Saturday, May 31, 2014


We were visiting our uncle and aunt in Robinson’s Jct. and since my mother didn’t like to drive at night, she told me to find my younger brother so that we could head home before dark; he had disappeared shortly after dinner.

Since a scan of my uncle’s property showed no sign of him, I headed straight for the path that led to the river.   The path was narrow and alders kept smacking my face; I heaved a sigh of relief when I got to the airy open space of the river.  Within a few minutes of walking along the riverbank, I started to see a gray figure ahead, and as I approached I could clearly see it was him; the hat, bush jacket, faded jeans… yep, that was him alright.

As I got closer to him I began to feel uneasy.  The day was turning into night and the sky seemed to take on an eerie quality.  There was no one else in sight and there was a dead calm.  Even the sound of the river seemed to dissipate.  The saliva in my mouth dried up causing a lump to form in my throat.

Phonse seemed like a drunken man, he was staggering back and forth and his body was bent in an odd shape.  His hat fell off his head and I could hear him grunt and moan.  His arms were tight against his body, bent at the elbows; I couldn’t see his forearms or his hands.

My heart raced as panic set in, and I began to run.  When I finally got to him, I found him soaking wet and clutching his trout rod with everything he had.  The rod was bent in a u-shape, with the tip of the rod almost touching the reel, and at the end of the rod was the biggest salmon I had ever seen!

It was over three feet long and over a foot wide.  It was wriggling like an alligator, twisting and turning, fighting with all its might to get away, and splashing water everywhere.  There were scars around its gills and snow-white underbelly.  

Phonse had caught it in the main river and had managed to land it in a pool of knee-deep water beside the rapids.

My initial reaction was to jump in, but one move toward it might make it produce one last burst of strength causing the line to break.

“I can’t hold it much longer; the line’s not strong enough!”  He had been tackling with it for some time, but the salmon showed no sign of giving up.  “Jump in and grab it!”

Without hesitation, I went in.  Phonse pulled on the line one last time and gave it a good tug, hoping he could get it out of the pool and away from the water.  I reached in and tried to grip it around its gills, but I couldn’t even get my hands around it.  The line snapped, and in my last attempt to grab it, I fell into the water.  The fish jumped out of the pool and into the rapids.

Phonse was disappointed, but he knew there would be many other days of fishing to come, and many more fish like that one.

He currently lives in New Brunswick where there are many places to fish, including the Miramichi River. He fishes every chance he gets, and still remembers the one that got away.