Monday, March 26, 2012

Unrealistic Expectations

Almost exactly a year ago, I experienced the best weekend of fishing I could imagine, documented here, here and here. That same long weekend rolled around again and I found myself riding the same borrowed bicycle down the same lonely roads, dodging potholes and cowpies between a hammock slung between a stand of whispering pines and miles of sandy flats.

Unlike last year, the wind was blowing. Hard. If it suddenly stopped, I would have fallen flat on my face. I couldn't see a damn thing but kept looking anyway. Four hours into the first session I spotted my first fish in the lee of a small mangrove stand. A short cast and a soft presentation with a merkin (rigged for the new year's resolution permit), and I was connected to the only bone I would land for the duration of the trip.

As it took me into the backing for the 2nd time, I reflected on the past three years and said aloud that I better take all of this in; the bend in the rod, the pumping tail reverberating up the line into my arm, the rippling surface, the intricacies of the mangrove roots, the birds circling in the sky, the howling wind. I landed the fish and held it in reverence. Perfectly evolved. She swam away.

A new rainfly - a step up in luxury.

There won't be many more of these moments...

Forced off of the flats due to the gusts of wind, I rode the bike to a beach in the lee of the wind and started to blindcast with the spinning rod. I jumped 2 small snook, landed this decent 'cuda and then jumped snookzilla before heading back to the hammock to nap away the rest of the afternoon. I had mellowed considerably over the past year, I realized.

As dusk fell, I rode to the ferry dock. The sight of the nightly gathering of feisty tarpon. I stood in silence as the sun sank and the wind tore at my clothes. Shortly after that, I made my first few casts as Mars, Jupiter and Venus shone brightly in the evening light.

I lost every fish I jumped. If don't want to know the number. I was surprised at how not pissed I was.

When it got late, I caught some small fish for cut bait, threw it out on the spinning rod and sat down with a book. As I settled in to the story, the line started to peel off into the darkness. I flipped the bail and set the hook into pure dead weight. At that, the unseen force bolted for the horizon. I was almost spooled from 200m of 30lb braid when the thing stopped, I turned it, and started to regain some ground.

Ten minutes later, I had the creature directly below me with the braid disappearing into the abyss, straight down. The cheap rod was bent like a horseshoe. The animal stopped cold. I could feel the rod flexing in the reel seat as I unstuck it from the bottom and realized that it was a ray. Twenty minutes later, 4ft-across of shark relative came to the surface, gurgling and wheezing in the wind-driven whitecaps. I cut the line as close as I could and watched the primitive thing glide into the dark green and vanish. My arm hurt. I rode back to the hammock and slept like the dead.

Satisfied for some reason, and conceding defeat to the wind, I caught an unexpected Sunday morning ferry for home.


Mark Kautz said...

You've got to love a beach like the first photo. One of the many things I miss about Florida.


Brent Wilson said...

Sorry to hear this trip was not as epic as last time...although it would be pretty difficult to outdo that one. Still, time on the flats is good for the head and soul, even when the fishing is less than stellar.

Keep up the good work.