Catch and Release

Posted: September 12, 2014 in poetry
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We travel the narrow and rough road in a decrepit ex-Russian army truck,

Searching for a giant Trout near the lawless Russian border with Mongolia.

Winter lasts six months of the year:

Millions of yaks died in the almost nuclear conditions recently.

The rivers are frozen for that time- this must be a tough fish to survive.

A stinking dead horse by the side of the road is attended by dirty big blowflies, millions of the black and yellow bastards.

All around is the stench and spirit of death gliding over the land, haunting the windswept rolling hills.

No laws in these savage Mongolian lands, brother will strike brother, all for gold.

There are ninjas, as the miners are called, waiting in the hills to shoot us.

The Yak-keeping nomads of the region hear gunfire often.

We are far from any sort of help if anything goes wrong.

Down the freezing Delger-Morǒn River in a rubber boat,

Casting out onto glassy transparent waters for the vicious Hucho Taimen, the world’s largest trout.

The local Tsaatan people call them river wolves and worship them.

Calm waters merge into rapids without warning,

Loose rocks fall from the surrounding granite cliffs.

I go to see a shaman who is a beautiful young woman as women can be shamans among the Tsaatan people of northern Mongolia.

The shaman knows well the water spirit that owns the glorious Hucho Taimen.

She dances in a costume of whirling colours that disguises her totally- she looks more beast than woman.

The shaman is drummed into a trance and becomes a gruff voiced oracle- the voice of a spirit.

The oracle insists that I release the mighty fish unharmed if I catch it.

I offer yak milk to the spirits and the shaman chants.

Then I hunt the Hucho Taimen with a lure fashioned from yaks’ hair:

A massive fish like a trout which can grow to six feet long with a dark-green spotted body, red fins and vicious needle-sharp teeth.

They eat prairie dogs, ducklings and frequently each other,

And sometimes they hunt in packs, which is an alarming image that makes piranhas look like goldfish.

The Hucho Taimen is hiding near sharp rocks in the rapids:

A substantial dark shape rises to the fly on the surface of the water-

It strikes and the rod is bent in two.

I feel myself almost being dragged into the river and losing my footing.

I battle the muscular fish for hours, enduring like a martyr.

Finally the gargantuan trout-monster is in:

Its head is as big as my head, its teeth slope inwardly and it even has teeth on its tongue.

It thrashes against our arm-hold and gapes its abominable mouth.

I take a picture of myself barely holding up the fish with a big grin on my face then I let it go.

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