Dec. 20, 2012 A Big Fish Memory

Written By: Kathie Morgan, December 20, 2012

Some fish were never meant to be yours. Like young love, some fish explode into your life, igniting the day with boundless excitement that you hope will never end. You cross your fingers and hold your breath, your pulse pounding and goose bumps rising. At breakneck speed you rush headlong to heartbreak. 

And for the rest of your life, you look back and thank your lucky stars for the memory of that brief affair. Tis better to have hooked and lost …

We started at 9:10 am at the pond at low tide on that mystical magical day.  The Napa River was chocolate brown with no visibility, and David worried that the previous night’s full moon would adversely affect fishing. We went west and when we turned around down by the landmark tree, David saw a minnow skipping across the surface. “Cast there,” he said. I cast a white Gulp! swimbait and hooked up just like that with a 20-incher. That took the skunk off, at least, and I released it.

We headed back to the pond entrance, where I caught a 21-incher by the fence.

Then we continued up the east channel. Toward the end of its navigable depths, I caught and released a skinny 19-1/2 incher on the iridescent gray rattletrap.

As we headed back toward the entrance, I cast behind us and began absentmindedly to retrieve the rattletrap. Just at the boat I had a shock, a hit as hard as the proverbial Mack truck. The fish went nowhere as there was nowhere to go, the channel was that narrow and the tide that low. The line she had was all the line she would get, so she made the most of it.

Like a dream, everything moved in slow motion. The boat spun slowly around and around. I don’t think the fish managed to take an inch of line off the spool, but neither was I able to gain an inch. This went on for 10 minutes or more. A Napa striper stand-off. 

My 7-ft. Lamiglas rod creaked under the strain, an ominous sound. It felt like this fish was drilling a hole in the floor of the channel. Like Wonderland’s Alice, she would drop down that hole and escape to China. Eventually, through all that mud, truth dawned. “It’s a big fish,” I said, “and I can never land it.”

I hung on. Then the moment arrived when up she came, still headed away from us as she floated on the surface, the line stretched tight across her weary body. The biggest striper of my life, and the hook was about to slip out. No way could I land this monster! 

David had the net and miraculously managed to stretch it out beneath her so that her body rested on the handle. He twisted the handle and eased her head into the net as he lifted her aboard. The lure slipped free and shot into the boat, so I secured that first. Then I hefted her onto the measuring board, but she was bashful about her size – 36 inches! The scales read just short of 16 pounds. We let her calm down a bit before taking pictures. I haven’t calmed down yet, not entirely.

When I do, I’ll be looking for you on the banks.

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