Three men and a fish

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By Candy Clarke

Some stories are just meant to be told. Some grow more outlandish each time they are repeated.  As listeners, we often are left wondering what to believe and what not to believe.

Fishing stories, especially, seem to grow larger and bolder with each telling. I must admit, this is something I simply do not understand. Other ladies who fish appear to be of the same mind. We just never feel the need to exaggerate either the size of our fish or the circumstances of our individual catch. Male fishermen, on the other hand, differ in this aspect. So, since this stories involves three men and a fish; I thought perhaps I should tell the original story before the fish reaches the one-ton mark!

Have you read the book The Old Man and the Sea? Or perhaps seen the movie? I didn’t really understand the elderly gentleman’s obsession with catching the fish when I was younger. He was of such singular mind to bring the fish back to the harbor to show everyone the huge fish he had caught. It was beyond my comprehension; why would anyone make themselves so terribly uncomfortable? Just to show off their fish?

Well, several weeks ago, while halibut fishing in Prince William Sound, off the coast of Alaska, I watched three men do their own reenactment of The Old Man and the Sea. Like most true events, it started out innocently enough. There were six of us on board the boat: three men (Rusty, Frank, and Jim), two women Marie and myself), and a 12-year-old boy (Tyler). We were quietly fishing for halibut when my husband, Frank, said he had a fish on his line. The sun had finally popped through the clouds and the rain receded.

Frank continues reeling his line in. He’s only gaining a few inches at a time. After about 15 minutes, Rusty offers to relieve Frank for a bit. Another half hour goes by and Rusty asks Jim if he can take over; Jim promptly agrees and moves into position.

The three men took turns at the rod. They would seem to gain ground on the fish, only to have it pull away again. This went on for hours! The fish managed to break two stainless steel rod holders welded to the steel support post for the handrail. It also broke the teak handrail at two corners. At one point, Rusty tightened the drag on the reel and it appeared the men were going to make some progress. Meanwhile, everyone on board has pulled their lines from the water to avoid getting the lines tangled. We all watch anxiously to see what kind of fish has managed to play the line for so long.

Eventually, the fish gets reeled in close enough to the boat that the line is in a vertical position, meaning the fish is straight down. All aboard watch eagerly. Each man takes a turn and no one can budge the fish. It just lays there; not moving.

Later, the rain resumed and the wind blew cold rain onto everyone’s faces. Earlier, the men had grumbled nonstop about the rain; now, only Marie and I seemed to notice. The men were completely focused on the fish.

The story ended when the fish finally broke the 120-pound test line and swam off to freedom. Five hours and 40 minutes spent on one fish! Yeah, some stories are just meant to be told.