Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Perfiect Day

For the last several months I’ve lived vicariously through a 5 minute teaser called “Chasing Silver”. Since viewing it, which I have done numerous times, when it comes to fishing all I can think about is tarpon. Fishing for these big behemoths does that to you.

It opens with a sequence of photos from an era long past before Johnny Cash’s breaks into “The Believer”. That in and of its self is enough. The opening scene pans an ocean calm as glass. Just off a lone skiffs bow a small pod of lazy tarpon mill about delicately breaking the mirrored surface as they roll. A guide perched much like a heron about to descend upon its unsuspecting prey skillfully conducts his angler into position. They call it fish porn for a reason and this is as good as it gets.

Since that first viewing and every subsequent one after that I’ve yearned to cast a fly to 6’ logs in the seas resemble those in that opening scene. To date such conditions have eluded me.

Tarpon under the most ideal conditions are a challenge. Even if everything goes right, in a nanosecond it can go oh so wrong. As difficult as it is, seeing a tarpon eat your fly is a sight worth beholding. The ensuing surge and aerial acrobatic once you send the hook home is something incomprehensible rivaling any spectacle in the fly fishing world.

It’s May 8th, 6am as Captain John Ohearn pulls up front of the Cypress House to begin our first day of chasing Silver Kings. As we motor up island to the City Marina there are really no preconceptions as to what lies ahead. It’s best that way. Early indicator, clear skies overhead, flags barely rustling in morning light breeze lend a small window into what momentarily may lie ahead. Every morning of very day, one help but wonder.

I run across the street to get a round of coffee for the boat, while John and my partner Ken put in. By the time I return we are loaded and ready to get underway. There’s a sense of exhilaration that comes from running in one of these specialized flats skiffs that is difficult to describe unless you’ve done it. Once on plane, at forth miles and hour, its as if the boat hums. Sweet music to a flat fisherman’s ears.

John’s got a hot tip for the day that leads us to our first destination. Hot tips here at best are no better than hot stock tips. After a short run from the marina, John alludes to this fact as he idles into position. Ken’s up first. I prefer to finish my coffee and let the world unfold as it may. Idling onto the flat there is just enough light to string up our rods and make out any rolling tarpon should there be any. Those few wisps of clouds showing to the east are now a hint of rose, highlighted by linger smoke pushed north from the burning of Cuban sugarcane fields. On this morning the air hangs noticeably sweet.

It doesn’t take long before Captain Oheran utters a single familiar word that we’ve become accustom to, tarpon! He says it in such a way that definitely gets our attention. We’re here looking for laid up or moving tarpon. At these early hours with such poor visibility, our only hope is for lazy rollers as comfortably rising in the water column for lifes sustaining air. For a time we struggle to get the fly in front of a fishes face. Typical first morning jitters and CF’s. Sunrise puts our long shadows over many of these resting giants altering them to our presence. They quickly blow, as it called, eliminating yet another opportunity. Yet before we leave here we will land several small Key’s tarpon, a feat we’ve seldom duplicated most mornings here.

Excited about our early morning accomplishments, we move out in front of Key West to Seven Sisters. A series of flats where we have shared numerous successes in the past. As we approach skim across its inside edge, our Captain notices a line of skiffs occupies most favorable positions. John’s not too excited, but plays it out. Since we are here he’ll indulge in the game. After being teased by one fairly large school of anxious tarpon we soon depart, a move that’s much to all of our likings. Before long were slidding almost silently into the backcountry, an area where we’ll find fewer fish, fewer if any guides and tarpon that historically are rather aggressive to the fly.

Remember that opening scene in “Chasing Silver”, by lunchtime with Ken again on the bow, that’s exactly what we have. Alone in the backcountry with a few laid up tarpon around the air is electric. Several tarpon tails silently slice through the calm mirrored surface in one direction, while in yet another fish gently rolls. Patiently we make our way through this small basin, like a cat stalking its prey. Ken get several good shots before finding a fish that cooperates. One clean strip and this rat quickly elevates to inhale the tan fly. It’s explosive leaps and gill rattling jumps splinters the silence. The waters calm surface shattered like broken glass.

Shortly after landing this fish we move to another favorite haunt of Johns, having exhausted any additional opportunity in his little secret spot. Almost immediately a huge lady rolls within casting distance. Our Captain remarks emphatically about her size. His comments do not fall on deaf ear. Its still calm, so my shot is easy, yet there’s nothing easy about casting to a six foot long tarpon. Although my shot tracks true, it’s a little close. Irritated the big tarpon moves from harms way.

It doesn’t take long before we are on another. This time my cast is true. Bringing the fly under tension the tarpon immediately slides in behind the fly, yet minus the wind and elements we normally endure the whole scene appears to play out in slow motion. Upon my second strip, the tarpons mouth opens and into the great abyss my fly quickly disappears. As the line goes taught, I attempt to jab the hook home. For the next ten minutes it’s absolute mayhem. Then the tug of war begins where it’s just you against the fish. By the time it’s over, sweats dripping from my nose, and my fighting arm aches.

For the seven years I’ve been coming here, this is the kind of day that I’ve dreamt about. Although I would like to jump another fish or two more before I leave, I’m content to be fortunate enough to have such a perfect day. I know that’s not what our Captain has in mind, but after a few years under my belt, I don’t take anything for granted. Heading back to the dock the three of us chatter of our success. And before departing for the day, optimistically look into what the next day will bring.

1 comment:

Michael Johnson said...

nice job Steve can't wait to hear more!!