The One That Got Away

It’s always the big one. The monster. The one you’ve been searching for all weekend, the one that really fought and gave you the biggest thrill. That’s the fish that snaps your line. Why?

In this video, I know what it was for me. One word. . .  Panic.

I was out on Lake Mary, in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I had caught a trout about the size I expected. A youngster, about 11 inches, lucky if it was a pound.

When the fish in the video started to take me deeper underwater, I knew I had something special on the line. The video starts about a minute into the video. I actually had time to grab my phone, hand it to my girlfriend (your humble cameraperson) and put it into video mode.

The fish, the whole time, was headed up toward the boat, so I didn’t really know how hooked he was, or how big he was.

Once he put up resistance, the fight was great, my heart was pumping in the thin air.  Surprised by the weight on my line but still in fishing mode, I calmly played him and tried to keep him away from the boat. I put my beer in a safe place, and really started to fight him. Then the video starts.

You can see me play him decently, for a reel with too tight of a drag on. I let him take the rod, went with him, but kept the pressure on so he wouldn’t come loose. Then I saw him.

When I saw him, a huge shot of adrenaline hit me like a bomb. He was huge, especially for this lake.  Big green back, beautiful Rainbow trout colors gleaming. Something inside of me spazzed out in pure admiration of this fish, and the luck and awesomeness of me being able to hook him on my own. It was like years of fishing experience were all culminating right there, at that very moment.  All the times my uncles had yelled at me for making mistakes, until I no longer made them, had finally sunk in and I was now doing awesome stuff on my own.

That was when I realized I hadn’t brought a net. I pictured my beautiful big net sitting back at home in my studio. Damnit. I was using light line. I knew that. It was also old. Quadruple damnit!

So in my panic, I considered using a canvas bag I had on the boat as a net, but didn’t move on that thought fast enough. The fish came up, broke the surface with a big splash, and I panicked some more. I went to grab the line, sort of realized what I was doing, and just heard the line SNAP. I’m not sure if it was from when I touched it, or from the fish hitting the side of the boat, but it snapped.

I wasn’t disappointed. I had already had a blast fly fishing in Lake Crowley the day before, and watching my buddy Doug catch this beautiful brown trout. 

That was enough. I always look at any time on the water, as an increase in your odds of catching a dream fish. The couple of fish I hooked were right at the very last 15 minutes of my 4 day stay up around Mammoth. Hooking this monster at the end of my trip truly felt like a reward for my persistence, and patient application of all the things I’ve learned.

In the end, I learned a couple of things. Rather, I had some things instilled in me, that I was already aware of, but never lost a fish to.

1. Never touch the line on a fish like that. I’d heard it a zillion times. I’ll never forget it now though.

2.  Never be caught on any lake anywhere EVER, without a good sturdy net.

2. Don’t panic. A fish will only stay on your line so long. Panicking wastes the one resource you can;t get back. Time. It’s only a matter of time before the fish shakes loose or snaps your line against your boat. I should have grabbed my canvas bag and calmly guided the fish into it. Then I would have had him on a plate, rather than swimming around with a hook rusting in his mouth.

The fish learned a couple of things too, it’s likely. Maybe he’ll grow up to be that bi wiley bastard of Lake Mary that fishermen claim sightings of, but never catch. Maybe I’ll get that punk next year, net in hand. . . We shall see.