It was a cool morning as I loaded up for the North. Openers of years past filled my memory as I drove in the darkness to my fishing partner of 33 years house. The hour drive from there was spent rehashing times of old, and plans of the future. Nothing was mentioned by either of the silent bet running through our heads, it was always there, and has been for thirty years. Who would catch the biggest today?
We met up with my partners boy and his friend, and would commence to all fish together the rest of the day. We approached our first target at day break. There were already some people in the first hole, but they had been there all night and were departing with half a dozen 11” to 12” browns. My partners kid and friend decided to move ahead, because this hole had already been fished out they proclaimed. My partner and I just smiled and bid them good luck.
It was a half hour or so when I saw the twitch of my partners pole. You see that I said? A grin came over his face as he replied, I did. He slowly removed the slack as the line slowly marched up stream, an act that played out many an opener in "the hole". A quick jerk and the pole bent into an arch, the taunt line singing the tune of a nice fish. The fish stayed deep, using the current to hopefully escape a humans grasp once again. In my mind, the silent bet was looming. It was a nice one I knew, how nice was the teaser. As it broke the surface, the silence was broken by my partners acknowledgement; “it’s a nice one, get the net.” A job I had been relegated to many times before, fishing with this partner. One I cheerfully partake in I might add. The net was slid into the water without a noise and quickly grabbed the fish into its depths. It was a nice one indeed. 22” was the first for the day, and a nice way to start the day at that. 3 more fish came out of that hole, all 18” and bigger. The bar had been set, no words were needed, and the 22 incher had set the standard high. We rounded up the other two, and journeyed to our next location.
We could see by the tracks, many had been there before us. Again we departed our own ways. Not long after departing we heard some noise, splashing, and some hollering going on. I asked big John if he could make out what was going on. “Sounded like someone went swimming” he replied. No fish were cooperating at this time for us, so we went to investigate. His son was all smiles as we approached the car, a little wet also I might add. He told us of his 20” brown and 19” rainbow he caught with much excitement. You went swimming for that I asked. “No, I went swimming for the 26” or 27” trout, I didn’t get.” Sure you did, we replied. After some wet clothes were exchanged for dry, we decided to walk back up to the runs where this swimming occurred, and try some more.
The 22 incher was fresh on my mind as I felt the light tap. Was that bottom or a fish? Tap, tap. No mistaking it this time. I lurched back as if setting the hook on a tuna, the line sang as the fish responded to the hook set. He ran silent and deep to the back of the pool. He would make his stand from there. 1 minute, 2, then 3 went by. Was this the one? Was this the winner of the coveted opening day award? It danced through my head as the fish stood its ground. Had it wrapped itself around a log? Oh the horror of the thought. Suddenly the fish moved off the holding position, slowly working its way toward the front of the run. The audience had gathered to cheer me on. There! There it was! The swirl of what had eluded us for 4 or 5 minutes. It was a good one! The dilemma appeared as fast as the fish; there was too much brush to land him from the bank. No one had waders so it was up to me in my hip boots to find a way. The water was deep next to the bank but shallowed up fast before the big hole and run. I lowered myself gently into the water, an inch to spare at most. Net in one hand, pole in the other, I worked the fish to the shallows. Net him! Net him! They cheered from shore, as the sweat begin to show my stress. The first attempt was physics in motion. A quick lean toward the fish, a pole and fish that traveled a distance equal to the lean, I gained nothing. The silent bet ate at my better judgment, lunge for him I thought, surely that would compensate for that physics dilemma. My next lunge I think was a combination of physics and trigonometry combined. I think the fish also took math because at this time, he had enough of what I was teaching and decided to make a run for it in a quick dash to the opposite bank, then a reversal toward me. Oh no! The bush’s everyone yelled. This fish strained with all his might, the bushes were in reach. It was now or never, I thought. The third lunge was the trick. The added weight of the water quickly filling my hip boots would be the missing link to the physics equation. The net struck with swift speed, the fish straining at his last hope. Success! My superior brain had out matched what was obviously the genius of the fish world, Mr. Big.
Another opener closed to the book of time. The difference is, this year, Ranger Ray is king of the opener. Hope everyone had as an enjoyable opener as I.