Monday, January 4, 2010

Buck Fever.

After a short tour of the island, I brought Mark and Lex back to my apartment for lunch. Mark crossed the street and stepped onto the stone wall to peer at the rubble-bottomed flat opposite our porch. Dotted with coral heads and channels between, I've seen tarpon rolling, permit tailing, baitballs getting mauled and sharks cruising at various hours of the day and night.

Eyeing the channels.

...and way over yonder...

Seeing the bluish water up close for the first time, albeit somewhat stirred up from the offshore storms pushing in a swell, Mark peered at me through his polarized glasses and a smirk spread across his face. He hopped down off the wall and unpacked his ten weight in record time.

On the porch table he assembled his leader with shaking fingers. Asking my advice about flies as if I know what I'm talking about, he settled on a needlefish imitation in an attempt to entice a stout 'cuda we may have spied between some coral heads.

Stacy made some sandwiches and mark took a momentary break to wolf his down. He forgot to chew and choked on a bite, coughing and sputtering a question about wire tippet as he regained his composure.
'Calm down, bro, you've got a week,' I said, shaking my head as he finished his sandwich in three gulps.
He picked up his gear, crossed the street, hopped the wall and was in the water before the meal reached his stomach.

As the week progressed, I noticed Mark occasionally possessed by a plague that all fishermen have succumbed to when an opportunity to cast to a big fish presents itself. The symptoms include, but are not limited to: blown casts, weak or premature sets, lined fish, tangled reels, line snarled around arms and legs, trips, falls, slips, stumbles and the occasional epithet hurled at a departing wake. It is all to be expected the first time you're fishing the salt and get a shot at some of the fish we had shots at this past week.
The only treatment, the only way to relieve the pressure, is to land something...

That evening, we headed to the local beach where I have landed three tarpon in the past few months. We casted off both jetties until darkness overtook us, and headed home without a strike.

Near dark at the Jetty.

Inconsistent tarpon.

After dinner, we drove to a local bay for a chance at some tarpon who usually cruise around a lighted boat dock. We spotted their shapes before the car was in park. We rigged up and began fishing. About 20 minutes in, Mark let out a primal yelp as a nice tarpon cleared the water, heading directly at him. He lifted the rod high over his head and striped is as much line as possible, but it was too late. The fish had expertly ducked underneath the dock, rounded a post and shook the hook while somehow imbedding it in the barnacle-encrusted dock pillar. Mark's first tarpon encounter.

He's gone under the dock!

Humbled after getting his ass kicked by his first tarpon.

That 80lb tippet isn't going to snap any time soon.

As the night grew later, I tried to coach Mark toward a solid hookup. He painfully learned the value of waiting for the fish to turn before setting the hook with a violent strip set as he pulled fly after fly right out of the hinged jaws of three tarpon. The coup de grace came with the largest tarpon seen so far, gleaming in the dock lights as it rounded a corner and headed for us. Mark perfectly presented the fly and the giant ambled over for a closer look. After a breathless eternity of being nose to nose with the purple toad, the tarpon made up it's mind and gently sipped the fly. No sooner had the tarpon engulfed the fly did Mark yank it right out of it's mouth by lifting the rod as if a rainbow had taken his Adams.
I hung my arms limply and slumped in my stance as Mark stood up straight and took his first breath since seeing the great fish. I could literally see his heart pounding in his chest at the excitement.

After their red-eye flight and 48 hours of no sleep, buck fever was all that was keeping him going. A landed tarpon on his first saltwater day was not to be. However, lessons learned on the first night would reap rewards in days to come.

Patrolling the wall.

Always on the lookout.

Searching for tail.

The day draws to a close, and still he waits.

1 comment:

Matthew D Dunn said...

The tension is too much. Awesome photos.