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A FISH ON THE FLY
E. M. Swift
October 29, 1979
At a small Wisconsin lake, a fisherman and a bald eagle waited patiently for Big Jumbo, the giant, native brown trout, to strike. It did
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October 29, 1979

A Fish On The Fly

At a small Wisconsin lake, a fisherman and a bald eagle waited patiently for Big Jumbo, the giant, native brown trout, to strike. It did

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"I think I jerked. I was too nervous."

After a sight like that, it hardly mattered that the bottom-feeding sucker was the only fish to find my woolly worm all day. That night it rained. A change in weather often brings good fishing, and the next afternoon we returned to North Pond in search of Jumbo.

We had hardly arrived before the loons began carrying on again, and Sally spotted the eagle. It flew across the lake and came to rest in a tree at the far end, the white of its head and tail showing against the evergreens.

"I wonder if it recognizes us," Sally said.

I considered this too implausible a remark to reply to, but two hours later, when I hooked my first fish, I had reason to believe she was right. My nine-inch brook trout was making as much of a fuss as it could, splashing beside the boat, when Sally again cried, "Look!" To my amazement, the eagle glided directly over our heads, perhaps 15 feet in the air, with an eye on my tiny trout. Without further ado I netted the fish, and the bird came to a perch across the pond, halfway up a dead tree. From there, he gave us his best E pluribus unum stare.

"He wants it," Sally said.

"So do I."

"I think you should give it to him."

If we had brought a camera or had six other brookies just like it, perhaps I would have. As it was, I would not be bullied into throwing my only fish overboard on the off chance that the eagle would swoop down, take it and appreciate it more than it had the sucker. I also did not want to face my cousin with another empty creel. I dropped the brook trout in the bait box; Sally pouted; and the eagle waited in stony silence.

We picnicked on cold chicken at dusk. The mosquitoes picnicked on warm ankles. I had brought a bottle of Pernod, a yellow, licorice-flavored liqueur, which I have discovered has a numbing effect on mosquito bites when taken in moderation—or excess. The sun appeared for the first time all day, then dipped beneath the cloud cover, and the wind stilled. The clouds turned pink.

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