Steadily forcing me to yield to him in the battle of the lengthening leader, he now had me down to one 18 feet long. With that, I could see I was beginning to interest him. So big was he that even at my distance from him I could detect that rippling of his spots which denoted that he was tensing, readying himself to pounce on his approaching prey. He looked then like a jet plane throbbing as its engines are revved up for the takeoff. I, too, throbbed with tension at those times. He would raise himself, wait, watch. Then at the last moment he always had second thoughts, sank back and let my fly drift past. I had said it to myself before, but I now became convinced that this fish had attained his extraordinary size, his uncommon age, thanks to some faculty that made him unique among his kind, perhaps in the history of his kind. I alternated between cursing him for his invulnerability and feeling that I had been uniquely privileged to have made the acquaintance of so remarkable, so rare a creature.
I grew increasingly conscious of my debt to him, yet I remained ungrateful. He was giving me incomparable training in how to catch trout—lesser trout than he, that is, and that included them all. He was testing me against the highest possible standards. Few fishermen had ever had such coaching as his of me. I ought to have been content with that. I was not. He himself was the fish I wanted to catch—I hardly cared whether I ever caught another—and, forgetting now that I owed my betterment to him, in my increasing pride and vainglory I grew more and more confident that I could, that I would catch him. Right up to the season's closing day I continued to believe that.
"Closing day," my small companion said, reappearing suddenly at poolside.
"Has come. Aye, Caesar. But not gone," I rejoined.
"Huh?" My talking in riddles was all that was needed to convince him that I was hopelessly addled.
"Still using them artificial flies, I see."
"Ever get him to bite one of them yet?"
"Can't say I have."
"Then what makes you think he's going to now at the last minute?"