© 2015 Aaron Atkinson

One in a Million

Most fish stories involve exaggerations in which the size or number of fish caught grows over time. I’ll bet that this fish story is both more unbelievable and more true than any fish story you’ve ever heard.

Dad and I were in our canoe. The sky was low and steely grey. A gentle wind had pounded the western shore all day, stirring up bait amidst the boulders and ringing the dinner-bell on a late afternoon feeding frenzy. As fast as we could cast, hook, fight, land, release and repeat we were hammering the smallmouth bass. Constant cries of fish on! between our canoe and our buddies Jon and Colin, added to the delightful melee that lasted more than an hour and in the end left us with aching forearms and wide grins.

I was using a homemade crayfish jig that I’d tied with a combination of deer, squirrel and rabbit hair. As I swam it in and around the boulders, it rarely made it more than a few cranks of the reel before being eaten. Dad was having similar success fishing the middle of the water column with a white, four-inch minnow bait. In between jerks of his rod tip, his line jumped – a tell-tale sign of a bite. He set the hook and felt the fish for a fleeting moment before his line fell slack. Reeling in, he saw the end of his line empty. No fish and worse, no lure. Swimming with the smallmouth bass there were also northern pike whose rows of razor sharp teeth made quick work of fishing line and resulted in all too frequent bite-offs.

Disappointed at losing his hot lure, Dad tied on a replacement as I continued to cast. And that’s when the unbelievable happened. I’d just made a dandy cast to the base of a large, shoreline boulder. As I swam and hopped my jig back towards the canoe, it wasn’t long before I felt the pop of a bite. I set the hook as my rod loaded under the weight of the fish. Drag zipped out for a moment as the fish made a run, and then it was gone. As I reeled in, something felt funny, almost heavy like I was dragging a branch or some weeds. As I hoisted my line back into the canoe, I saw what was causing the drag – my line had slipped through the o-ring on a familiar white minnow bait.

As best as we could tell, moments earlier a pike had bitten Dad’s lure off. When my jig swam by the hungry and undeterred fish, it hit. During the short fight, my lure and Dad’s lure which was still hooked in the fish’s mouth had become entangled and as such managed to work a little slack into the line. The slack allowed the fish to throw the hook, but I managed to pull Dad’s lure free as well.

I untangled the lures and passed the minnow bait back to Dad. He retied it, made a cast and hooked another leaping, brown bass. And with a chuckle and grin, he whooped, “Fish on!



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