Fishing can be dangerous when you hook something unknown.
Could it have really happened?
ďThe catcher sometimes becomes the catch.Ē
By Don Yates
It was 1963 and there I was, star studded night, alone on the Colorado River. I sat quietly in my J.C. Higgins Kingfisher boat, gently, hypnotically swaying back and forth to the rivers swirling ebb tides of ever changing current. The dark waters of melted snow coursed its way from the Rockies toward the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Like a giant snake it twisting and turning across thousands of miles of landscape. There were millions of years of mysteries contained in its' gurgling, murky debts as it pasted.
An orange moon cast ghostly shadows through the river mist, as it peeped over the Desert Mountains to begin its nightly journey across the black sky. How magnificent it was, the Moon as it slowly began to turn into a silvery glow. The black sky was a testimonial of vastness as nighttime desert skies usually are. I looked into the darkness, studded with stars, sparking like diamonds reviling riches beyond imagination. I felt so insignificant as I gazed upon Godís creation. Soon, this rugged land would be bathed in a silvery glow and the night creatures would come out to play and forge for food. Some where, not too far away, I heard the deep splashing sound of something very large as it entered into the river's water. Then there was silence, I strained to hear any evidence of something coming closer but there was only the quiet rustling of the passing water. "It's Probably just an old cow cooling off", I said aloud to myself. (I knew fool well there were no Alligators in these waters). I laid the back of the boat's seat down and got comfortable. After all, I was here to relax and get away from the pressure of a very demanding lifestyle.
My fishing rod was stuck in a holder with the line angling down river about 30 yards or so. I hadn't got any bites for a while but I really didnít care if I caught a fish or not. The serenity of the night was my purpose, and the pleasure of it was making me feel very at ease.
It was nearing two in the morning when I must of drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, I was shaken from my slumber by a loud noise as my rod violently shook, banging against the side of the boat. "What the heck is going on", I said out-loud, as I grabbed the bent over rod and attempted to slow the line that was pealing off the reel. I grabbed the boat's rope that had been tied to a overhanging tree limb on the bank and pulled it loose. The boat floated into the current and begin to move slowly down river. I was being dragged helplessly by the strong pulling on my fishing line. I had heard of giant Blue Catfish being caught in this area. Some as big as a man, weighing several hundred pounds were reported seen by skin divers. Soon the line slowed its unraveling, the boat gained speed, matching the movement of the dragging force of the swimming creature on its other end. "What ever it is, it's big", I said aloud, as if talking to someone in the boat with me. I strained to gain line back and bring the mighty creature under control. For one hour and a half I fought the giant fish, until my arms felt like rubber that was stretched to its limit. And then, all the sudden, without warning, with a mighty roar, a huge dark figure exploded from the dark water into the silvery black night air, not more than thirty yards away. Water sprayed from the mighty creature like a waterfall, sending a shiver of fear up my back. It did a cartwheel in the air and then came back down with a tremendously loud crashing splash that sent water flying over my head and waves cascading in all directions.
In the dark I could not make out what it was but I knew had never seen anything like it before. Panic griped me and I grouped around for my knife to cut the line and be freed from this unknown assailant that had caught me in its grip. Like the old man and the sea, I had been the fisher who had become the catch. I felt the handle of my knife and grabbed it in my left hand. As I brought the knife up to cut the line the monster changed direction. The sudden violent movement jerked the boat sidewise, throwing me off balance, causing me to fall into itsí bottom. The line was now tangled on the motor and I couldn't reach it to cut it loose. The boat was now moving backwards up river and water splashed over its heaving, rocking transom. Soon, water was flowing over my feet as it rushed in from the back. In my desperation of not knowing what to do, I grabbed a coffee can I had been using for bait and began a fruitless baling of water overboard. As the small boat took on water it became heaver to pull and the creature it was hooked to began to slow as it showed slight signs of tiring.
Moving to the front of the boat, I bailed as fast as I could for fear of sinking into the murky waters and becoming the catch that caught me for dinner. Suddenly as quick as it begin, it was over. The line snapped with a loud crack that sounded like a bull whip. Up river some thirty yards, a huge object erupted in a huge column of water, into the night air. Itsí gigantic wings beat the night air, sounding like a overloaded helicopter. The alien beast looked like a massive prehistoric bird as it flew over the low desert hills and out of sight.
I sat for, I donít know how long, stunned, in shock. The slap of branches on my face brought me back to reality as the boat drifted into a overhanging bush. I gathered up my gear and cranked up the motor, hightailing it for the dock some three miles up river. I never went back to that place, not out of fear, but out of respect for the river. The river holds many secrets, some that no man should share with another.
I never told anyone, not even my wife, (She wondered why I returned home in the middle of the night) of my encounter that night for fear of being ridiculed. Now at my advanced age, I don't mind sharing my experience. People just naturally expect you to be a little daft when you become a senior anyway.
Is reality a product of the imagination or is physical experience its endorsement? Had I fallen asleep and it was all a dream? Maybe it was real, it certainly seemed real enough to me. The broken line on my fishing pole, the half, water-filled boat and the new gray in my hair the next day. The truth is, that was forty years ago, since then I have opted to stay safely at home with my wife, and not fish the Colorado River alone, especially at night.