A GOOD FISH
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.