A GOOD FISH

Anglers Journal - - CONTENTS -

When a fish­er­man lands his first steel­head, he and the fish join “the club.”

By DEREK SH­EFFIELD

Jerk that bitch, urges my guide, and I give my shud­der­ing pole a jerk, hook­ing the throat of the first steel­head of my life.

Reel ’em, he mut­ters and revs the mo­tor. I horse my pole and reel and horse.

The boat’s mas­cot whines, her claws click­ing. Let it take some line.

My fa­ther, un­cle, and cousin are reel­ing. First fish! they shout, and I shout, What a fighter!

A sil­ver spine touches the air.

There, he points, a hen. And guess what? She’s gonna join the club, some­how spot­ting in that glimpse the smooth place along her back where a fin had been snipped.

He leans over the gun­wale, dips a net, and scoops her into the boat.

She is thick with a wide band of fiery scales, slap­slap­ping the alu­minum bot­tom. Wel­come to the club, he says, and clob­bers her once, and again, and once more be­fore she goes still.

A bleeder, he says, shak­ing his head and hand­ing her to me. I curl a fin­ger through a gill the way you’re sup­posed to, de­ter­mined not to let her slip and flop back to the river, a blun­der

I’d never live down. A good fist.

Fish, I mean. A good fish.

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