Salmon contest

November 15th was the deadline for the Muskie Country DVD giveaway contest. We’d like to thank everyone who entered a story. These are a couple of my favorite lines from the second and third place stories from Cory and Nick. Cory is getting a copy of the Night of the Hex DVD for second place.

“My fly is about to drift right in front of the salmon, the salmon is under the porcupine and my dog is barking from the shore at the porcupine.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to tie a porcupine fly.”

Chris Engle, outdoor writer for the Gaylord Herald Times, gets the DVD with his story “Seamus the Salmon.”

Click below to read his story.

Never had Seamus known a fisherman. At no time had he felt the grip of an angler’s rough hands, the sound of their flapping jaw, the toothy smile they get on their sunburned face every time they lift a fish like him out of the water. He had no interest in meeting one.

All he knew about anglers he learned from stories told by relatives, or friends of friends, of fish who got hooked. Those fish were stupid — lured into eating a clump of feathers or a cleverly-molded piece of plastic — and were generally considered due for a lesson to be more mindful of what they eat. Any fish with street smarts can tell the real thing from a fake and avoid being hooked and, as the stories often end, getting stuffed and hung on a fisherman’s wall. That part always gave Seamus nightmares when he was little.

Seamus’ Uncle Arlen was notorious for telling those stories until he himself disappeared. Most fish said he’d “gone upstream” — which is code for the frenzy of eating, swimming and sex every salmon is meant to experience at the end of their life. But Seamus and his cousins all knew Uncle Arlen, his spirit worn from divorce and his teeth scarce from years of heavy drinking and booze-fueled bar fights, was physically and emotionally incapable of making the trip upstream.

The more likely scenario was that Uncle Arlen, drunk off his tail, fell for a fisherman’s trick of a late-night snack. Arlen, who brought illegal fireworks to every Fourth of July party and shaved a neighbor’s cat on more than one occasion, would’ve probably wanted to go out with a splash. One last fight to show the world he was worth something.

But Seamus was no Uncle Arlen. He steered clear of trouble, always taking the high road whenever bigger fish hassled him or temptation called his name. Uncle Arlen did enough damage to his family’s reputation, though old “Arl” still had plenty of friends down at the tavern.

Seamus kept his nose clean and it paid off. He’d spent the summer gorging himself on fish, and got so good at it that he hardly had to think about the hooks and lines and grinning fishermen that might be attached to his next meal. He packed on muscle, and his jaw got a mean-looking curl to it, with bigger teeth than any his cousins had. Had he been wanting trouble, those who once gave him a hard time would certainly be on the receiving end of it now.

No, Seamus had other things in mind. Specifically, the frenzied swimming and sex for which he’d spent the whole summer preparing. He wasn’t about to let some worthless vendetta get in his way of that.

The swimming was easy going. There were lots of other fish making the trip but he was so strong and fast he stayed in the passing lane, reaching in hours a point in the river that took other salmon days to achieve. Now it was night, and the moon was only a tiny sliver, and Seamus knew he’d better not push it too hard or risk burning himself out early, so he found a nice pool to rest for a while.

Maybe an hour had passed when Seamus was startled awake by movement ahead. A shadow, distorted by ripples on the surface, drifted into his field of view. Groggy from sleep, Seamus shook his head and focused his eyes, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Was it a ghost, perhaps that of Uncle Arlen, drunk even in the afterlife and finally making it upstream for real this time? Was it another salmon, trying to sneak past Seamus to awaiting females by slithering along the rocks? Whatever it was, it was a threat, and he had a hooked jaw full of teeth — the perfect tool for the job.

With a few strokes of his thick tail, Seamus launched himself forth into midair, where he glimmered in the slightest sliver of moonlight. What light there was revealed his target: A spiny porcupine, gnawing on a beaver-chewed branch. Their eyes met just before Seamus crashed back to Earth, striking his victim face-first with a mighty blow. The porcupine squealed and scurried off, and Seamus, unaware of how bad he got it, tore upstream, banging his face on rocks along the way until he knocked himself clean unconscious.

It was daylight when Seamus awoke. He took a deep breath but only got dry air. He choked and wriggled, but found himself caught in the grip of an angler’s rough hands. This was it, he told himself. No matter how clean he kept his nose, this was how it was going to end all along, on a wall, being flapped at by the jaws of laughing fishermen.

The glint of chrome pliers caught his eye, and Seamus winced, bracing himself for the inevitable death blow. He felt a tug at his lip, and a slight poke, and relief. The fisherman held his pliers in front of Seamus’ face. In their grip was a single porcupine quill the angler had removed with the care of a surgeon.

A moment later he was back in the river, recognizing the spot as one he’d passed just minutes before taking his break the night before. He was free to continue his journey, free to finish out his life the way every salmon is meant to, without ending up like Uncle Arlen on a stupid wall somewhere.

Fishermen, it seemed, weren’t so bad after all.

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