June 9th, 2011
Random good fortune could well be flowing your way. Have a line in the water.
As published in The Daily News, June 10, 2011, and in The Memphis News, June 11-17, 2011
Last week I caught a whale.
The river was too high to catch this fish, far too much trash churned and turned in its brown rush, far too distracting and suspicious for already suspicious rainbow, much less this wily old monster. I can’t catch this fish. I don’t fish, and people who do fish talk about fish like this, big enough to inspire tales, bigger still each time the tale is told.
When it breaks the surface, the fish and I both know I’m outclassed. It will snap my four-pound line and spit out my ridiculous little hook. It will leave me standing there, dripping defeat in a boat, both of us knowing I’m the one in the Little Red River who doesn’t belong.
When it breaks the second time in a blinding, angry flash of sun off scales, I can see in its eye what Ahab (aka: Gregory Peck) must have seen when … okay … maybe I’m getting a little carried away. I’m just saying. This was a big rainbow. A widemouth bass in a trout suit. A brown trout disguised as a rainbow. Seven pan-sized catches in one package.
“Keep the rod up,” Mac said from behind me. “Let it run, let it run and wear itself out," Mac, the one in the boat who can fish, advised. And when we did see the fish the first time, Mac, who’s seen them all, said quietly, almost reverently, “Don’t…lose…this…fish.”
I was lucky.
I was lucky to be born and raised in a town with a warm and funky climate that grows creativity even in the cracks of its sidewalks and moves to a beat as palpable as its summer heat. Incredibly lucky when that cute college girl said yes to that first date, and to the rest of our lives. And when our kids were born and when they both came back here after college. And every time they’ve made me proud, and made me laugh, and made me wonder at the wonder of it.
Mac and I don’t know each other well but after this fishing trip we know each other better. In several months, we’re going to be grandfathers, sharing a grandbaby. After we netted that tired, proud fish, measured, weighed, and photographed it, Mac took it from me and carefully lowered it into the water, holding its mouth upstream against the current, and watching the gills. "Breathe, sweetheart, breathe,” he said, and he held it until it did and he could return it to the river. That’s a good gene pool to share.
Looks like I’m lucky again.
Folks around here spend way too much time on what went under and what got away, and not nearly enough on what’s coming and what’s just under the surface. The current in Memphis is stronger than it’s been in years. Go catch something.
By the way, that bad boy was 21 inches long and 7 1/2 pounds.
I’m a Memphian, and I fish in lucky waters.