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On the Water

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Clearing Water Part III

Dickson’s rod had just taken a sharp dip and was bobbing to the rhythm of a heavy fish deep beneath the surface. This is too good, I thought. Not only had I been privileged to sit near enough on a quiet day to hear the friendly contrast between these two fishermen trolling slowly across the quiet surface of Lake Pend Oreille; I had been able to participate as well in the catch of one fine sample of what can come out of these depths.

So I remained glued to the event still unfolding.

Dickson took charge of his bent fishing rod handling the reel and line like a master.

Jack cut the motor and did all the appropriate things to clear the way below from lines that could tangle.

“I told ya!” Jack coached, “You’re the man of the hour!”

“Yeah, well, this is a strong boy, strong as a bull. Look at this…peeling line like a runaway train.”

I wished so that I could be in the boat with them, but I was marooned from the experience, left to be spectator from a distance. I could hear the steady scream of the reel, a winding sound of high-pitched gears under test of strength and design. I stood helpless on the shore, my mouth open and forgotten until a tiny midge flew in and choked me into cough.

Dickson remained stalwart and I saw, I’m certain, reflections of his past. He stood to fight the fish, stood with rod anchored to his belt by the strength in his arms. His old hat, long out of style, sat cantered at an angle. He pulled on the rod and dipped again with each effort to take in line. But the fish was incredible. It stole monofilament off that reel as if the drag were not set and we all began to wonder if it were going to turn.

“Better get that motor going!” Dickson barked.

Jack responded like a true boat mate. Did everything he could to back up as fast as he could toward in the direction of pull. And it helped. Dickson was able to gain some line. “Never…never have I seen or felt such a powerful fish!” he proclaimed. His voice carried a detectable quiver.

Twenty minutes or more went by without sight of the fish. I had cleared my throat and had my mouth shut. They had backed about in circle-eights trying to stay up with and gain yardage on the line. Luckily for me, they were still near at hand and I could catch the flavor of the few words that passed between them.

“You holding up okay?” Jack queried.

“I’m fine. The fish there, he must be gettin’ tired. Don’t you think?”

“Yeah. This isn’t the ocean. You got your drag set properly?”

“Can’t ya tell by the sound of her screamin’?”

“Just kidding. Don’t give up.”

“I am Robert J. Dickson. I never give up. NEVER! This fish has met his match! We’ll be seein’ him soon, you wait.” He glanced quickly at Jack, the first time, I thought, that he’d taken his eyes off the water. “Don’t you be quitting now.” It was a light-hearted threat not meant for anything but play.

“Well, I thought I’d go in and get a beer…as you’re takin’ so long,” Jack chided.

“Hah…you’ll be swimmin’ if ya do! And goin’ by the size of this here monster, I’m not sure it would be wise to be in the water.”

That’s when it happened. As suddenly as the bite had bent that rod, the line went slack and the rod tip straightened out. “Confound!” Dickson yelled. “I’ll be a….” My heart dropped too.

But he didn’t have time to finish his sentence. At a distance of some 40 yards or so, a thick-bodied trout of some 40 inches or more in length (I admit, my guess could be inaccurate) charged through the placid surface film like a submarine gasping for air. It was a whale of a fish, no doubt about it. And I remember seeing the plug, one of those old Lucky Louie’s of the forties, I surmised. I saw it hanging from the mandible of that dark, nearly black jaw and I saw the line taut, coursing through the water. The fish was still on! It had turned and run against the line! And then I saw its eye, even at that distance, and unless I was dreaming, I’m sure I remember seeing old Dickson’s gritted grin and that muscular effort of his body in the mirror of that eye.

Dickson was not put out. He kept reeling and the line tightened again. The fish cleared the water completely in a manner not unlike the one I’d witnessed earlier with Jack’s fish. But this one was bigger. Yes, this fish was bigger!  I thought of Wes Hamlet and the “Champion Kam” he’d taken in 1947 and I wondered if this might not be larger. How one reflects on things remembered…I mused over the rumors of bigger trout left untaken from these waters in those days. But no, not now, there couldn’t possibly be trout this big in this lake now!

Well, I hadn’t noticed. I doubt they had either. That was in November. Not derby time. It was early November when the great fog rolled in at 3:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t see it coming. It just kind of settled over us. Can you believe that? “How incredibly unfortunate,” I complain even now. That cream soup fog snuck in on our story like the end of a movie. I watched them fade into a pirate’s dream and saw them no more.

Aghast, I listened intently and in hope they would materialize again. But the fog was a ship’s nightmare. And the day was growing long as well. Darkness crept in. Their voices, too, were lost eventually in the heavy silence as night settled unwanted upon the lake. At one point, I just could not detect them anymore. I called out like a foghorn, but no reply came back.

And to this day, I wonder. I wonder if they landed that great fish. I wonder if it really was as big as it looked to me. I wonder, yes, I confess, I wonder if I had seen them at all…but then, it is better to wonder and to remember than it is to despair. If anything, I had learned something from Dickson that I keep with me here in Hope, where I live: The big fish are there for the taking. But you have to believe you can.

GO BACK TO PART TWO

 

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Dwayne Parsons Dwayne Parsons

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