Sunday, September 6, 2009

"...a perpetual series of occasions of hope."

I was seconds away from calling it a day and heading home this afternoon when I spotted the fins, waving at me like two little flags. I was at a beach for the 2nd day in a row hoping to exact revenge on a 20"+ bonefish that had kicked my ass the day before.

Yesterday, there had been about a dozen bones cruising around on the flat, surprisingly large and aggressively feeding. Stacy had spotted them; her wildlife eyes are becoming more and more acute each time we head out. I casted to one fish tailing near a baby mangrove with his dorsal fins and tail waving at me. The two fins spun instantly and aligned themselves with my tiny shrimp as I stripped it once and let it sink. The fish zoomed over and paused right on my fly. I lifted the rod and offered a weak-ass strip set and she took off straight towards me. One, maybe two seconds later and it was all over.

My heart was hammering and I was not too pissed. It was progress, and a lot more action than we had been seeing the past few weeks. A massive storm front was rolling across the ocean towards us and a flash of lightning chased us off the flats a few minutes later.
Needless to say, we were pumped to get back out to the flats today and land a few of these fish.

We arrived at about 8:45am and didn't see a single fish, save one slammer barracuda that gave chase to a streamer, by lunch time. I dropped Stacy off at the school to get some work done and I went back to Brandywine. The flat is about as large as a football field and I alternately sat on the edge of it scanning the surface and making a slow lap around the edges of it in search of bonefish. After three hours of absolutely nothing, I headed back to the car.

Steps from the beach I happened to catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned and saw the two fins waving in the air. They were different than a bonefish's fins...much too long. I realized a second later that I was about 20ft away from a tailing Permit. The water was knee deep and her back was sticking out of the water. She was massive. I stood, frozen in place as she slowly made her way towards me. She got within 10ft and I could make out a nasty scar above her right eye. This fish's head was about 6inches wide and the diameter of her circular body was longer than the height of my knees. She was feeding in the grassy bottom every 5ft or so and her dorsal and tail fins would thrash the surface each time she went down.

I was in awe of this fish and watched it do its thing for a full minute before I realized that the weight in my left hand was a 10wt fly rod and that I actually had a chance at this beast. It was then that I became nervous.

I stripped about 15ft of line and in one movement laid the tiny shrimp pattern 3ft in front of her face. I don't know how I did it.

To my absolute astonishment, she moved toward the fly...slowly, but with a purpose.
When she reached the very spot where my fly had settled she went down and her tail went up.
Remembering yesterday's embarrassment, I ferociously strip-set the fly to bury the hook point in the fish's mouth and felt life on the other end of my line.

My jaw dropped as the water exploded. There is no other way to describe the fury and adrenaline this fish unleashed. It streaked for the edge of the flat and the deep water beyond.

But something was wrong. My reel was not screaming in response. I stripped in some line and hoisted a 4 inch long yellow snapper from the water. I wish I could have seen my own face at the moment I realized I was not connected to the fish of a lifetime, but some bullshit sunny of the ocean.

I laughed out loud and tracked the wake the permit made as she powered out of sight.

We've been out on the water more than 12 times in the past three weeks, probably around 20 hours in all, and the missed bonefish yesterday, a few missed 'cuda strikes and that little yellow snapper today is all the action we've seen. However, it's things like today and the permit that keep me coming back.

The charm of fishing is that it's the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions of hope. -Sir John Buchan


Unknown said...

That actually made me laugh out loud Matt, what a bad beat.

Adam said...

Haha, I'm sitting here going "Matt Hooked up with a permit!....Oh....". Good stuff.

Mark said...

make that three, i had to reread it three times to make sure that he did indeed miss the fish