What to do when a fish morphs from gills and guts into something larger – a memory that splashes across three generations of anglers, alternating between dream and reality? Born to my grandfather, this fish swam through my father Charles and landed with me. Even before I hooked her one cool April morning on Georgia’s Soquee River, I dreamt of her – a big rainbow on light line.
When Dad woke me at 7 a.m., I was mad. I’d overheard him moments earlier talking to my mother in our shared cabin at the Brigadoon Lodge. He was telling her that someone had already come back from the river and had caught a 10-pound rainbow. I confronted him but he said I was nuts.
“Your mother’s asleep and no one’s been to the river,” he said. “Now get up.”
My grandfather was never more alive then when he was flyfishing. Hooking an 8-inch brookie got the same feverish response as an 80-pound tarpon.
“Hot damn!” he’d yell, and those were the first words out of my mouth when that hefty rainbow hit my fly and crashed through the small pool she was laid up in.
The tiny reel flew off the rod, I went over my head in the river after it, and the guides and my father came running down the bank toward my screams. With no reel, and the line in my left hand, it looked like I didn’t have a chance to land her. But 20 minutes of graceless fighting led that rainbow to the net and I was sick with elation. They said she might have been some kind of Georgia state record, but none of that mattered to me. It was just grandfather’s fish coming back through the rod, through the dream, through the glory of that southern morning.