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Cast And Cast Again
William Humphrey
July 16, 1979
The salmon never seem to be in the river anymore but the obsessed angler, hope touched by melancholy, still wades out to seek the prize beyond recompense
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July 16, 1979

Cast And Cast Again

The salmon never seem to be in the river anymore but the obsessed angler, hope touched by melancholy, still wades out to seek the prize beyond recompense

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In his mind Pierre saw himself hooking, fighting, subduing, netting the prize of his long, arduous quest. "Yes! Let me catch him, and then..." And then "quit," with all its dreary implications, sank into his consciousness. The thought was desolating, inadmissible. "Well, if there is a 40-pounder waiting for me, then maybe there is a 50-pounder. Who knows, maybe even..."

If such a fish as Pierre dreams of exists anywhere in today's world, it is not here in Scotland, nor in Iceland or Canada; it is in Norway. Pierre knows that. Every salmon fisherman knows it. The world record, for rod and line, that 79?-pounder, was caught there in 1928, and fish of 40 pounds and more—a few—are taken yearly. Why, then, do not all salmon fishermen rush there? Because not all of them have the $10,000 per week that prime salmon fishing in Norway costs—though enough of them do that there is a waiting list. To save money enough to go to Norway is not possible for Pierre. Probably it will never be. Not that he cannot earn that sum. He can. But to do so he would have to stay at home and not go fishing anywhere at all for longer than he could bear.

It is past 10 o'clock. Silence, but not darkness, has fallen with the coming of the northern night. The birds are roosting, the sheep and the cows are still. Against the sky loom the dark, irregular ruins of Kelso Abbey. A last light goes out in Floors Castle. As though awaiting that signal to begin its poaching, an otter slithers silently down the bank to the river.

A tiny, lone figure surrounded by water, supperless Pierre fishes on in the bright Scottish summer night. He will fish until the stroke of midnight when, by Scottish law, all fishing must stop for the Sabbath. His cast is fished out. He begins his lift. Up comes the long rod, a glint of moonlight on its arc. Out of the water comes the long line, scattering droplets that glisten phosphorescently like the tail of a meteor. It straightens rearward in a tight loop, pauses, then starts its forward trajectory. Forgotten are the countless casts that have preceded this one fruitlessly. This could be the one.

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