It was a cool day early in May. We were fishing about a mile below the Sterling Highway Bridge. Fishing with a barbless hook, Lars allowed his first steelhead of the day to escape. Lars called it catch and release, but Ken Robertson, the guide, muttered something about, “LDR. Long distance release.” Lars’ second strike came in the form of an underwater snag that swallowed his lure and kept it.
Lars accused Ken of giving him a rebellious lure. Ken said Lars didn’t know how to fish. “Your knots are weak,” was Lars’ response. “The lure just fell off. I hardly pulled at all.”
“If you’d pulled any harder, the rod would have busted,” was Ken’s retort. “I know how to tie knots; you just don’t know how to fish.”
“Why don’t you throw your old, worn-out lures away instead of giving them to me for bait?”
“Old lures? Lars, that was a brand-new $25 super special that can’t be replaced. It was one of a kind.”
The friendly heckling continued. “Get in the tackle box, pick your own lure, and tie it on for yourself.”
Lars rose to the challenge and selected what he called “the best of Ken’s bad lures.” A light blue one. Used. Almost abused. He joked about Ken not having anything worthwhile as he looked over the tackle box freshly stocked with the latest lures. The box was filled to brim and well organized in preparation for the coming season, but Lars ignored this and continued with the one-liners.
“What’d you do, Ken, spend all your money on the new boat and now can’t afford lures?”
“I save those kinds of terminal tackle for people who can’t fish. It doesn’t make sense to give novices new, expensive stuff. They’d just lose it on a snag.”
By now, Lars had the little blue Wiggle Wart firmly fastened and dropped it behind the boat, letting the line out four passes on the reel as Ken had instructed.
“You’re not really fishing, Lars. I’m doing the fishing. You’re a rod holder. You just hold the rod, and I put it into the hole where the fish are.”
Ken was rowing back and forth across the river, inching his way into each hole. Ken’s steelhead philosophy is you’ve got to hunt them out, stay with them, and put it right in their face. If there are fish in the hole, they’ll have a chance to at least look at the lure.
“Well, put me into a fish, Ken.”
“You’ve got a fish, Lars.”
“It’s another snag.”
“No. It’s a fish.”
“It’s not going anywhere. It must have hung up again.”
“Well, if it did, it now broke loose, and it’s swimming upstream. Set the hook.”
All of a sudden, the jokes and heckling stopped. Lars became a steelhead angler and Ken, the old master guide, coached his client. Combination of skill and guide instruction soon subdued the steelhead, and Ken brought out the net. There was peace in the boat for a moment as both men concentrated on landing the sea-run rainbow. As soon as the fish was in the boat, it began again.
“You make a good rod holder, even if you are a rod holder that talks back.”