What does it take to catch the big one?
What must a fisherman possess to be lucky enough to walk off the boat with a Kenai Peninsula trophy -- a 70-pound king salmon, a 30-inch rainbow trout, a 200-pound halibut?
After being witness to many of such catches -- most specifically giant halibut, saltwater and Kenai kings -- I think I've got a better handle on it. The more I see, the less I believe it has to do with tackle, gear or bait.
It hasn't much to do with lucky fishing underwear, experience or how much money is poured into a guide's hand, although those can't hurt.
It isn't something material. I believe big fish happen to good people.
Case in point: When I was a deckhand on a charter fishing boat in Seward I had so many people tell me they wanted "the big one." They needed to have a fish picture they could stick in their wallet next to photos of their grandbabies. They weren't interested in anything else. They came to Alaska to get their "big one" and they expected a refund if they didn't get it.
Ninety percent of the time those fishermen went home disappointed.
I like catching big fish as much as the next guy, but when your expectations are high, so are the chances you'll be let down.
Recently, I saw my theory put to the test when my grandfather came up from Colorado so the two of us could get some fishing time together out of Seward.
The first day featured two fishermen who came from Australia set on going home with a giant king salmon. They threw everything else back. We fished with them on the last day of their trip and spent about four hours trolling the coast of Montague Island for salties. We hooked into one, but it wasn't on their lines.
They had convinced themselves that the only way to have a good time on their once-in-a-lifetime trip was catching the once-in-a-lifetime giant. Despite being in the most gorgeous areas of the world in one of the world's best fishing systems, they decided to go home feeling miserable.
The second day featured two fishermen, a father and son, from Idaho set on going home with little more than a good time together.
We set anchor and within two hours the father had pulled in a 200 plus pound halibut and the son reeled up an 80-pounder to go with a pair of plump ling cod. They skipped their next day of fishing they booked because they were beyond happy with what they'd already received.
The son told me he prayed for nine months for two simple things -- good weather and others to catch fish.
I asked the 78-year-old father if he ever thought he would catch a fish that big.
"I had no idea," he said with a smile from ear to ear.
Good people catch big fish -- I'm convinced. Leave your ego at home, pray for good weather and expect nothing.
Brian Smith is city editor for the Peninsula Clarion, an avid fisherman and a former deckhand. Share your big catch stories with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.