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Fighting Fish "No Matter What!"

By Timothy Kusherets

"One foot to the left or in front of me and I'm going to disappear!"

Adventures are often decided in spit seconds. The most pivotal moment of any adventure is when a person decides to either embrace it or to pass it by. Those moments define who we are in an instant; but if we knew about them in advance would we still rise to the occasion?

“How far are you wading out today?”

“Not too far. I just got these great glasses and I don’t want to risk getting them wet or lost. God knows I’m really great at losing things and the extended warranty just adds to the cost.”

“What’s so great about those particular glasses?”

“For starters, they’re for reading, polarized, and I can convert them back and forth anytime I feel like it.”

“Timothy, if I were you, and I’m not, there’s no way I would have thought about taking glasses like those to a river like this, especially if they cost a lot of money. The water’s really moving.”

“The only thing I’m worried about is the fish and besides I won’t put them on till dawn. Are you ready to head out?”

“I’ll wait until the sun comes up if you don’t mind. Don’t worry about me. Head out if you think the fish will bite in the dead of dark.”

“You’re funny. You know that night has nothing to do with sight when it comes to fish.”

“I know. I’m just funning you. See ya.”

“If you come out before the sun don’t shine the light on the river okay? I don’t want the fish scattering once I find them.”

He knew what I knew about fishing. Teaching him about drift-fishing had been an honor; we talked about everything, including superstitions.

“You know, each trip I look for animals along the roadway. Sometimes they seem to bolt right out in front of the car. They seem to be a good sign. Each time it’s ever happened I end up having a good fishing day. It sounds funny coming from a guy who swears about using science to catch fish, but it’s true. If an animal is directly in front of me catching fish is a no-brainer, maybe on those days I should head out to a Casino and make a big whopping bet.”

“Well, speak of the Devil. What does that look like to you?”

Just then, about four small rabbits hopped in front of us. We were doing about twenty-miles per hour when it happened; good for them and us.

“Mike, let’s not let this get to our heads. You know how irony works; watch this be the very first day that I don’t hook into fish since this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about it.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, you do all right with or without you superstitions.”

As we pulled on by the rabbits the last one stopped and turned his head and looked right at me. It felt as if it was some form of “thank you”.

By the time the dawn had peeked over the horizon my fishing buddy was out there fishing with me.

“Hey. How many fish have you hooked into. Now and again I’d see a light turn on. Does that mean you had any luck?”

“You just wouldn’t believe it. I hooked and landed seventeen before first light. Don’t worry, I got plenty of pix for you to look at. Didn’t you see the flashes?”

“I thought maybe you were flashing corkies or something. I kind of figured you hook into fish, but why’d you turn on the light?”

“If you noticed each time the light came on that it was about fifty yards downstream from where we’re at now. I did it to keep the fish on the bite right where you standing. It makes sense, right?”

Over the next hour we had fish on hand-over-fist. By the time noon had rolled around the two of us had on over ninety fish between us and the few other fishermen on the river took notice. Some of them came up to fish with us; too many for me.

“It’s getting a little crowded around here. I’m going to head upstream. You want to stay or come with me?”

“Timothy, I think I’ll watch you first and see how deep you get. Sometimes you get into some pretty treacherous water and that’s water I’d just soon avoid…if you don’t mind?”

As I progressively waded upstream the river began to rise up past my waist and the speed picked up.

“Hey tough guy! why’d you stop?”

It looked as though Mike was hollering at the top of his lungs, but I could barely hear him over the roaring river.

“One foot to the left or in front of me and I’m going to disappear! You going to catch me if I float down river?”

“No, I’ll just cast out and try to reel you in! Maybe one of these other guys has some heavy test and they can reel you in! Ha, ha, you’re just funning me right? Be careful!”

Famous last words. Be careful. How careful can you be in a raging river if you’re underneath it? There were fish in the water and I intended to catch some away from the advancing horde of other fishermen; which had turned into about fifteen. I could see some of them meander up my way but most stopped short about fifty-feet or so; guess they didn’t like the idea of slipping.

I had been having some pretty good luck, but knew the big boys were always in the deep water. Some sections of the river ran low, but not where I was standing. On the far side of the river I could see a seam forming below some riffles and just above a pool. It looked perfect. I cast out and hit the river past the seam. Reeling in the slack I watched as my neon bright line drifted into the seam. It was nearly the perfect drift when my line stopped moving. I set the hook and held on. Nothing happened. I reset the hook again and nothing happened. It was a sure sign of being hung up or snagged. Right at that moment it occurred to me that I would have to break off the line, it started heading towards me. Raising the rod over my head and began reeling in the slack. It looked as though the fish was going to swim right up to my face when it bolted to its right, my left, and headed upstream. It jumped out the water and shook its huge Chinook head. It looked as though it was a forty-pounder. After he hit the water again it raced downstream. Chinook and Atlantics have a peculiar habit that distinguishes them from all the other salmon and trout. Once they pick a direction to run it’s the only direction they head. The Lunker seemed to break the sound barrier with my six pound test. That’s right, can you believe it? Fishing with light line, it was never the intention to be chest deep fishing for the whoppers; I was sure it was going to get away.

As it screamed on by I stretched out my rod as far as it would go in front of me to try and tease the fish inshore and away from the drop-off; it was then that I took great notice of the edge. The two huge boulders I’d been on were the last ones before the abyss, but it was too late even as I thought about it. Instantly I was in the water, completely submerged, and headed downstream with the whopper that promised stories to last a lifetime.

“Hey! Where the heck did he go? Did any of you guys see that? Did he fall in? He just seemed to vanish! What are we supposed to do? Can anyone do anything?”

“Well for Christ’s sake! Take a look at that! Is that what I think it is? Hey buddy, you better take a look at your fishing partner, or at least what’s left of him!”

There I was fighting my fish about nine feet below the surface. It was like running along the side of a cliff and I could see everything including the surface of the water which had taken on the shade of a dark green sky the only real difference was all the water. Time seemed to slow and all I could do was think about fighting that fish and nothing else. Off in the short distance was a black wall approaching me fast. It was a hill of boulders. Lifting up my legs, holding the rod out, and to the left I literally ran up the hill. Popping out of the river I could hear applause and laughter; but for me nothing had changed, the fight was still on.

“I don’t know how you do it! It was the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen, and funny too! It was like something out of the movies! If I live to be a thousand years old, I think the only way I’m ever going to see something insane like that again is if you do it again! What in the heck were you thinking Timothy?”

Mike was breathing so hard you’d think he had just gone down the river.

From start to finish the fight lasted about twenty-minutes. Far down river I was able to land the buck by tailing it; but not before it had put on an aerial display burned into my mind. The caudal wrist was so huge I could barely get my hand around the tail. The battle was over and the event was of monumental proportions; a fight of a lifetime! The other fishermen were so far away it took some time before I saw Mike. He looked incredulous.

“Mike! Did you see it? Did you get a chance to see the fish? Wasn’t it great? Man that was a great fight!

“Don’t you dare! I thought you were dead! You know the only thing any of us saw was the damned tip of your rod? That’s it, nothing else just the tip of your damned rod! Are you trying to send me to an early grave?”

“You know what? It didn’t occur to me until just now. It seems like every fisherman eventually sees A River Runs Thought It. They talk about it, but the one thing that has always bothered me was the one scene towards the end where Brad Pitt sees a pocket near a boulder. It’s the same scene where he hooks into an awesome trout and is dragged into the water. Do you know what I mean?”

“I’ve seen it but I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

“But that’s my point. Would anyone get it who hadn’t gone through all that? When Brad Pitt bobbed up and the lower end of the chutes he had the fish, the fishing rod, and his hat! It’s the most unbelievable fishing thing I’ve ever heard of. Think about it, doesn’t it sound impossible?”

“You’re right, but what’s that got to do with the tea in China?”

“Look at me. I got the fish, the rod and I still have my glasses. It’s true Mike, that fisherman who went downstream and caught that fish didn’t lose a thing and now I know it’s true because I still have my glasses! If it hadn’t been for that drop-off and those heroes of the river over there I might never had found out. What if one of them had jumped in and tried to stop me I would never have found out. Isn’t that exciting? You all did the right thing and did nothing.”

“You’re a strange bird! You seem to have a blind willingness to fight fish no matter what! If there was someway for me to know when you’re going to do one of those danged blamed things I’d make sure to pass on the trip; damn! Fishing with you is never boring but sometimes I wish it were! Don’t get me wrong; I love fishing with you but the excitement might be for someone younger than me.”

Later on he told me that it had been the best day of his life, after he calmed down. He landed over fifty fish all by himself. With all the fish being caught and the spectacular fight that had dragged me into the river it had been a day that will be remembered for a lifetime; and that’s the point isn’t it? Would I have changed my plans for the day if I would have known about it before leaving for the river? I don’t know. At the very least there are a few fishermen who have a tale to tell that surely sounds like a tall one and I’ll never regret being a part of it and that is what I would never change.

Drift fishing book

Visit Timothy Kusherets website for great fishing information and to order his book - Steelhead & Salmon Drift-Fishing Secrets