Salmon Fishing: How Do I Love Thee. Part I – The Grab
Having worked in the fly fishing travel industry for 25 years, I’m sometimes asked, “what’s your favorite fish to fish for?”. Without hesitation I answer, “if I had to give up all species except one, I would keep Atlantic salmon”. The question that frequently follows is, “why?”. You know, that’s a damn good question. Lord knows I have suffered through long and painful droughts when the salmon had not yet come in, had already gone upriver, or when they were there and for a myriad of reasons, would not rise to the fly.
Yet, they sometimes do rise to the fly, sometimes subtly, sometimes aggressively, and sometimes they try to rip the rod out of your hands. This is what the salmon fisher lives for, or at least what I live for – the “grab”. You methodically search the water with carefully measured casts, swinging the fly through possible lies. And sometimes you approach a known “hot spot”, or from years of experience, you recognize a likely taking spot – a “bucket”. The anticipation builds as you approach the bucket, each cast bringing you a bit closer. Finally, you get to that cast, the one you know in your heart and mind should be the one. The fly swings oh so seductively down and across the stream and slides into the bucket and BAM, the “grab”. Oh it might be a subtle take – just a slight tug, or the line might just stop, or a solid “pull”. Or it might be that explosive attempt to destroy the fly (the kind I love). But they’re all “grabs”, and your heart stops in momentary disbelief as you await further proof that there’s actually a fish at the end of your line.
Such proof might come in the form of a majestic leap or series of leaps, or an immediate burst of speed into a searing, backing-melting run. Or you might just feel a constant resistance, causing you to wonder if you simply snagged a rock – until the head shakes tell you differently. There are many kinds, but they are all “grabs”. And no matter how many I experience, no matter how sweet the bucket looks, or how well I know this is a “sure thing” taking lie, when the grab comes, it still surprises the hell out of me – every time. Like some kind of miracle just occurred! For me, actually landing the fish is secondary. I fish for the grab!
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