Zzzzzz-zzzzzz, the line spun out faster as the marlin gained speed. But she was hooked. There was no question about that. I eased up on the drag, as I had been told.
"Listen to that reel scream!" shouted Eppridge, laughing. "I told you, man. Didn't I tell you."
"Let her take it!" Hornsby yelled, exhilarated. "Let her rip!"
My thumb was on the drag as I watched her. It was a natural place to rest it. All of a sudden I was pressing the lever forward, increasing the drag slowly until it was back to the strike position. Zzzzz-zzzz-zzz. The speed that the line was going out didn't change. There is a button on the reel that prevents you from accidentally increasing the drag too much. I depressed the button and pushed the drag lever up still farther. And farther. The rod bent slightly at the tip. Then the line snapped. It sounded like the springing of a tightly strung bow.
There was silence at first. Everyone stared disbelievingly at the piece of broken line that danced in the wind from the rod tip. Then they stared at the fish, which was still raising a spray in the distance. "What the hell happened?!" Hornsby finally shouted, screamed, just warming up, cursing and shouting and banging the wheel. He was the captain, you see. It was his fish.
I eased the drag back to its proper position. "The line broke."
Then he gasped, and resumed his inventive torrent of bellowed curses.
We looked back, and the fish was jumping. Three times it came out, shaking its immense body furiously, the foam spilling off its sides like flames in the orange light of the sunset. Three times. Then it was gone.
"My god, what a magnificent animal," Hornsby said.
I don't analyze things very much. I don't feel bad about what happened, and I don't feel good about it. It just happened. I'm writing it down for Hornsby, mostly, so that he'll know that it wasn't rotten line or anything like that. I don't want him to blame himself, as captain, or the gear. To be honest with you, I don't think he felt very bad about it after the initial disappointment wore off. I don't think he thought I deserved that fish either.