- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It was not barren, though. Five-and six-pound lenok—a troutlike species—hit often enough to set my heart pounding on false alarms. And even before the sun burned through the mist, I spotted my first live taimen. Or, to be precise, Sash spotted it, after he had climbed a dead spruce that hung out over the water and directed me where to look.
It was a big fish, 25 or 30 pounds, a dark shadow finning lazily in a smooth glide at the tail of a pool. I cast so that my lure would swing across its nose. But the clear water fooled me as to its pace and strength: The spoon flickered beyond and behind the taimen, and "Nyet, nyet, nyet!" yelled Sash from the tree.
Even when I got the distance right, the taimen ignored the spoon. For 20 minutes I laid siege to it in vain, working my way through most of the lures recommended by the Seattle-based trip outfitters. "Sash," I said, "you try." He didn't understand, so "Smoke," I said, pointing to myself, though I don't, and "Cast!" pointing at him.
He got the message and got his gear from the boat. It consisted of one of those funny single-action reels and a short steel rod—the Russians were probably still working their way through the German tank antennae acquired at the Battle of Kursk in 1943. Later I would find that he could toss a spoon 200 feet, accurately, with that stuff, but this time, possibly because he was nervous, he dropped the spoon right on the taimen's nose, and the fish swam off, slowly, like an affronted duchess.
"Nyet!" I shouted at the departing fish. "Nyet, nyet, nyet!"
Sash tripped and fell on the bank, laughing helplessly at my desperation. Later, through Galliulin, he explained that it was common to sight a taimen this way but that they would rarely take. If you could see them, he reckoned, they could see you. The taimen you caught, he said, was the one that came out of nowhere.
This information came at lunch, real lunch. By then Sash was entitled to pontificate, because he had guided me to the first taimen I ever caught. And, true enough, it had hit sight unseen, before the mist lifted and shortly after we quit on the fish Sash had spotted.
If that sounds like an abrupt and downbeat way of putting it, well, by lunchtime I realized that, though in a strict sense my quest was satisfied, in reality the grail still shimmered just out of reach.
Sure, my first taimen had been a pretty fish, and it had fought like a snow leopard. I had even rejoiced over it at first. But it was no monster, just 20 pounds or so. And the obsession I had with the species was that it was a breed of monsters. To exorcise my fixation, I needed to catch a taimen of the size I had heard about, more like three times the weight of the morning's fish.
But though at first it seemed my chances were good, once that first day's mist burned off, so did the taimen fishing. Jerry, in spite of Crash Gordon's efforts-he roared into every pool with the motor at full throttle, careening into rocks and boughs without changing expression-took a nice fish the second day, but that was it.