Dramatically Playing the Fool

It was my second day into the trip and it wasn’t looking promising.

We had been at chucking metal and waving our rods around for almost two full days. Coho were in the system, we were convinced of that, but none were taking what we had to offer.

I was the experienced angler in the group, having fished the waters around Haines for almost 10 years. I dragged my two friends to Haines to “show them how it’s done” and the pressure was starting to show. Subtle encouragement, coaching and urging of patience were met with glares, growls and unflattering comments.

Another variable within the drama of our desperate fishing crew was the presence of a group of young women, directly across the river, catching fish.

In the beginning it was amusing — their short, tangled casts and clumsy attempts at reeling in fish, passing the rod from one to another to get their fish in. As we stood in the river, all pimped out in our waders, bait-casting reels and other fish “bling”, they were catching Coho from shore in jeans and running shoes.

With egos at an all-time low, it was now time to get into some fish.

Our fishing effort was intensifying as we stopped talking and strategically started to spread out over the Chilkat River delta. I had to step up and show the boys that we can catch keepers as well.

I zeroed in on a little eddy, slightly upriver from my broken-down friends and the happy-go-lucky girls.

I methodically worked the water about 15 feet across from the shore into the middle. I would cast upstream and work my Popsicle fly through the current onto the bottom.

It was on the first of my little six-inch retrieves that the monster hit. I set the hook and braced my feet firmly within the sinking sand of the delta.

This was a big fish … at least 20 pounds.

Like a linebacker protecting the goal line, it would not move. It was going on a few minutes and with only a few little runs here and there.

We were at a stalemate.

Knowing that my team needed inspiration, I yelled for my friends and announced that I had a massive fish on and it felt like a Coho. (Truth be told, it also felt like a log.)

I played the fish/log for a few more minutes, noticing a small crowd starting to form. As the fish/log held, and my attempts to gain control of the situation fell flat, I started to feel performance anxiety.

I was now caught in a predicament: Do I force this fish in and risk losing it, or do I force the log out of the water and risk humiliation for my team and myself. I decided to commit to this weight under the water and I began to work it in.

It was within four feet from shore, still hidden under the murky water, when the line went slack and the fly popped out.

The small crowd dispersed, my friends went back to their spots and I was left studying the hook, looking for bark or scales to solve the mystery.

To this day I don’t know if it was fish or log that eluded me, but at least I have another fishing story to tell.

If you would like to share your fishing story, or hear more about this one, visit Dennis Zimmermann’s Yukon fishing blog at www.fishonyukon.com.

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