was bearing down. While everyone else had been catching fish she had only been successful at eating an ice cream cone, half of which now stuck to her T-shirt. Her fishing pole was small. The perfect outfit for a six year old complete with a decal of Snoopy, himself fishing, on the tiny reel.
It was getting downright hot, and as the day advanced the shade from the bridge slowly shrunk until the only spot left was back against the cement structure. Her uncle was busy a few feet away and her mother sat by her side holding her own rod, both extended to the rail with lines down in water.
There was a jerk. She jumped up and started reeling, her mother coaching her to no avail. She was just going to bring that fish in all by herself, and thatís exactly what she did. Years later, she would recall this story and learn the truth behind her first fish.
While she was eating her ice cream the fish had been placed on the hook by her uncle. When she started fishing again her mother gave the line a tug while she looked away and so the story goes.
This little girl is now my wife. She has discovered that fishing can be just as much fun when you know how to do the catching on your own. And so she does, frequently with better results that her old man.
Now I can claim that everything she knows I taught her. Or she is only lucky because she is using my gear but that would be skirting the issue. Sometimes the best fisherman is not a man at all.
Then there is Mary who has a few memories of fishing with her father when she was very small, but never caught a fish. In fact, it has been so long since she gave it a go that she doesnít even know how to cast.
Or at least she didn't until we went out a couple weeks ago with another girl Kelly who has hooked fish on her own but the men on the boat wouldnít let her reel it in.
For all of you women who have had a man do this to you remember that we are just trying to hold onto the last thing we still feel like weíre better than you at. I mean, can't we at least have this?
The perfect wife, with the perfect catch.
Obviously not, let me explain.
We got a nice spot to fish on the bridge. It was a rare day this summer, the wind was barely blowing, and the sun was out but not too hot. It was just right, and so the lines went in the water. We were all quiet. It was still early and I was a mesmerized by the swallows zipping in and out from under the bridge. Kelly was next to the rail looking over and Mary sat in a chair doing her homework with the rod stuck under her lap, the end barely reaching the rail.
I looked over and Maryís rod was twitching. Her head was buried deep in a book about American politics, writing notes frantically like she may have a big test in an hour.
"You're getting a bite Mary." I said.
"Huh?" She replied, still writing.
"A fish, you have a fish."
"What?" Her eyes were squinting trying to adjust to me.
"Pull back!" I yelled, "C'mon, pull back!"
She dropped her books and let out a short yell while setting the hook in a determined yet confused way.
"What do I do now?" She cried, "What do I do?"
"Reel him in." I said.
I have to admit I was impressed. She fought the fish like an old pro. Pull up, and then reel down. This was no small fish either; it was taking line intermittently and putting a strain on the 10-pound line. She had it under control and it wasnít too long that we were landing the fish on the shore.
I pulled it from the water. It was a nice lake trout with a beautiful blue spotted hue and orange highlights on the fins. As I carried it toward Mary I noticed something protruding from the side of the fish. "ìOh my god, a worm!" I thought to myself trying to hide the offensive side of the fish from Mary's eyes.
I took a closer look and realized that this was no worm. This was a tagged fish. The tag is a simple 4 inch piece of wire that holds information about where and when the fish was tagged but it was covered with a layer of algae and not easily recognizable.
Now keep in mind that I've fished religiously my entire life. I've always known about tagged fish but have never once caught one. In fact, no man I have ever fished with has ever caught a tagged fish.
Then one day along comes Mary, doing her homework, oblivious to whatís going on around her, and by some stroke of cosmic irony her first fish is of the illusive tagged variety.
"You caught a tagged fish, Mary." I told her.
"Wow! What does that mean?"
A gentleman from Fish and Game who was there to record the size, weight and sex of the fish being caught told her all about it. It seems Mary will receive a hat and a T-shirt along with a history of the fish she caught explaining where it was tagged, how long ago and when. This was no small fish either. It weighed in at 7 pounds and the Fish and Game guy said that it was most likely over 15 years old.
I have to admit I was little jealous. There were more fish to be caught though so Kelly and I headed back up on the bridge.
We had our lines back in the water in no time. Mary made her way back onto the bridge with the fish in one hand and flower in the other. She set down the fish and held the flower over the water. She said a few words in honor of the fish and released the flower over the rail.
The grizzled anglers fishing next to us gave us an odd look.
Suddenly I had a nice bite and my rod bent firmly. Mere moments later Kelly had a nibble and set the hook with a determined yank. We were both fighting fish albeit only one of us was wearing a skirt. This leads me to a bit of advice for all you lady anglers.
When youre fighting a fish and the wind kicks up it can be very difficult to concentrate on the fight and remain modest while wearing a skirt. The grizzled fisherman started to stare.
Kelly had her priorities straight and kept her focus on the fish.
My line suddenly snapped. There had been a moment or two when we thought we may have hooked the same fish but my line had been sliced above the leader, most likely the victim of a slough shark. That is what the locals call a pike for obvious reasons.
For someone with no experience actually reeling in a fish Kelly did a marvelous job. When it broke water it was a striking bright silver fish, very different from the trout you usually see caught on the bridge. I had never caught nor seen one like it, and I wondered what it might be.
It was a trout, but an unusual specimen. The gentleman from Fish and Game said you didnt see many like it but every now and then someone would catch a silver lake trout. It weighed out at five pounds and the meat on the fish was white in contrast to the orange hue it usually takes on.
Another fish, another oddity.
It was then I began to ponder the future. In my minds eye I saw images of women lined up in rows fishing in all my favorite spots. All wearing skirts, doing homework and eating ice cream pausing only to reel in fantastic fish of mammoth proportions while I sat in the car afraid to take up station with the seasoned professionals.
When I walked back up to the bridge a girl about six years old was bringing in a fish. Her dad was coaching her and she kept repeating, I know dad!
On the drive home Mary summed up fishing with the simplicity and honesty only a newcomer to the sport could. She said, Fishing is hours of relaxation and quiet that is suddenly interrupted by a pure adrenalin rush of excitement. She continued, I love fishing!
When we returned home I was in a hurry to get to work and Kelly said she would drop off my fishing gear the following day. I still havent heard from her. There are rumors she has been missing work. When she has been spotted she has been eating fish, learning to tie knots, and shopping for fishing lures. Some say she has quit wearing skirts all together and now prefers hip-waders.
Kelly, if you read this can I have my fishing stuff back? Please?
Beware, men! An angling revolution is upon us, and there is no way we can win.
Reports of great trout and pike fishing from the north are coming in steady. Jim Sager recently caught 35 Lake Trout in one day on the water. Where does he fish? The secret is a matter of national security. A recent trip to the lakes around Atlin produced some beautiful pike for a group of summer employees.
Halibut fishing seems to be getting good out of Juneau.
One story of a recent halibut-fishing trip out of Juneau not only included a 115-pound fish being caught but a story of a humpback whale surfacing under the boat and lifting the entire vessel from the water, then setting it back down again as it submerged.
Stories like these seem common here in the north. Sometimes the unusual seems commonplace. Tommy Mason wasnt even fishing, but on a recent trip to a favorite Canadian fishing hole he saw a full-grown bull moose swimming across the waterway. He said it looked like a barge sending out a wake into the mirror-like waters.
The salmon are retuning and the charter fishing is ready to explode. So there is really no excuse to miss out on all the excitement. All you need is a day off work.
Good luck, and dont forget your wife.