It was so narrow here that his willow pole would have spanned it and as he came close to the bank he heard the turbulent rush of the water. He stopped by the bank, out of sight of anything in the stream, and took two lead shot, split down one side, out of the tobacco pouch and bent them on the line about a foot above the hook, clinching them with his teeth.
He swung the hook on which the two worms curled out over the water and dropped it gently in so that it sank, swirling in the fast water, and he lowered the tip of the willow pole to let the current take the line and the baited hook under the bank. He felt the line straighten and a sudden heavy firmness. He swung up on the pole and it bent almost double in his hand. He felt the throbbing, jerking pull that did not yield as he pulled. Then it yielded, rising in the water with the line. There was a heavy wildness of movement in the narrow, deep current, and the trout was torn out of the water and, flopping in the air, sailed over Nick’s shoulder and onto the bank behind him. Nick saw him shine in the sun and then he found him where he was tumbling in the ferns. He was strong and heavy in Nick’s hands and he had a pleasant smell and Nick saw how dark his back was and how brilliant his spots were colored and how bright the edges of his fins were. They were white on the edge with a black line behind and then there was the lovely golden sunset color of his belly. Nick held him in his right hand and he could just reach around him.
He’s pretty big for the skillet, he thought. But I’ve hurt him and I have to kill him.
He knocked the trout’s head sharply against the handle of his hunting knife and laid him against the trunk of a birch tree.
“Damn,” he said. “He’s a perfect size for Mrs. Packard and her trout dinners. But he’s pretty big for Littless and me.”
I better go upstream and find a shallow and try to get a couple of small ones, he thought. Damn, didn’t he feel like something when I horsed him out though? They can talk all they want about playing them but people that have never horsed them out don’t know what they can make you feel. What if it only lasts that long? It’s the time when there’s no give at all and then they start to come and what they do to you on the way up and into the air.
This is a strange creek, he thought. It’s funny when you have to hunt for small ones.
He found his pole where he had thrown it. The hook was bent and he straightened it. Then he picked up the heavy fish and started up the stream.
There’s one shallow, pebbly part just after she comes out of the upper swamp, he thought. I can get a couple of small ones there. Littless might not like this big one. If she gets homesick I’ll have to take her back. I wonder what those old boys are doing now? I don’t think that goddam Evans kid knows about this place. That son of a bitch. I don’t think anybody fished in here but Indians. You should have been an Indian, he thought. It would have saved you a lot of trouble.
He made his way up the creek, keeping back from the stream but once stepping onto a piece of bank where the stream flowed underground. A big trout broke out in a violence that made a slashing wake in the water. He was a trout so big that it hardly seemed he could turn in the stream.
“When did you come up?” Nick said when the fish had gone under the bank again further upstream. “Boy, what a trout.”
At the pebbly shallow stretch he caught two small trout. They were beautiful fish, too, firm and hard and he gutted the three fish and tossed the guts into the stream, then washed the trout carefully in the cold water and then wrapped them in a small faded sugar sack from his pocket.