Bernard and I discussed strategy. I took the job of header, with Bernard, net in hand, as heeler. Taking our places on either side of the little pool, Bernard stood with the net poised while I entered the water to wrangle that trout toward him. Faster than a Ferrari, the trout dodged around my toes and was gone. I whirled around. “Where is he?” I yelled. “Do you see him?”
Bernard looked at me, puzzled. “He can’t be hiding in the pebbles. How can we lose a big fish in 4 inches of water?” Then the trout appeared again, darting across the open span between the two of us.
“There he goes,” I shouted. “Quick, quick, after him!” By the time we galumphed across another 6-foot stretch of water he’d disappeared again. “There’s something to be said for the efficiency of a trout in his native environment,” I said when we stopped to catch our breath. “Though if we can’t even catch a trout when it’s trapped in a tiny pool, it’ll be really pathetic.”
“Patience, patience,” was Bernard’s reply, as he resumed stalking the wily brown. “At least no one’s watching.” We both peered around to be sure.
The trout reappeared, a torpedo zooming across the pool. We were both ready. Bernard plonked the net into the water with reckless abandon, while I hopped about, herding the trout toward his flailing net. Back and forth the three of us dodged in a lunatic jig. Finally, despite our hapless scampers and slashes, the trout went into the net, most likely by mistake.
“Got him.” Bernard held up the net, grinning, doing a good approximation of a Labrador Retriever as he shook water out of his hair. I collapsed laughing onto the gravel, and gave a round of applause. But my delight quickly turned to remorse as I watched the trout thrashing in the net, my trout grudge evaporating in an instant.
“He’s terrified,” I said. “And he can’t breathe. Hurry up and put him out of his misery.”
“Do you know how to kill him?”
I surprised us both by saying, “Yeah, get a big rock and smash him on the head.” This is not like me at all. But I had actually caught one other trout in my life, the summer I turned sixteen, so I knew what to do. The method I learned was crude, but effective, the best parts about it being that you didn’t need fancy equipment with you and it dispatched the trout to the other side swiftly. I handed Bernard a big river cobble and he did the deed.
As we squelched the mile back to our house, Bernard doing a Huck Finn with the fish bouncing in the net over his shoulder, we were both slightly scandalized by what we’d just done. It didn’t feel quite sporting. But no matter. We were pleasantly refreshed from our ditch splash, and we had dinner in hand. It had been a prize winning afternoon.