When we last left our heroes, Steve was battling something that could turn out to be his 1000th species, before an unfortunate group of Jehovah’s Witnesses interrupted blogging for the night. Suffice to say they won’t be coming back for a while – Steve showed them fish pictures for 6 hours and fifteen minutes before they cracked and ran. They were spotted drinking and cursing in a local bar later the same evening. We return you now to your regularly scheduled fish …
Ahem. Where were we? Right …
The fish was now about 8 feet deep, and with silvery sides refracting through the water, it was likely a coalfish or pollock. I remember I said a quick prayer for a coalie, made a last couple of pumps, and I swung it up over the rail onto the deck. He was definitely not a pollock. No underslung jaw, no green color – this fish was dark, with a light, straight lateral line – this was a coalfish sitting on the deck, Pollachius virens, and it was the 1000th different species of fish I had caught in my lifetime. I stared at it dumbly.
It wasn’t epic, it wasn’t a long fight – it wasn’t even a particularly big coalfish. We imagine the big moments in our lives, and they never seem to go exactly how we envision them. I think I had sort of imagined it as being some massive fish in some tropical location, but here I was, an hour or so below the arctic circle, on July 21, 2010, at about 10 in the morning, and this accomplishment that had once seemed so far over the horizon had happened.
What was I supposed to do? Jumping naked into the fjord seemed like an idea, but with the threat of YouTube and bitter memories of Brazil, I decided better of it. I looked up at Kevin. He asked me – “Is that it?” I said “I think so.” I fumbled to get out my camera and we took a few shots. I released the fish, and he kicked off, happy to be alive and completely bewildered – just like me. I sat there with my mouth ajar but no words coming out – highly unusual for me – then leaned back and just looked around at the misty fjord. What a long journey it had been – over a million air miles, thousands of hours on the water, thousands more planning, researching, and figuring out whether I had caught a wedge-toed sculpin or a three-eared goby. All those nights up until 3am dropping small cut baits and sabikis under the boat while the crew was sleeping, all that sorting through a hundred sardines to catch the one horse mackerel. The bewildered looks from guides when I asked about a variegated emperor. The endless reading to figure out exactly where the rubberlip surfperch lives, which, by the way, remains a mystery.
Looking down the fjord after the catch
Was I beside myself with joy? Yes. When I thought this idea up about ten years ago, I had no idea it was even possible. It was just sort of something cool to shoot for. And here I was, about 900 species and 60 countries removed from when I set that goal, and in Norway of all places. But I didn’t yell out in primeval Braveheart style, I just sort of sat there, with a glow of accomplishment, wondering if I was the only one who could hear the chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah.” I thought I would feel completely triumphant, but at that moment, I felt two things most of all – humble and grateful. Over these years, I have gotten so much help from so many people in order to do this, and the opportunities I have been given to see the world and even make this possible – a lot of this was just plain good luck. My mind wandered to just a few of the folks who had helped define this whole ridiculous adventure – the fishing guides and friends like Scotty Lyons, Jean-Francois Helias, Roger Barnes, Jens Koller, Dale Leverone, Ed Trujillo, and Vinnie Biondoletti, the tackle experts like Hippo and Jonah at Hi’s Tackle Box and Robert Armstrong over at Shimano, Adrian Gray over at the IGFA, the scientists like Dr. Kent Carpenter, Dr. Jeff Johnson, and Dr. Mark McGrouther, friends like Mark Spellman, Mike Rapoport, Wade Hamamoto, and Scott Perry; perhaps even Marta but NOT Jaime – and I decided a very long thank-you was in order. (Which I will post as soon as I can do it justice.)
As I had gotten closer and closer to making it happen, I did begin to wonder how I would feel once that milestone fish actually hit the deck. Would my passion suddenly erode? Would I look for a different challenge?
I snapped out of my reverie to the sound of line screaming off a reel – Kevin had dropped his lure back in the water and hooked up with a big pollock. Instinctively, I jumped up and grabbed my rod, looked at the depthfinder to see where the school was, and I cast. The anticipation was there, the itchy trigger finger waiting for that tap on the line, hoping it was something new – I was right back in the game. Six minutes after the countdown to 1000 had finished, the race for 2000 had officially begun.
The triumphant anglers