It has been said that finding a fishing partner is harder than finding a wife.  The Man with the Hat knew this; he had his way of doing things in the boat–every fisherman does–exactly where you place the knife, the rod, the gaff, etc. Having someone else in the boat, well, they had to do it his way, that was that.   He fished alone most of the time.  When a fishing partner is added to the equation it takes some skills to build that needed trust and confidence in your partner, after all, it will be them on the net for your Tyee!  You will have hours and hours and hours of real life face time, some in the sun, some in the rain, wind and fog so you had better like each other.  Sharing meals while trolling, sharing housekeeping or not.  You had to get along, because there would be differences of opinion and decisions to be made.  There have been many fishin’ pardners round these parts and with every one, a different paradigm and countless stories.

While touring the Halibut fishing fleet one morning in a light fog, the Man with the Hat came across one such pair.  He could see as he approached that they had a big fish on; coming closer he could see now that they had a double header.  These guys were cousins, they had grown up fishing together since they were in short pants, so handling the double header should not pose a problem. But the rods were bent hard and they both were working it, so he thought maybe he’d stick around, just in case an extra set of hands was needed.  The guys worked their tackle and they were each gaining, slowly they refilled their spools and you could tell it was close.  One lifted hard up and at the same time the other fish took a dive.  They went back and forth and slowly, very slowly, as their pulls up and dives slowed equally, the ‘light’ went on!  They both had hooked the same fish, which was now under the boat, and they were having a tug of war with it.  Whose fish was it…,” I got it”, “No I got it”, “no I did”,  NOoo…, The Man with the Hat could see what was happening; within a minute there was a halibut airborne, landing THUNK! in the middle of their boat.  They both looked up, looked at each other and smiled, understood.  The Man with the Hat was gone, heading North, for with the fog clearing he could see another boat fighting what looked like a real good one.

Now these two fellas had been fishing together as long as anyone could remember; they could not fish with anyone else.  Not that it would have been impossible but it was just impossible to imagine.  When you have “Oscar and Felix” in the boat, there is just no way to think of them without each other.  Each with their own idiosyncrasies that no one else could manage but somehow, they seemed to.   They were a team, more like brothers than friends, they had fished it all together and now you could see them in action, one putting the fighting belt on for his partner while he evenly pumped the rod, not missing a beat.  This was a good fish and they were ready with the harpoon. Not a moment later the harpoon was in the water, whack-splash and then all hell broke loose! The harpoon buoy disappeared, it popped up 30 seconds later on the other side of the boat, they grabbed the line with the gaff and started yarding it back in.  Heaving together they slid the beast in, and again, pandemonium!  Flopping heavily in the boat, the fish was large enough to start breaking things. Suddenly the gaff was being wildly swung around, repeatedly.  The Hali succumbed, but in the moments before, something seemed out of place.   His partner was no longer holding the harpoon rope; he was up at the bow, seated, head in his hands, swaying side to side.  He’d taken a direct hit from the adrenalin fueled swinging gaff cum bonker!  The mood in the boat veered wildly from elation, to anger, to confusion, to gratitude, to lucky, to ‘Jesus how did that happen’ then ‘Shit that was close’.   For most people that would have been it, call it a day, but not these guys.  Undeterred, the seasoned fishing partners shook it off and untangled the harpoon, slung the fish in the box together and reset their tackle.  They were going for another one. Now that is a fishing partner, a friend like no other.

Back in camp a presentation was made for the halibut mayhem, and now when you see a fisherman with a hard-hat on, you’ll know the true meaning of “fishing partner” and why they are so hard to come by.