The Fishing Nightmares Are Back

Me with the Arapaima mount in the Natural History Museum in Milwaukee, WI.
     A while back I was haunted by nightmares of giant fish.  Not them attacking me or anything crazy.  I would just suddenly lose them in my dreams.  I'd have them on and then for whatever reason the line went slack, or I missed the hookset, or the circle hook would pull out.  They were vivid almost surreal dreams.  So realistic that I could still smell the water and hear the bugs buzzing around my face after I woke up. The scary part?  They always involved the same fish, the gargantuan Arapaima.
Arapaima in Shedd's Aquarium
     I first saw this fish at an aquarist auction in my early twenties.  Way before I started fishing I had some huge aquariums.  In those aquariums lived big fish that I adopted from pet stores.  People would drop off fish that had grown to large for their tanks and the stores would call me to pick them up.  My tanks were full of arrowanas, pacus, and redtail catfish that needed a new home big enough to turn around in.  What I longed for though was an arapaima.  Luckily, I never acquired one because they grow way to large for the average enthusiast and it would be cruel to keep one in an undersized tank.  Still they swam around in my mind and I would often daydream about what it would be like to actually touch one.  Eventually though the dream faded like dreams do and I moved onto accomplishing other things like competitive yoyoing, juggling on stilts, and making balloon animals.  Or as I called it...I grew up.
Photo Credit: Animal Planet
     Fast forward a few years and fishing had become my whole world.  I couldn't get enough (still can't) of the show River Monsters.  The host Jeremy Wade would travel the world chasing huge fish.  That's when the nightmares started.  In my sleep I've almost caught the arapaima numerous times.  These dreams have gotten me in trouble.  I sprained my ankle once when I jumped up off the couch in a frenzy to grab the imaginary gill plate and wiped out on the ottoman.  Another time my wife wouldn't speak to me because while setting the hook in my sleep I missed and accidentally punched her in the face.  The last time I missed this fish I collapsed a tent during the fight and scared the hell out of my cub scout pack.  Then one day the dreams just stopped, my mind apparently busy sorting out more important things.
The rod that started this whole crazy life I'm living.
     Last week I dug my shark rod out of storage in preparation for the upcoming Sailfish Slam Tournament.  When I bought this rod years ago it brought with it so many opportunities.  It was the first rod I ordered with my name on it.  I've caught huge catfish and muskies with this rod.  I've landed sharks with this rod.  Because of this rod I went from the idea of Israel Dunn Trophy Hunter to Israel Dunn Shorebound Hero.  You could probably argue that purchasing this one rod set about the series of events that's led to where I am today.  Then again maybe I'm just over analyzing everything because of all the personal changes I'm going through lately.  Still I awoke yesterday drenched in sweat.  The massive arapaima was fraying the line on a submerged branch.  I was physically shaking and struggling to catch my breath.  One strong head shake and I could no longer feel the weight of the fish.  I think the nightmares are back...
     Tight Lines.

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