The One That Got Away

Sunset along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Friday burst down that slow moving tidal water as reds, purples, blues and a single rainbow bouncing off the clouds offered consolation; the only thing biting for me were mosquitos. My wife was having a record night pulling in one white perch after another.

In the Army they call it Early Evening Nautical Twilight (EENT) and it’s that time of evening just after the sunsets and your really can’t discern things to well; it’s neither dark nor light.

I stood there on the rocky bank of the canal just after the vibrant night show when a giant cargo ship riding high in the water slowly passed by. The running lights of the ship were bright enough to make me think it wasn’t as dark as it really was.

The huge wake left by the ship slammed the water against the rocks and the tip of my Shakespeare Ugly Stick bent and jigged. I thought it was just the water.

Then the rod bent almost in half and my spinning reel screamed; I set my drag to let the fish run.

I grabbed the rod from a crevice in the gray rocky bank. I set the hook and began reeling it in.  I pumped the handle as fast as I could so I could get ahead of the drag. At one point I thought I had gotten my 10-pound test line snagged on the bottom, but the fish had dived to the bottom and seemed to sit there. I gave my line a long slow hard pull and the fight started again.

I reeled; it ran. The fish and I went back and forth, I’d get him close and he’d pull away. My arms began to ache and the rod was bent so hard I was sure it would break. My wife had to pull her rod out of the way as the fish went/ right then left.

There was very little light, but after what seem like a quite a while I could just make out the enormous face of a hardhead catfish who tail fins were swooshing in the water making a tiny whirlpool.

Then I did something stupid.

I cranked my drag down, got greedy, and gave it one final heave and all resistance was over. The rod tip sprung straight up and all I could see is my empty line flutter in the wind as the lights coming from the Summit Bridge put a heartbreaking exclamation mark on my error.

The fish of a lifetime got away.


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