Brilliant columns of light danced through the green-tinted liquid as the sun broke the water’s surface. A strange object caught a hint of bright light as it made its way through the cool, clean water. The way it fluttered back and forth, the object appeared and behaved almost like prey. It was one of the most tempting things she’d encountered all day. She had flushed out and snagged a few choice morsels earlier, but the action she now tracked would pass nearby. Normally, she preferred to chase her prey, thrilled by an active hunt, but this was just too good to ignore.
An occasional flick of her fins allowed her to maintain her position as she hovered above the rock-strewn riverbed. Concealed by green, aquatic plants, she waited eagerly to ambush the unwary meal. Her eyes tracked the object’s motion as it glided closer. Instinct impressed upon her a desire to wait for the right moment to strike the unsuspecting prey.
So close. The meal was almost even with her.
Almost there, just a bit more.
Her gaze followed its movement as it swam past. The food would be hers; her patience would soon pay off.
With a powerful stroke of her tail, she darted forward, striking the object from behind with all the strength she possessed. As she spread her jaw open as wide as possible, a powerful suction was created which drew the meal into her mouth.
Confusion flooded over her as she realized something was wrong. The object was much too hard, and its taste was unnatural. Unknown flavors and textures overwhelmed her tastebuds. As soon as she’d inhaled the meal, she tried to purge it. At that moment, she felt a sharp tug. With a start, she realized she hadn’t been able to expel it completely. Raw fear surged through her. The food had lodged itself inside her lip. Not only that, the food was continuing to drag her. Her mind reeled, none of this should have been possible. The morsel had way too much power behind it.
Another sudden jerk yanked her through the water. She swept her tail back and forth trying to escape. No matter how hard she tried, she was unable to free herself. As she was pulled forward yet again, she knew something was very wrong; the force wouldn’t stop. She made another attempt to spit the food out, but it was stuck. Baffled, she had never encountered anything similar to this small piece of food, dragging her through the water.
A vague nightmare resurfaced from when she was younger. She’d come across another odd bit of food. It looked different, however. That object had the appearance and mannerisms of an injured worm. Although also easy to catch, there had been a similar unnatural tang, and she’d experienced the same uncontrollable tugging. Ripped from the water and unable to breathe, she experienced a horrible stinging sensation as the air began to dry her gills out. Some enormous creature had pried the worm from her lip, all the while making strange, loud noises. There had been bright lights, then she’d been slipped back into the cool liquid of her natural environment.
She suddenly realized the severity of her peril. Frantic, she started to put up a real fight. She used all of her power attempting to escape. It didn’t work; she couldn’t get free. She was being pulled, dragged in a direction she somehow knew she didn’t want to go.
As the boat rocked with the gentle flow of the river, it amazed Steve how the motion always seemed to calm him, to make his problems just drift away. The fiberglass hull, with its red reflective paint, caught the sun just right, making a splendid pattern on the water’s surface.
For years he’d scrimped and saved for the bass boat he’d always wanted. But it wasn’t until his new promotion that Steve was finally able to buy it. It wasn’t his first boat, but it was the best he’d ever owned. At almost nineteen feet long his new bass boat wasn’t the biggest out there or the nicest, but it was his. Steve smiled at the thought of his first boat; an old, forest green, aluminum jon boat.
Steve glanced down at the large outboard motor; at two hundred horsepower, it was more than he would ever need. Powerful enough for him to cruise across any lake at nearly seventy miles per hour once the boat was on plane. Steve marveled at the process of the hydrodynamic lift produced, which allowed the craft to rise to the plane. As the speed increased, the craft’s bow lifted from the water, which lessened the hull’s contact with the water, thus reducing its drag significantly and allowing the boat to reach faster speeds.
A sharp tug on his line brought his mind back to the task at hand. He lifted the tip of the seven-foot-long, graphite, casting rod, winding the reel’s handle several times. Steve liked the feel of the new Abu Garcia Ambassadeur in his hands. Its double bearings, gear ratio, and drag all felt just right. Steadily turning the ergonomically designed handle, he applied just enough pressure to let the fish slowly wear itself out.
You mustn’t rush these things, he reminded himself.
“You got one!” Gabriel exclaimed, bouncing up and down.
Steve gazed down at his son and saw an expression of joy brighten his small face at catching the day’s first fish. They’d started late; it hadn’t been until well after six that evening when they’d put the boat in the water. His son had been ecstatic to accompany him on the trip. His eyes had gone wide when Gabriel learned he’d be able to go camping and fishing with his dad and uncle. Steve supposed at eight years old everything seemed exciting.
“Yeah, I think it’s a big one too,” Steve beamed.
He was grateful for the opportunity to have this father/son bonding time. Steve hadn’t been close enough to his own father and refused to make the same mistake with Gabriel. It wasn’t easy being a single dad and Steve wanted to do his best. He’d found his son an old rod and reel at a flea market the month before. The rod was nothing special. The reel, an old Zebco Model 33 just like his uncle had taught him to fish with, was still in excellent condition, however. Someone had taken great care of it.
He glanced at his Lowrance depth/fish finder to check the riverbed’s depth beneath his hull.
Five feet Steve thought, Still safe.
Just to be sure, he lowered his foot onto the pedal of the trolling motor for a second. Steve wanted to keep the boat in the deeper sections of the river. He heard the satisfying hum as the small, powerful motor kicked in.
The line jerked back and forth as the fish fought. A few more gentle turns of the handle brought in the slack.
Steve was glad he’d used one of his old Swimmin’ Minnows. The lure was one of his favorites. With its natural swimming motion and paint job of light shades of green and white, it had a realistic look. He had various lures to choose from in his turquoise, metal, pocket tackle box. His uncle had always carried a similar box around with him.
It seemed the fish was beginning to tire. Not long now, Steve thought. All he had to do was keep up the gentle pressure and slowly reel it in.
His focus shifted skyward, and he scanned the heavens. It was a beautiful day. There was just the barest hint of clouds in the bright, clear blue sky. The cool, clean water of the river contrasted the multiple colors of green, brown, and gray present on the shore.
As he pulled the fish alongside the boat, Steve lifted the tip of the rod and finished reeling the large fish to the starboard bow. The largemouth bass appeared to be one of the biggest he had ever caught. It had to be at least five pounds, surely not a record but still a great catch.
Steve had known people his whole life who couldn’t wait to get out of Oklahoma. He’d never understood, never wanted to leave. With fifty-eight lakes and over one hundred and seventy species of fish, why would you ever want to? It was crazy.
Once the bass was at the edge of the boat, he stooped and, making sure to keep the line taut, he slipped a thumb into the fish’s mouth. As he squeezed the fish’s lower lip, between thumb and forefinger, the fish started to thrash around, continuing its fight.
“Wow, that is a big one!” his son exclaimed as Steve lifted the bass over the gunwale.
“Grab the camera out of my bag and take a picture,” he instructed.
While Gabriel dug through the bag, Steve realized the fish might even be a little bigger than he’d first thought. He leaned the rod into the crook of his arm. Steve flipped his multi-tool open and pried the hook from the fish’s mouth with its pliers. He watched Gabriel pull the camera from the bag and its case. His son was always cautious with electronics and knew as much as he did about them.
“Cheese,” he said, a smile lit his face a moment before the flash did. “Take another just in case.”
After the second flash went off, he set the rod carefully on the boat. He bent down to open the live well and lowered the fish inside. The fish would taste great.
“Let me see,” Steve beamed as he reached out for the camera.
It amazed him at how well the camera had captured the scene. Even in automatic mode, the camera took crystal clear photos. The camera had adjusted automatically for light exposure and color. He stood below the light blue sky in his fishing jacket. His light brown hair peeked out from beneath his ‘Red Bird’ ball cap, catching the light. He could clearly make out his bronze, B.A.S.S. belt buckle at his waist. The river water had a clear blue color to it, from natural springs found in much of the surrounding area of Oklahoma. A plump bass in one hand and a Falcon rod in the other, behind him, was a great view of some limestone cliffs.
“Wow, this is great!”
He didn’t notice that the second picture had a small crack, absent from the first picture, which ran vertically all the way to the top of the cliff.