Humor Non-Fiction posted January 18, 2016

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Join the Debate! Who caught the fish?

The King Salmon Debate

by Crystal Vail

The picture attached is the fish in question. The question is, who caught it? Well, the debate over that conundrum has been going on for fifteen years. Maybe today, you can assist in bringing this debate to a close and finally declare the catcher.

In 1998, my husband, Greg, and I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. An interesting and quaint place, if you like sixty below weather and frozen nose hairs. The winters were brutal, yet the short summers were a nice reprieve. If you love being in the outdoors, Alaska can be quite enjoyable. Fairbanks is geographically considered a "salad bowl." It dips down enough to keep out the stronger winds and trap in the cold. Thick greenery survives by crawling above the permafrost. There were times that I was mesmerized by the soft streams of rain flowing amongst what I called the "charlie brown" pine trees.

The day of the big fishing adventure was not one of those lovely rainy days. It was cold, drizzly and with each passing hour, more annoying. We were supposed to go trout fishing at the Chena Lake, but after Greg had a chat with some local fishers, he changed our course to the great Chena River. The King Salmon were towards the end of their run and Greg still hadn't caught one. He dreamed of landing a massive salmon. One worthy of a good fishing story for years to come.

He threw his line in the river, after a quick promise that we would only stay for an hour. A small boat lingered a few yards across from us with two fishermen living the same dream. I perched myself on a semi-dry muddy spot a few yards above where Greg stood at the shoreline. A faint buzzing sound kept interrupting my focus on Greg's line. Despite the rain, the mosquitoes were abundant. The tall tale of the massive Alaska mosquito is true. They're big enough to laugh at the rain, zero in on the one spot not covered with six layers of deets bug spray, and suck the marrow from your bones.

I watched him cast over and over, well into several hours of the one hour trip. It was getting late, but you couldn't tell since the summer sun refused to go down. There was no stopping him until a King was finally dethroned.

My heart skipped a beat as I witnessed the end of his pole dart low towards the water. I stood to get a better look and held my breath. He fought the beast back and forth towards the water's edge. Slowly he worked it up to the shoreline, and I was within minutes of being able to go home. Then, the worst happened. The tip of his rod flung high into the air, the line had snapped. Flopping about in a watery pool of thick mud was my ticket to a warm bed and now it was loose.

I looked at Greg and realized he had resigned to letting the fish work itself back into deeper water. I don't remember much over the next few seconds, but from what Greg said, he saw a blur pass by him as I suddenly leaped chest first and body slammed the King into the mud. I wrestled with it until my arms were tightly wrapped around its slimy 40-pound body. It wasn't until I came back up to my knees that I could hear the laughter roaring from the boat. Greg rescued the fish from my grasp. His only response was, "Damn, woman."

There was silence as we made the long trek back towards the truck. I wasn't sure if he was amazed or disappointed, but at that moment, I didn't care. I was too busy fishing mud, scales and slime from my hair and cleavage. When we reached the truck, I pulled out my camera and asked him if he wanted a picture with his fish. He stared at the fish for a moment and then said, "sure."

Now that you have heard my version of the event, who caught the fish? The person that spent hours searching for the perfect spot and hooked it, or the person that wrestled it into submission on the shoreline? I concede that it was a joint effort. The King may truly be his catch, but I made damn sure he caught it.

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


I usually enjoy fishing with Greg, but I didn't have a salmon stamp. Also, patience is not one of my virtues. We like to tease each other, about the debate, but it's all in fun. :)
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