I'm thinking of this future corpse of mine. The arthritis in both of my feet, the nerve damage in my spine and arms. Of how often I wake up and my right hand is nothing more than a seized up useless claw, immovable and filled with searing pain. And I wonder how many more I've got in me. How many more seasons in this rough and tumble industry can I have left? It's not all from fishing of course, my resume is a monument to self punishment and abuse, but right now I'm feeling every bit of it. And I won't lie, it hurts.
The boat slows to a stop, and I ignore my screaming meniscus to force myself up and out to the bow to get ready to drop the gear.Standing in front of the power roller rocking with the pitch of the swells I watch and I wait. The skipper gives me the signal and I hurl the small buoy like an over sized hand grenade between the forks of the roller. He puts the boat in gear and the net screams off of the real as it pays out behind me. Like a string of pearls the cork line takes the shape of a crescent moon in our wake. And it happens. The first school of fish strike the gear.
Suddenly I'm an 18 year old naive kid in Bristol Bay again leaning into the rail watching the fish dance in the web of the gill net, and all that pain dissolves like sea foam on the beach. The cork line explodes with sea spray and silver dollars shining in the sun light. And just like that, I'm fresh out of high school and hungry for adventure and fortune. Starving for hardship and the eccentric character building stories of the iron jawed old men I've respected and admired since childhood. The butterflies are raging in my guts and my ears are bursting with every heart beat. It's one of the most beautiful and exciting things I've ever seen in my life.