Tuesday, August 14 , 2018, 11:07 pm | Fair 72º


Captain’s Log: Ones That Got Away Make the Best Memories

The size doesn't matter; it's the chance to salute your prey and get your fish story straight that's key.

Even the best fisherman will get his comeuppance reel quick from time to time. Be prepared to tell the tale.
Even the best fisherman will get his comeuppance reel quick from time to time. Be prepared to tell the tale. (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

The best fish I can remember all share one trait ... I never saw them. They can’t be mastered, they just got lucky, or maybe I erred (Yup, me. It happens!), but one way or another, the battle ended with them swimming away and me laughing and saluting them. I like that about myself ... I can laugh, salute and wish them well.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
The great part about winter is the time — while maintaining gear and preparing rigs for the coming season — available to reminisce about the adventures of the past season and the most memorable fish. While most strikes begin with a tap-tap-tap on the rod tip, or perhaps a briefly screaming reel clicker, strikes from the best fish of all seem to start with a sudden deep bend of the rod and a steady powerful pull. I love feeling the staccato beat of the tail as the fish surges away. Instinct makes me spread my stance, double-check my drag setting and apply some muscle, recognizing that this is going to take awhile. That’s perfectly all right. There are very few things I’d rather be doing. This even beats making a large deposit at the bank (another rare occurrence).

I’ll always remember the look on the face of a particularly enjoyable passenger ... a butcher from Wisconsin who regaled me with tales of his vast fishing experiences and prowess for hours on end. Seemingly on queue — right in the middle of a great story — his rod bent deeply, nearly pulling him off his feet. He managed to get into a fighting stance before being yanked overboard and then stared in total astonishment at his reel while a hundred yards of heavy mono line paid quickly out against a tight drag. The butcher looked up to the bridge and said to me, “Forget everything I said. I guess I don’t know nothin! What do I do?!”

“Bend that rod and make him work for it” was my first advice as it had been on many occasions when people needed to learn quickly how to fight a very large fish. I credit the butcher with trying, but it was too late. That fish was a long way off and had managed to wrap the line around an underwater obstruction. The result was a frayed end on some well-stretched mono line. “Well, no worries,” I told him. “Let’s just re-rig and then you can go hook another one.” That feller just kept shaking his head — for hours.

When my charter passengers lose big fish, I console them with sage words: “The best thing about the one that gets away is it can be any kind and any size you want. I’m just here to back up your story!”

I can’t wait for the season to begin.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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