Yes, it’s official! A low-level curse which had been dogging my friend for over two years was finally lifted last week. Of course, my friend had no idea he was suffering from a curse. He just figured that salmon didn’t bite flies. In fact, he had convinced himself that Jay and I were flossing chinooks in the open estuary. I tried several times to explain that flossing would be much harder than just waiting for the grab, and I know he wanted to believe. He came down and tried his hand with some diligence, but his 2010 season ended on a sour note. On the last day of the regular season, just as the first big fall storm descended on the coast, he hooked up and fought a dusky hen to the boat, only to find her foul-hooked.
We were supposed to fish again this spring, but he had to postpone due to injury. A freak accident resulted in his casting hand being crushed. That was my first inkling that some black “magick” might be at work. During our email exchange in May, my friend reiterated his sincere doubts that chinook bit flies. “I’m still not convinced, Rob.” I emailed him two recent photos of my flies lodged deep in the throats of spring chinook, and again I knew he was trying to believe. But his doubts consumed him.
Last week we met up for a two-day chinook hunt. He had just returned from an extended fishing trip through Wyoming and was in good spirits. I had just finished up a long, fruitless day of fishing, and my attitude was slipping a little. We camped on the beach that night, and I broached the subject of a possible curse. He was taken aback, until I helped him re-trace his experiences over the last two years.
“Is there a jilted woman in your recent past who might have cursed you?” I asked. “Maybe she was tired of taking a back seat to your desire for cold, slimy fish?” Trust me, this is a major problem for many fish-wives and fish-girlfriends, and when they finally get cut loose, they can freak out. My buddy Lance had his entire collection of fishing gear, rods, etc. burned in a bonfire INSIDE HIS BOAT!
My friend paused and gave it some real thought.
“Wow. When you put it that way, I know exactly who cursed me!” he said. Now we were getting somewhere. I suggested he keep the details to himself, as I didn’t want to become ensnared myself.
The next morning was spectacular. Thick fog shrouded the estuary, then slowly lifted as the sun warmed the air. It was a day for photographers, and everyone we met on the river commented on the tranquil beauty around us.
I positioned the boat in a favorite swinging tailout on a gentle out-going tide. Fish started showing immediately, including some mint-bright monsters. I expected something to happen. My friend made his hundredth cast into a woody little cove near the shoreline, then let the fly swing out into the channel, adding some quick strips of line to activate his flashy fly.
After just a few seconds, his line went tight, and this time it was not a piece of wood. His rod bucked hard, and the game was on. A strong, chrome hen fought him for a good long time. When most fish would have quit, she refused to roll over on her side. She swam slow, strong circles around the boat, requiring me to row with one arm and ready the net with the other. She made several moves toward me that begged me to scoop, but I knew what she was up to. I waited for the right moment, agonizing over the very real possibility that she would throw the hook before I could get her. Finally, she came to the bag.
I hoisted the gorgeous chinook into the boat, asking my friend to inspect the hook for signs of flossing. His fly was lodged squarely inside the upper jaw, and the wound was bleeding heavily. We dispatched her with deep thanks and reverence, and let her bleed out in the net.
My friend turned to me and delivered his verdict, “Well…I’m convinced!” We laughed and cracked a breakfast beer in celebration, washing away all vestiges of the foul curse.
I wish I could say that the story stopped right there, but I’m not so sure. You see, I ended my three-day weekend without a grab, even though I was surrounded by bright fish. Everyone around me caught fish. Some folks had banner days. As I reeled in my line in the growing dark, I couldn’t help but wonder whether my amateur attempt at breaking a curse had, in fact, backfired. Could it be that I was now the target?