One fell swoop—salmon!

Being greeted with ice on your windscreen when you wake up is never fun. It’s even worse when the ice is on the inside of the window and you were sleeping in said car. This was my reality as I arose from another long battle with the chilling Mackenzie country winter.

A familiar face stood looming over my window, coffee in hand and a smile from ear to ear, “Cmon Dan, we’ve got fish to catch!”

Having finished semester one, I was gifted some much-needed free time and what better way to rest and recover than a four-day canal trip with my mate Sam.

Before I could finish my coffee, Sam was suited up and raring to go. I downed my drink and raced after him.

The fishing had been slow this trip. We had only managed a handful of tiny browns and rainbows, no bigger than a couple of pounds. Despite the hard times, we were still young, dumb and full of enthusiasm.

Cast after cast, we strolled the canal banks, hoping our plastic eggs would be engulfed by a monster trout at any moment. Hours went by but the only thing our rigs could entice were snags and clumps of weed.

We relocated a few times before finally finding some good flow. I launched my egg-rolling setup into the current and the monotonous wandering was revived, but this time it felt different. I wasn’t sure whether it was the golden rays of warmth finally emerging over the snow-covered Southern Alps or the second coffee hitting me. Still, I could feel our luck about to turn.

In less than a minute, I felt my line tighten, another damn snag!

I yanked my line to free the stuck rig but it wouldn’t budge.

Moments later, the snag moved, slowly bending the rod before erupting and darting up the canal.

Once it had set in that my line wasn’t caught in the weeds and I had, instead, disturbed a sleeping giant, I shouted for Sam.

At this point I couldn’t tell which was moving faster, the fish getting away or Sam bounding down the road, net in hand.

The fight slowed after the first big run but was no less exciting. This was the first and possibly the only chance we had at getting a big fish and the light tackle meant I had to be extremely careful.

The giant glided left to right, using the strong current to its advantage.

My nerves grew with every head shake. By now, a small crowd of fellow fishermen stood, eager to see what I had on, adding to the already intense pressure.

“Salmon!” Sam yelled as a wall of silver broke the surface near the bank.

Before I could comprehend what was happening, Sam was knee-deep in the canal with his net in the water.

I carefully angled the fish towards him. In one fell swoop, the long battle was won.

Built-up anxiety switched to chaotic elation.

The monstrous slab of silver barely fit in the net and was by far my biggest salmon.

Despite the fishing going dead after that, Sam and I had a permanent smile for the rest of the day. In our eyes, that fish made our trip a success and one that I am in no hurry to forget.

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