The Old One

The Old One

My son took me sail fishing early one morning. We readied tackle the night before and left the dock early, heading into the open sea, on a ESE compass course. At a nearby reef, we stopped to catch baitfish. It did not take long for us to fill both live wells with bait. We used the sonar to find a rise in the ocean floor. The rise was 80 feet and the bottom was 129 feet. This was a very good place to begin our troll, so we set two deep rigs and two shallow lines and began our run along the edge of the rise.

One hour later we hooked our first sailfish. The action was non-stop for the next two hours as we boated and recorded length & weight, then released each fish. The next hour went by without a strike so I turned to my son, Tim to see if he knew what was happening.  He told me that sometimes this occurred and that our trolling may have taken us out of range. So we turned around and trolled the rise to see if we could attract the “sails” again, again nothing. During this time we drank water and had our lunch

After a while, I decided to walk around to check our lines, while Tim was the boat’s controls. As I approached the starboard pole I felt the hair at the nape of my neck stand up. I put my hand on the rod and everything seemed to slow down and stop. It felt as if I had gone back into time. I called over to Tim and asked him to reel in all the other lines that we had out.  I felt that there was something big on this line. As I was about to lift the rod out of its holder, the reel began squealing as the line quickly ran out from it. Tim put the fighting sling onto me, as it had a place to put the heel of the rod. I picked up the rod and put it into the sling and sat down in the fighting chair. All this time the line was going out at an amazing pace then began to slow. Tim instructed me to begin reeling in the line with the tip of the pole in the air but to stop when I felt tension, and then drop the tip down to the water reeling in the line as I did so. I followed these instructions and when I felt tension, I dropped the tip to the water, reeled in the slack, then set the hook and the battle was on.

Tim used the boat’s motors to help take up the slack or to back up when the sail made a run, depending on how the fish responded. There was no tremendous leaping out of the water by this fish, it went deep and then came toward the surface with a rush. The fish would suddenly change directions and then would directly toward the boat. This went on for what seemed hours and when I was feeling that I had enough, the line went slack. I took in the line began to reel in the fish by lifting the rod tip into the air then dropping it to surface as I rapidly reeled in the line, always making sure that I kept tension on the line. The fish slowly came up from deep water toward the surface just behind the boat. The first thing that I noticed about the fish was its single large eye and it seemed to be looking straight at me. I felt like I was under a microscope, as it looked deep into me. The eye was on mine all the time I worked to bring that fish along side the boat.

Tim was all over the place shouting instructions and I tried to follow them as best as I could. The fish was longer than the boat and it was now spent, very passive, allowed us to do what ever we needed to bring it along side. A line was put around the tail and secured to the boat. A second line was then placed around the head.

As I reached out with my gloved hand to grab the bill to place the line, the eye opened again and looked at me. Legends that have been written that say that each society has their old or ancient members from which the society had its origin and that those are the largest and the oldest of their species. As I put my gloved hand on her bill, the thought came to me that this fish was the old one of her species. I put the line around the head and secured it to the boat. I closed my eyes and said a prayer to the Boss.  As I opened my eyes I heard in my head a voice in my head asking, “What are you called young one?” I was very startled by the question and looked around to see where it might have come from. No one was there but Tim so I turned to look at the fish. As I looked at the fish the question came again. I answered that my name was Jim. Tim looked up at me strangely because I had answered out loud.  We had drawn quite a crowd of boats by now. Pictures were being taken and the fish’s weight and length were recorded and witnessed.

The Old One, seemed so tired and was having a hard time breathing, so I asked Tim to start the boat and move slowly forward so water could flow over her gills. It was now time to release her and I leaned over, touched her bill and told her we were releasing her. She did not answer me so I asked her if I could introduce my son Tim Marshall to her. Her eye turned and looked at Tim. I asked Tim to reach out and put his hand on her bill. As he did so an amazing expression crossed his face and he turned and looked at me. Her eye turned to look at both of us for a long time. I broke the long silence by telling the old one that I was going to remove the hook in her mouth.

I had to get into the deep water to remove the hook and in the process I found and removed a lot of hooks some of which had line attached, which had been in her mouth a long time. Tim was a little worried with me in the water with a big fish but the job was done fairly quickly. The Old Ones skin felt cool and slick and she began to move slowly. Tim helped me back onto the boat and then released the lines holding her to the boat. She simply sank down and away from the boat and looked at us with her eye. As she turned to dive we both heard a soft voice saying “Goodbye young one and young one’s son,” was gone. I felt an immediate sense of loss as she slipped away into the deep blue water of her home. Suddenly there was a shout from a nearby boat. We looked up as a sailfish leapt into the air and fell back into the sea with a big splash. I knew that it could not be the Old One as this fish was smaller. It was a wonder to see that fish leap into the air. Leaping only occurs when a sail is hooked. Tim and I looked at each other in amazement.

Tim led the fleet back into the harbor or rather they fell into line behind us as we entered the harbor. Our accomplishment was written up in several newspapers and magazines in the fishing world. Our name was big news for a while. Tim’s Charter Service was in high demand due to our news coverage and his skill to catch whatever fish he was chartered for. It was like he had a guardian angel looking after him. I have always felt a kinship with the sea and now when I return I have a comfortable feeling that I’m coming home.

The Old One has often been in my thoughts as I pondered what I was going to do in my retirement years.

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copyright © 2014 James M. Curtis

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