At that prime time in his life Allan was still a large man, somewhat over six feet in height, and handsome in a manly and rugged way. A big guy with large hands who could tie small delicate flies, the kind designed to catch huge trout, and much larger flies designed to entice the powerful bonito and yellow tail found in the Pacific waters offshore from his home in Southern California. A congenial fellow, always ready to share his knowledge of fly tying and fishing. Above all, a terrific listener. Everyone who knew Allan both liked and respected him
Right then he was all alone, holding down the fort so to speak. While his colleagues were grabbing a bite to eat or taking in some of the exhibits or seminars available that day at the Fred Hall Fishing and Outdoor show in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Allan was the sole occupant of the Federation of Fly Fisherman Booth. It was late in the afternoon. The crowd moving past the booth had thinned to a trickle. Allan was totally engrossed in the fly he was tying when a slight movement caught his eye. He glanced up. A man stood there, silently, at once attentive yet seemingly almost incurious as to what Allan was doing. A huge fellow with a craggy weather-beaten face, piercing eyes framed in crow's feet, massive hands hanging limply at his sides. It was obvious this fellow was some sort of outdoorsman.
"Hi there," Allan said after it had become obvious the big man would not be the first to speak. "You tie flies?"
The silence lengthened. Again Allan spoke. "You a fisherman?"
"Oh. A fly fisherman?" Maybe they would have something in common after all.
Once again the big fellow failed to elaborate and the silence grew. Allan tied in the wing of the fly. "What kind of fishin' d'you do?"
"Commercial. Alaska. Pacific halibut."
"Oh? Man, I hear those things get really big." Allan had caught many of the Pacific (or Alaskan) halibut's smaller relative, the California Halibut, but like many of us he knew that true monsters frequented the colder waters of the San Francisco Bay area north to Alaska. "What kind of tackle do you use?"
Allan was again forced to wait. Now that the guy had piqued his interest, it was becoming more and more frustrating to have to drag the information out. "Well, how big was the biggest halibut you've caught? Where'd you catch it?"
The man thought a long moment then decided to share the story in detail. "It was just a couple of months ago, as a matter of fact. We were fishing 'bout forty miles outa Oogakuk (or whatever). Hooked a big one but didn't have any idea just how big until we got 'er to the boat." He paused foreffect. "Turned out that damned fish was so big we couldn't get it aboard. Had to tie it to the gunnel and tow it all the way home."
"My god, that big, huh? Whadj'u do when you got it back to the wharf?"
"When we got it there it turned out to be too big to weigh."
"Geez! I've heard those things can get to nearly a thousand pounds. You say you never found out how much that one weighed?"
"We almost did. One of the crew finally located a heavy-duty grain scale somewhere in town. Trouble was, we could never get the thing hoisted high enough to get the tail off the wharf."
At this fact, the disappointment was evident in Allan's voice. "So you never found out how big the fish really was?"
"No, we never did. But we took pictures."
Allan's face brightened with hope. "Photos? Boy would I ever like to see those! You wouldn't happen to have them with you, would you?"
Without so much as cracking a smile the big fellow answered: "Nope. Snapshots weigh seven pounds. Much too heavy to pack around." And without another word he sauntered away.
Copyright 2000, John F. McKim