Thursday, March 17, 2011

Off the Grid: Friday Night

There exists a little slice of land within bearable ferry distance of our home island that can be described as a big bonefish mecca. A long weekend came up that aligned itself perfectly with the oft broken down ferry schedule. Miraculously, the highest and lowest tides would occur during darkness, allowing me to maximize my time in the fish, and the weather looked cooperative. It was all I needed to stuff a backpack full of food and gear and make my way there.

I arrived at the dock after skipping out of work at 2pm. My girlfriend dropped me off and I purchased a ticket. I laid my borrowed mountain bike and bursting backpack next to the dock and walked across the street for some take-out food that I hoped would last me through the night and serve as a hearty breakfast on Saturday morning. I chose a large pizza.

The ferry ride sucked. The boat pulled in a little after 5pm, giving me an hour and half of light. I rushed to the only stand of trees on the island and threw the ultra-light hammock up between two of them. I then got back on the bike and rode as fast as I could to the nearest flats, 15 minutes away, for a few casts.

I got there just after sunset and was treated to an ultra-low tide and a blood red sky. I spotted two tailing bones in the sea of red and made one cast but the fish disappeared. I knew a bonefish in a minute of trying would have been just too much.

I sat on the sand and watched the sunset, reflecting on my being there, alone, on that tiny, barely inhabited island about to hunt for bonefish in a pristine place and thought of how lucky I was to have the opportunity.

As darkness overtook the setting sun, I lazily rode towards the ferry dock by the light of my headlamp. I arrived and peered into the circle of light from the one streetlamp, illuminating a pod of laid-up tarpon. The 10wt came out.

A few casts later at the laid up fish and an unseen small tarpon took my fly. I set the hook as it did it's best to acrobatically dislodge the Owner Aki from it's lip. The fish was maybe 18-20lbs and was quickly exhausted. As I led it around the dock to an area where I could land it, the unexpected happened.

From beneath my feet, under the dock, the largest barracuda I had ever seen or heard of ambushed the vulnerable tarpon. The 'cuda was larger than any tarpon I had seen in the past two years, the top of its head had to be a foot across.

My tarpon thrashed and disappeared into the murky depths as the weight on my line increased considerably. I held on, and the tarpon popped up again, thrashing and twisting for it's life. The 'cuda struck again, this time near the tarpon's head.

They both vanished, then the tarpon reappeared at the surface, lifeless, as I dragged it towards shore. I landed the fish as it bled out in my hands. The pictures do not capture the carnage that was the fish's gill plates. They were gone and pouring blood. I dumped the dead fish in the sea and sat watching, waiting for something to pull up and make a meal of the meat.

I retied my knots and made a few more casts at laid up fish that had now moved considerably farther away from the dock, just at the edge of my reach. Ten minutes later and I packed the rod up to ride back to my hammock. The dead tarpon was gone.

It was an beautiful and savage start to what would become a trip full of the best fishing I've personally experienced, thus far. I tried to not think about wading the flats in the morning if I wanted to get any sleep.


Wade Rivers said...

Yowza, you just restored my waning interest if fly fishing blogs.

Beautiful images and entertaining commentary to go along with 'em.

Gracias dude.

Unknown said...

Again really good pictures with a great post.

Bjornorama said...

That was a great opener.

Unknown said...

i would love to see your writings in book form. thanks for shareing.