Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
I caught the biggest trout of my life on Saturday at dusk on the Big Rib River in Taylor County.
The fish was an 18 and one-half inch brown trout with a jutting jaw, a dirty yellow belly and red and blue spots across its greenish-brown body.
I hooked the fish after splashing upstream on the Big Rib about 45 minutes from where I usually end an evening of fishing. The trek was daunting. I threaded myself through tangles of tag alder that reached across narrow sections of the river from both sides. I crawled over logs and boulders. I hiked through cobblestone riffles.
Finally, I came to a long, deep pool. A narrows spilled into the pool. It was Trout 101. A trout was going to be there.
I tossed a No. 10 Tan Hendrickson at the start of the pool and it skittered downstream on top of the water. Then boom.
My fishing pole bent over. I could feel the weight of the fish. An excited inner voice screamed at me to reel in the line. I did that. The fish headed for the shore, but I swung the fish around. I finally got a look at the trout. It was a monster.
Life suddenly got complicated. My task was to land the fish, take a picture and return the 19-inch lunker back to the water.
I wish I would have had three or four hands. I struggled to get my cell phone out of its waterproof container while the fish flapped around in the muddy bank of the river. I tried photographing the fish this way and that in the dying evening light.
The trout started breathing heavily on the shore and, a little panicked, I raced to return it to the water. I grabbed the fish by the torso. It was big and fat, a very mature fish. I tried yanking out the fly. The 19 and one-half inch fish inhaled it pretty good.
I took the hemostat I carry on my vest and, with a surgical twist of my wrist, removed my Hendrickson fly. With both hands, I slowly released the exhausted fish back to the water. I will remember as long as I live the slow, s-shaped movement of the brown as it swam back into the dark mystery of the river.
I was an emotional mess. Catching this 20-inch fish was a capstone on decades of learning how to trout fish. My fish was no record-setter or anything like that. But it was my personal best and it was a nice fish.
The philosopher Thomas Nagel is the author of a famous article, “What Is It Like To Be a Bat?,” and argues it is impossible for us, as humans, to know what it would be like to be a flying mammal that uses echolocation to get around. I am sympathetic to the argument, but I like fishing because, as you get into it, you start to understand a little bit of what it must be like to be an animal that lives in water and eats insects.
My big, 20 and one-half inch fish represented a major step in my outdoors education. I seem to have gained some insight in what it’s like to be a fish.
And that helps, believe it or not, to understand the real question: what’s it like to be a human?
Contact Peter Weinschenk at pweinschenk@ tpprinting.com