A short story from my friend Larry Gavin.
Thanks Larry
Fishing Dog
That summer the dog was the size of a Volkswagen.  It seemed to grow each season in proportions so out of reason that I stopped thinking about them. According to the rumors around the Oasis bar, it was trained to attack viciously any trespassers.  One should listen for a high-pitched whistle the bar patrons said, because that was Arnold Moenstien’s  signal for it to attack. I could barely imagine what that would be like.  I’d seen the dog charge out from behind the barn at the UPS truck, hit the side of the door, and fall to the ground only to roll over and chew rabidly at the front tire.  A dog that big left a dent in the brown side of the panel truck a dent that formed a bullseye in the middle of dog spit and mucus. It actually started a hunk of rubber pealing from the tire’s side-wall.  After that, deliveries were stopped. The rumors had it Moenstien all but quit coming to town.  The dog grew even larger then, bulkier, and cockle burrs sprung up along its flanks.  One eye, some said, got all milky and rheumy the result of a poke from steel delaminated off the front radial tire.  The dog was a force, like gravity.  The dog was ageless, too.  I remembered him from when I was a kid. I never remember him as a puppy but always as full-grown and still getting larger, bulkier, more intense.  How could anyone hope to deal with that?
Old Moe, as Moenstien was called by locals, owned three miles of the best trout stream around.  It was beautiful water, legendary, with a small “l”.  The stories about its trout were legendary, too, all around Moe’s farm the stream was open, any one could fish, but those three miles were posted shut.  Not with the polite hardware store signs that change with Milton Hardware’s inventory: “No Trespassing” in red and white, the next year a yellow “No Trespassing Under Penalty of Law”, and most recently “No Hunting Fishing Trapping or Trespassing” in black and white.  Moe used tires and the white paint left over from painting his house.  “No” on the top and “Trespassing” wreathed around the bottom.  They were hung on fence posts, but also in trees, high as the bucket on the front-end loader could lift Moe, well out of any vandal’s reach.  They appeared, it is said, all in one night when I imagine the world closed a little too close on Moe, and he decided to do something. They were everywhere like poison ivy.
I crowded the borders of Moe’s land from both ends and I could see the wealth of his water. And each time I approached his section of land, each time I got right up to the old tire hung on a tight strand of barbed wire over the center of the stream – like the pendulum of an evil grandfather clock – I would crawl up the bank and peak over.  The dog would be standing at the edge of Moe’s yard, a half-mile or so across the pasture, looking right at me.  Its ears were turned in my direction and if I followed the line of his body to the nearest window old Moe would be standing too looking out past the dog in my direction.  Once I saw his fingers, circled for a whistle, approach his waist, then near the top of his soiled bibs, and I saw the muscle along the dog’s flank straining with a mixture of obedience and the desire to run something down.  Then old Moe dropped his hands and turned away from the window interrupted by a phone call perhaps or by tea whistling from the stove.
I always felt I left these little encounters knowing something.  And although I’m a man, I always felt a little squeeze in my stomach, a little wobble in my knees, as I turned back away from Moe’s property.
The key to the big fish everyone agreed was at the farthest point from Moe’s house – way at the end of the pasture.  There was a huge corner turn in the stream after a long stretch of waist deep riffely run.  The farmer dumped a couple of cars in the stream to prevent erosion and although cars in trout streams are a cliché’ now at the time I was unaware of that.
At this point I had mismanaged my life so intensely, so completely, that the thought of being mauled by a dog in the attempt to catch a large fish didn’t seem that ridiculous, because the fish were really supposed to be big. Although my life at the time was precipitously devoid of standards, my fishing was not.  I knew the fishing had to done in broad daylight and any fish had to be caught with a dry fly.  Not because I was a fishing snob, but because if I was going to be mauled by a dog while catching a fish I wanted the catching to involve every sense.  I wanted the whole thing: the rise forms up next to the bank, probably by a taillight, The perfect drift and the take as delicate as the skin on a girl’s wrist, and then the explosion of wild trout thrashing against taught line and stifling air.
That air alive with electricity.  The fish doing its best to defeat me using all its tricks and runs at the net. Until I release him. My imagination stopped here unable to imagine what happens next.  Its color golden. Its side irredescent.
The dog, big as a Buick by now, lurked in the dark edges of my mind, lurked in the spots reserved for doubts, desire, and dreams.
The wind decided when I would fish Moe’s pool.  I wanted it blowing away from the house so that my scent wouldn’t carry to the dog that was growing larger, so large that its collar, a length of log chain, snapped with the dogs size. It was free now, and ranging farther on its own.  It was a Tuesday. And I decided to sneak into Moe’s pool that evening.  I spent the day like I normally would.  I ate a normal breakfast after making the decision.  Things seemed clearer though, sharper.  The edges of objects, each individual leaf, stood out in relief.  My plan was to hike over the ridge down a ravine and into the river.  If I did it right, I would end up about a hundred yard upstream of the last “no trespassing” tire, and downstream from the cars.
The weather was unsettled as I started out and rain threatened from the west.  The wind stayed true; however, blowing my scent away from the house and the dog that guarded it.  As I topped the ridge the dog and Moe were nowhere in sight.  But the sense of the dog hung over the landscape like a low fog.  It filled the hollows and crept along the edges.  The dog could be anywhere.  I was out of sight in the ravine and I wondered if the stories were true; that Moe fed the dog gunpowder like old junkyard owner’s once did to make the dog crazy and barely controllable.  It took a good hand with dogs to know when enough was enough; when that fine line between control and beastliness is reached but not crossed.
Thunder rolled from far away and the air had the smell of electricity – the clean hospitally scent of ozone.  I stayed low kneeling on the bank. I saw the first fish rise.  Then more fish rising to caddis. Thunder rolled in the distance and the sky was getting darker.  It was big fish weather.  There was one fish, however, just at the lip of the undercut bank.  At the point where the water speeds up and drops under the bank like that feeling in your stomach as a Farris wheel tops its circle – like the moment before a great loss or some mad success.  The fish was nosing farther out from the bank with each caddis sipped, and its body just kept getting longer and longer.  I noticed it preferred the caddis listing away from the bank and floating on their side, dead drifting, not struggling at all.  It was this concentration on detail that made me nearly forget the dog.  The air was almost green with storm clouds.  The dog was huge, the size of a bus.  If I could get the fish to take, and if I struck with initial side pressure, I might just be able to land him. I might just be able to keep him from getting back under the bank, and breaking me off. He was almost totally revealed now and eating with more urgency.  He was huge.
Lightening lit the hilltop.  The caddis were dappling the surface neatly like rain reversed and rising.  The air smelled scorched, acrid, burning. It was as if flames were in the clouds themselves.  The tippet was so thick it made the knot look bulky; like the caddis was chasing something, I thought.  I wanted to sneak up on the perfect cast. I wanted to toss a few a little short, to get a feel for the distance and the little push out cross-current just before the big trout’s nose.  Play the current right and it’s in the feeding lane; wrong and it gets pushed out.  Time after time.  It’s about not making mistakes now, about caution until the lie of the trout reveals its secrets. Those subtle currents that one barely notices, but that make all the difference.  The scent of musty oak-wood, burning, reached me.  But I had the fish measured, had him figured out and on that drift, that looked to me just like any other, the fish sipped the caddis in a surprise equal in its completeness to the surprise that I had not been attacked by the giant dog.
The fish was too big to successfully turn when I held the rod low and exerted pressure where he didn’t expect it.  The wind was up now and this was to be the first and last fish. The air smelled like burning tires.  The net was too small and I beached the fish gripping it behind the gills across the head.  It was easily twenty-nine inches and as I pumped it for release I could feel its strength gaining, and I knew things would never be the same.  All I could think of is getting out of there before the big storm hit.  I heard what I thought were sirens from town warning about a tornado, but as I topped the bank I saw Moe’s house in flames out front a black pile of tires burned giving off rich smoke curling into the sky then pushed down by thermals hugging the ground.  Fire trucks appeared up the gravel but it was too late.  Then I realized that what I thought were tires was the dog smoking and dead near the edge of the grove.  The promise of its mass was unrecognizable.  The shape of my fear stopped growing.