Sport fishing Column for Dec 24 to Dec 31, 2012

In keeping with the season we have decided to for-go our usual column and share a more seasonal piece. We wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that brings you every happiness.

The Christmas Coho

I had read accounts of men who had gone fishing on Christmas or Boxing Day. I found it strange in reading these accounts, that it was often the wives of these anglers who encouraged their husbands to leave family and friends at this special time.

There is a late run of Coho Salmon that come into my favorite river each December. This run of Coho is one of my favorite fisheries, because they come in at a time when most anglers have put up their rod for the season. This leaves me miles of river to myself. I prefer to fish this run by myself, which provides me silence to contemplate the majesty of God's workmanship.

One year these late Coho did not come in at the expected time. Each week that December I journeyed to my river to find my fish. Finding none, each time I questioned God as to when these fish would arrive. Christmas week came and I had still not found my fish. Now it was too late; family was priority and there would be no time to fish until the New Year.

On Christmas Day my wife, Kim, spoke to me when we had a free moment. "Dear, I know how much you value your time fishing for those December Coho, and I know you haven't located them yet this year. The girls and I have lots of things we can do tomorrow; so why don't you go fishing?"

"Are you sure you don't mind," I asked? Not knowing that my wife and daughters had asked God in prayer; to grant me a very special day of fishing.

Kim smiled and said, "Just go dear; we will be fine."

That Boxing Day I arrived at my river to find the Coho had come in, but they had come so late that they had turned color very fast. The run was a reasonable size, but every one I could see was as red as a tomato. Though disappointed, I thought to myself, "There has to be at one or two that are still bright."

So I began walking the river in search of a clean fish. Then it was there; I caught a flash out of the corner of my eye. "There's one I thought to myself," and began stealthfully creeping toward the pool where I had caught the flash.

There in the midst of school of dark fish, I saw a few clean ones. "Thank you Lord, I

Page 2

I declared. Now which fly is going to work?" Immediately my St Nick came to mind, and I tied on to my line.

My first cast came up short. My second went long. "Calm down and concentrate," I though to myself. I took my time on the next cast, and it dropped perfectly, right in the pocket. I saw the flash of a fresh fish turning for a slash and grab take. Patiently I waited for my line to taunt.

The slack was drawn out of my line and I could feel the pulse of a fish finning in the current; so I arched my rod and gave the line a sharp pull. The hook set solidly and the fish bolted up stream. Then the fish doubled back before I could get it on the reel. I stripped frantically to gain control. After I achieved a tight line again the fish rolled twenty feet in front of me. "It's too big to be a Coho I thought to myself." In disappointment, I spoke out loud again, "Dam, it's a steelhead and I don't have a tag. I guess its catch and release."

Disappointed that I would not be able to bring a fish home for dinner, I applied more pressure than I should have to my rod, hoping for a quick release. The fish rolled again and charged across the pool. The pressure snapped my rod three quarters of the way up the blank. My impatient had cost me a rod.

This time when the fish had rolled it was closer to me, and enabled me to get a better look at it. It was a Coho. A big Coho! I was getting a bit shaky, so talked to myself again. "This is probably the biggest Coho you have ever had on the line, but it is only a fish, and you have landed bigger ones than this. Calm down."

A few minuets latter and I was myself again. With my regained focus, I was paying close attention to every move the fish and I made. I was not going to loose this fish!

Later when the fish began to tier I slowly and cautiously I worked it to shore in front of me. Then I saw the adipose fin. "Oh no, it's a wild fish," I though, as I looked at the fish resting at my feet. It was clearly evident that this was the biggest Coho I had ever caught.

Fish and game law required I release it. My ego said, "poach it."

Now I faced man's age old dilemma; the immediate gratification of sin or doing what is right. I looked around to see if there was anyone within view. I was alone. I thought to myself, "I could put this fish in the bag and take it home; there is no-one here and it is very doubtful that anyone is going to pull me over and check my car for illegal fish. I could get away with it and no-one would know."

As I debated with myself at familiar still small voice began to speak to me in my thoughts. "How would it look for the great teacher you hope to become, to be such a hypocrite? You who preaches the need for integrity and ethics among anglers! Yes, you
Page 3

could take that fish and get away with it; but every time you teach a class, write a paper, or speak about fishing you will remember this day and the choose you made. Right or wrong I is you who will live with the choice you make."

I didn't need to think any further; I knew what I had to do. I took my measuring tape from my vast and measured the fish still resting at my feet. Then I removed the hook from its jaw and held it up right in the current until it swam away. Next I took my pen and log book from my vest and did the math, length x girth to the power of 2, divided by 800, equaled twenty pounds; a magnificent specimen of its species.

"Thank You Lord," I said, "What would I have done with that fish besides waist it on a meal anyway? I would have waited that fish and any others it my have spawned. I pray that fish completes the plan you have for it and that it spawns a one hundred fold return of Coho as magnificent as its self."

My rod was broken, my fish was gone, and there were no photos or witnesses; even so that day is one of favorite memories. I had landed a Trophy Coho, and my father in heaven, who in one way or another had taught me everything I know about fishing, was there to see it. And that was enough!

As I drove home that day, through a late afternoon painted in spectacular sunset; I thanked God for another great day of fishing, and another valuable lesson in life. It didn't end there though; the Lord added one more blessing. To this day, not one person has ever questioned the size or validity of that Christmas Coho.

Jeff Weltz