Ole Red: A Little Red Fisherman’s Story

We met on the ramp. As the Ancona slid off the trailer, we saw headlights in the distance slowly crawling their way to the unmaintained housing platform. We joked about the electric start and how maybe we were actually moving up in the world. The engine kept dying as soon as Jeff threw it into gear. This is our common fate. We never move up.

Running through the darkness in silence, we crossed the lagoon on the east wall. We talked for 10,000 hours. We talked about what that meant. Jeff is 10,000 hours; he is a master. No one pushes the lagoon harder than him and no one is as diligent in hunting these resident fish. He buys bird flies at Hobby Lobby, works until midnight every night, and gave up everything to live closer to the ramp.

He’s one of those guys you meet and you say, “wow you really live it.” I love fishing, but when I hear his stories, I have to admit – I just love it. He is a different breed and one of the few that can put you on the fish of a lifetime in a fishery that some would say has collapsed. He is willing to do more, fish more, sacrifice more and put in the time necessary for mastery. If you don’t believe in the 10,000 hour rule, book a day with it.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy. But that day, it happened – a miracle. We were looking for that fish, the one that lives in this lagoon for more than 40 years. The one that didn’t exist. As the sun rose, we saw a wave of fish. It looked like his tail was too big to fully lift. A giant fan is calling us inside.

We positioned the boat and settled in for our first shot of the day. As the fly landed we both knew. No instructions came from the man on the platform and the fly never reached the bottom. My first strip would end as a set, and for the next 20 minutes we would just make noises, no words.

As the fish got closer, I imagined the heartache that would follow. He would pull the hook, break the line, and I would have a story to tell and nothing to tell. That’s the way it usually goes.

As we tried to land it, the fish made a last-second dive, wrapping itself around the shortened tabs, effectively stopping my heart. Two shakes later I couldn’t bear to watch. I fish for fun and moments like this make it difficult.

Catching the tail. He was ours.

We took the giant in hand and immediately joined him in the water. Too big to lift and too incredible to comprehend. This fish had seen it all, every fly, every bait, every storm, and the lagoon’s glory days dating back to when Flip and Chico would vote on its weedy flats. If only this fish could talk.

We grabbed a few photos and watched her leave.

I went out the next morning. My truck died on the ramp, my 25 blew up in the water. It was one of those days. I had outlived my luck and it was time to pay the pipe. I have learned to appreciate days like this. Hit enough times and you’ll probably only feed the fish of life once.

Put in the hours, hit the water, and every once in a while you might catch that fish that keeps you coming back. #lagungane

The fisherman’s story written by Declan Rogers, finds him on the water chasing big fish with Jeffery Mulder.

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