Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"The Fish Magnet"

By the fourth morning, we’ve got as much of a routine as we’re going to get. Unfortunately it’s our last day. I’m up before the alarm sounds even though it’s not yet six. Given how the previous day ended, I’m anxious to begin and slept little through the night. Not that I ever want to rush a last day, but since cracking last nights Red Stripe for the run home I’ve been anxious for this final morning to arrive.

Our long days on the water are showing as we meet outside the Cypress House. Bleary eyed and insufficiently caffeinated for this early hour we waste little time before heading to the City Marina. We’re working on that which we can control, Cuban coffees to go, extra shot and two cubes. The rest of the day’s rudiments will be subject to the whims of the tarpon gods.

After two semi productive stints at Tower Flat, we’ve given it up for hopefully greener pastures. This morning we run east and head up the Keys. I’m up first this morning and there’s a certain mix of emotion that I’ve not felt the previous two days. On the way we pass one of John’s confidants. Having left the City Marina before us John’s curious as to whether hell race us to the where we’ll begin the day. For a young guide, to poach more experienced water after they shared their success would not be advisable. To eliminate the potential threat, he adjusts the throttle. Moments later we overtake the slower skiff.

Unlike past mornings I’m much less observant and more single minded in the days approach. I don’t recall the morning sky or much else about conditions before dawn broke. Possibly, looking back on the day’s outcome, I should have. The back countries flat as we move towards the ocean. We pass under Highway 1 not noticing nor caring of those who travel overhead.

Some of the morning’s early anxiety is relieved noticing we are the first to arrive at this piece of water. The sun’s not yet crested the eastern horizon as John idles to the edge of the small flat. Yesterday’s smoke has yielded to a sky much more clear. As it did the previous day, that could change. All is quiet as our Captain climbs up on the poling platform. My Tibor, for now, is the only sound that disturbs morning’s calm as I methodically remove line from the big reel. I’m hoping before we leave that it will do so again, only at a much more frantic pace.

At this early stage of the game, it’s difficult seeing into the water. The first laid up fish John locates, I struggle to find. At about twenty-five feet a hint of purple eventually appears, yet I can’t make heads or tails of the obscured tarpon. My cast is as poor as my eye sight. Later in the day, John will elude to my early flailing. Deservedly so! This fish slides from sight, pissed at our morning intrusion. I have several more encounters with similar results and eventually offer may partner the bow having blown a number of ample opportunities.

It doesn’t take Kenny long to get a couple of toilet flushes several of these large Ma-moos. He’s had some difficulty getting a hook in them. Reflecting back, we all have.

As the sun begins to warm the cool air, company joins us. Unfortunately they’re not as considerate as our Captain. He cuts us off leaving a modest portion of the small flat to fish. By the time he and his dudes depart the damage is done forcing us regrettably to move on. John, being the consummate southern gent that he is, bites his tongue knowing that words would do little to impact the inconsiderate act. However, for our humor he does provide some graphic verbiage to express his displeasure.

I take two pulls on the bow over back country edges looking for any signs of life. A laid up tarpon here a slider there, but to my discontent nothing materializes. Again having done my time, Ken takes the bow on the next backcountry edge. “Tarpon”, it’s a big fish laid up in deeper water twenty feet from the boat. John’s not too confident in the opportunity given the tarpons location, but believes it’s at least worth a cast. Ken flips his fly, literally to the side of the boat. He’s hardly moved it when the big fish rises to inhale the tan laid up fly. She begins to settle, momentarily levitating in the water column as Kenny’s line comes tight. Instantly one hundred yards of backing and fly line leaves the reel. For the first time that I can remember, we take chase.

It takes some effort to leader this fish and regains the lost line. In doing so, the big tarpon stays fixed to the bottom. She responds to Kens pressure in a half hearted jump, saving her energy to again leave his reel void of line. That’s the last we’ll see of her, the leader wearing through the 60lb shock. The legend of the “Fish Magnet” takes form.

I spend another useless stint on the bow before my clock runs out and we head to Loggerhead Basin. At this point, the scenery is getting a little tiring. Simply, I yearn for a tug, unfortunately for me the “Fish Magnets” rightfully up. Before he can remove sufficient line, John’s on a tarpon. Ken manages yet another eat. This fish spits the fly shaking its head before Ken can come tight. I ’m coming to the understanding that it’s not going to be my day. Swallowing this, our Captain almost immediately finds yet another small school of juveniles daisy chaining. Ken gets another eat!

Tarpon fishing is a team sport. As much as I’d like to hook up, Ken’s success is shared by all, John in particular. He puts hard days in on the platform. By trips end we fish for him more than ourselves knowing our success is his just reward. After the “Fish Magnets” last chaotic episodes, I take the bow one last time. I know that our Captain wants me to get an eat before we finish out this last day. At a time when all other Captain’s are running for home, he idles up to one last flat.

Fires from the north have begun to erode afternoons light as John slides his pole from the cleats and takes the platform. I spot a slider before he manages to get his pole in the water. The tarpon immediately tracks the fly as soon as it hits: “He going to eat it” emanates from behind me. At the last minute the tarpon rejects the fly and quickly disappears. Retrieving the fly, I notice it was fouled. “That’s ok, we’ll find another”. Given the day and the hour, it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.

As was the afternoon before, this flat is littered with tarpon. After numerous rejections, we finally find a dumb one that takes the fly; love those dumb ones. For a brief moment

the fly holds. It was difficult getting a good stick, the tarpon casually sliding in behind the fly after the eat. Several spectacular jumps and a series of erratic pulls that generates a little reel music from the Tibor, then the fly line goes slack, the fly falling from the fishes hard mouth. At this point, it matters little. I couldn’t be happier.

These last two evening provided incredible tarpon fishing. Over our years fishing with John, we always seem to find these fortuitous flats during dismal times. We take these fortunes to heart knowing the challenging circumstances. These thoughts and reflections of year’s past mingle in my head as we run through a labyrinth of mangroves on our way home. We’re all tired and quiet, no one’s more so than John, yet content with the days success.

Before we hit the mayhem that awaits us at City Marina, I realize it’s over. Other than a night out and good meal, the most important part of the visit has passed. For twelve month I’ll reflect back the events that transpired over the past four days; 365 tortuous days long days. .

Monday, May 21, 2007

That's ok, Well find another!

At 6am I’m numbly feeling my way to Dam Good Foods for breakfast and to retrieve our day’s lunch. Signs of the day’s emergence are just beginning to show. Harbor flags that adorn the tall ships masts, era of a century gone by, move softly in the pre-dawn breeze. Although it’s still cool for this time of year, the air temperature is perceptibly warmer. These are things one notices when strolling through Key West in preparation for a day on the flats.

The forecast has us starting a little earlier on this third day. Light variable winds from the west have precipitated this favorable change. I’m sure will begin our morning where we started the previous day. In anticipation, John’s already put the skiff in. We make the short trip to City Marina, restock our water and quickly are underway.

Departing we notice a cumulus bank of dark clouds building on the eastern horizon. Nothing threatening but, a condition that will produce some minor inconveniences later in our day. The Gulf’s smooth as John brings the Dolphin up on plane. Calm enough to continue sipping my coffee. Although at thirty plus miles an hour I wouldn’t call the act of finishing the last of ones coffee sipping. I’ve been known on numerous occasions to wear most of the contents of my morning Java in a feeble attempt to ingest the last dregs. Today, I’ll arrive unscathed.

Ken’s up first this morning with hopes of replicating yesterday’s fortunes. To the east the sky now glows of burnt orange, a color enhanced by Florida’s widespread wildfires. It’s beautiful until you realize the significance of the situation. Pulling onto Tower Flat somewhat earlier than the previous day it takes a little longer for the first and only school of tarpon to show; again their backs reflect gold from the freshly risen sun. “Tarpon”, that magical word that transforms all thoughts to a solitary focus pierces mornings still air. Our game begins.

The eat materializes much as it did the day before, the difference, Ken’s fly never finds its mark. His instinctive reaction to the explosive take not serving his best interest. As trout fisherman we’ve all done it; the habits of our upbringings ingrained over decades are difficult practices to break. The school vanishes as if a figment of our imagination. Disappointment hangs in the air yet the fleeting opportunity instills some confidence and optimism. Before departing John exhorts, “that’s ok, we’ll find another”. A phrase over the duration of the trip we’ll hear often.

Although the back country has been fairly void of laid up fish, the warming waters hopefully will have lured a few weary tarpon into their protected basins for a brief pardon from their journey. This vast labyrinth of mangrove islands bordering the Gulf is one of our favorite areas. If our fortunes should continue to prevail we’ll find a laid up tarpon or two. To our disappointment such was not the case. Other than the abundant birds and the occasional Hawksbill or Loggerhead Turtle, the backcountry was regrettably empty. Begrudgingly we move to the Atlantic to join the rest of the tarpon fishing community.

Its late morning since leaving Tower Flat. In that time we haven’t had another shot. Out of nowhere a small string of blue backs moves onto the small isolated flat we’ve just poled up on. My tarpon partner of nine years is again up and almost immediately gets an eat, yet as before his line continues without perceptible interruption, the disillusionment from lost opportunities more noticeable this time. Silently we watch the pod of large tarpon swim past knowing there was nothing Ken could have done to have changed the outcome. We linger for sometime afterwards, but the flat goes uncomfortably quiet: “that’s ok, we’ll find another.”

If you choose to fish with a fly for tarpon, at some point you are simply bound to fail, sometimes with grace more times than not wretchedly. Regardless of ones abilities or experience it’s going to happen. Never was this more apparent than my next opportunity.

My day for the most part has been a combination of poor presentations and fleeting opportunities. Since my partners eat, we’ve again moved. After several failed shots at close range, John finds a nice string; “tarpon”. At twelve o’clock a small group of tarpon enters our field of vision, slow and happy. The shots at a slight angle, yet near perfect with ample time to determine speed and distance. After several false casts I lay a cast down. Perched high overhead John instructs me to move the fly as the group nears. His vantage point and focus prevents him from noticing my frantic attempts at locating the line. The string moves silently out of range before I regain control. “That’s ok, well find another”. Not exactly the outcome I was hoping for.

I’m humbled by my ineptness knowing that this may have been the best opportunity of the day. One never knows. Although we’re still seeing fish, we’ve all tired of these dour fish that have showed little if any interest in our flies. The best either of us can muster after several hours of playing this game is a perceptible lick, nothing more. Such an insulting gesture! Surveying the horizons it doesn’t take much of an imagination to know why. We’re third in line, and there were two more boats behind us.

It’s late in the day and most guides are heading in when we finally leave the Atlantic for one last opportunity. As we move onto our last flat, two Tomcats shatter the Key’s silence, their presence a brief and irritating reminder of a loathsome war. John takes the poling platform while Ken strips out line. We fished here earlier in the day and found just a few laid up fish. At this late juncture we’re just hoping for a Hail Mary.

John quickly positions his skiff before immediately spotting a tarpon, then another and yet another; “oh my God, there’s a shit load of tarpon here. They’re fucking everywhere”. Even at my low vantage point I can make out several laid up fish. With patience, John maneuvers the skiff from one to another; the first several tarpon rejecting the offerings much like we’ve endured throughout most of our day. Close and off the bow an ambling pair swings towards us. Laying the fly down the lead fish immediately shows interest and settles just inches behind the fly, yet only apparently to scrutinize the tie. After what we’ve been through the gesture is agonizing. John does his best to encourage the fish; “come on!” After letting the fly sit, Ken again moves the fly, instantaneously the tarpon accelerates, eats but misses the fly. The lost opportunity now has both tarpon frantically in search of the fly. Upon locating it, the lead tarpon again dives on the fly. Ken’s line immediately comes tight.

From thirty feet the tarpon explodes showering the flat then shattering the basins numbing silence. In late afternoons soft light the shows even more impressive. In seconds a hundred yards of backing and fly line disappears from the reel. Anxious Ken looks back at our Captain to see if he’s going to take up the chase. He reassures my partner that his Gulfstream has plenty of backing. We ended up not needing much more. In a brief struggle to regain control the line suddenly goes lim[. Upon inspection, the sixty pound shock tippet had worn through. That’s tarpon fishing.

My partner somewhat dejectedly steps down to replace his fly. In the interim I take the bow. I’m immediately confronted by several uncooperative fish. At this late hour I know my opportunities are dwindling. High up on the flat John finds three tarpon leisurely mingling. Silently we move towards them. Eventually running out of real estate, they’ve no choice but to turn. We’re in perfect position.

Measuring a cast to intercept their path, none of the trio seems to notice as the fly lands to their side and slightly ahead of their path. Unaware of our presence they’re barely moving. I do my best to match the speed of the fly with their lethargic pace. At thirty feet the second fish tilts up and slides in behind the chartreuse fly, yet agonizingly it doesn’t take. All’s deathly quiet. At twenty-five feet the fly hovers inches from the tarpons mouth. I accelerate the strip, the cat and the string, the tarpon rapidly accelerates taking the fly not wavering from its path. I feel nothing in my futile efforts to catch up with the fishes lunge. Eventually the boat spooks it, the trio departs leaving their footprints on the waters surface and gathering mud where their powerful tails propelled them from harms way. I exhale disappointed and audible sigh escaping from holding my breath.

I watched the trio disappear into the flats mirrored waters knowing that was my last chance. To be teased in such an objectionable manner was exhilarating, but so unfulfilled. I reel in. My hand runs across the shock tippet to find it’s rough confirming the failure of the fleeting encounter.

As we leave the flat we crack a Red Stripe for the long run home, the sun now dull in the smoky western horizon, each of us to our thoughts after this long day. Upon joining the rest of our crew well learn our day was far more productive than most. A hint of optimism returns for our last day however, the reality of failed opportunities not lost on the reality of fly-fishing for tarpon. Circumstances you’ll grow to appreciate only with time.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sometimes You Get Lucky

Morning arrives at the same time around the world every day, but in Key West during tarpon season they seem to dawn a little earlier. No more so than for tarpon guides. It's hard work and as appealing as it may seem to some youthful souls, it's definitely a vocation not suited for everyone.

It's May in the Lower Keys, historically peak tarpon season. So far this year’s variable weather patterns have compounded the challenging circumstances one faces when pursuing these fish. The reality of fly-fishing for these prehistoric piscatorial swimmers perched on the bow of a small skiff, with a rather small fly, under often tumultuous conditions, is you’re setting yourself up to fail. Once you get over this fact, you’ll realize there are few experience in fly-fishing that rival this game.

As we begin our second day the winds have died from yesterday. More importantly the waters surrounding Key West have warmed some. It’s cooler than normal, but given climate change what’s normal anymore. Religiously we monitor the weather, but have paid little attention to the water temperatures in the past. This year different. Leaving the dock John takes his first reading. It's improved, but still several degrees from where he would like to see it.

Idling from the marina, skies are clear, winds are calm, and again there’s a slight chill to the air. We head to Tower Flat, hopefully for some dawn rollers. In the past we've had great success on this flat. Given yesterdays gauntlet of guides oceanside we're taking a bit of a gamble hopefully in exchange for some tarpon that have yet to encounter the masses. As we pull onto the flat, we're alone, except for a few cruising Brown Pelicans and the ever present Cormorants.

John’s willing to take a chance now and then, a quality of many he posses that I respect and enjoy. He’s not afraid to change and break his daily routine. Nothing like rolling the dice once in a while! Any ardent gambler knows you can’t throw 7’s if you don’t let them tumble now and again. In the past his hunches have led to some of our most memorable and successful days. As we begin this day, we’re hoping to add to those recollections.

Ken and I rotate morning shifts and I’ve the satisfaction of occupying the bow on this beautiful morning. The oceans relatively calm and we’ve all seen it far worse. There have been times when staying upright was challenging. Enduring such circumstances makes one appreciative of these more pleasant circumstances. Tower Flat’s shallow waters shimmer before us. Its dimpled dark surface stands out from the oceans surrounding chop. Even Ken and I can easily deduce its boundaries.

First light on a tarpon flat before suns penetrating rays offer a window into their world is exhilarating. Cuban caffeine laced with raw sugar heightens the morning’s intensity. There’s always an electrical aspect to this game, yet at this hour it always seems to go up a notch or two.

John has us on a clock after we’ve seen nothing. It’s an expression he uses when he’s lost confidence in our location. We’ve all been relatively quiet in anticipation when a single word breaks mornings silence; “Tarpon”! It’s a magical word spoken with a slight edge. At the back of the flat the sun catches the backs of several rollers as a school lazily moves onto the edge of the flat. Cautiously we move towards them.

Not having the advantage of visible light adds a level of vigilance that dissipates later in the day. Time passes slowly as we maneuver into position not knowing exactly where the school lies. Several others roll slow and easy before one at the head of the school pops up within casting range. A hint of purple now is visible, the only thing I’ve to go on as the school slides toward our position. My first cast moves through the school affecting no interest. Another lazy roller reflects the suns yellow rays. I try to relax, and slow down before making another cast. John’s in the process of guiding me yet a third cast. Mid sentence “ keep stripping” ends the notion, “you’re in ‘em, strip”. I can feel my pulse and notice I’ve stopped breathing.

We fish for tarpon to watch them eat the fly. After that, the chaos than ensues shatters gossamers of monofilament, splinters rods, and leaves your whole body shaking. But, it’s the eat that sets this fish apart from many game fish. The combined experience is one of the most exhilarating in fly-fishing.

Out of dawns blackness an explosive flash of light the magically materializes. It’s all I can do to keep from habitually lifting my rod, a trout fishing habit that’s cursed me on numerous occasions. A brief moment of emptiness passes before the line becomes taught. It seems like and eternity. The 80lb fish erupts from the flat, crashing back to the security of the oceans dark waters. Mornings silence is shattered as fly line rapidly leaves the reel. Four more times the tarpon catapults itself above the dark surface of the flat. Four times I bow.

John and Ken are mocking my silence as I concentrate on the bolt of electricity I’m tethered to by a thin wisp of monofilament. John stakes out the skiff and prepares to land the fish. At this early hour my day is complete having landed a tarpon, knowing that I’ve gone weeks without so much as a sniff from one of these amazing animals Quietly I watch the tarpon disappear, replaying that which just occurred before reveling in my good fortunes, Captain John remarks that this tarpon is his years inaugural Tower Flat fish. That puts the season in perspective.

Although we had a number of opportunities throughout the remainder of the day, neither of us touched another fish. We had our chances, but for the most part many of these tarpon have been around for a while and given their lingering presence they want nothing to do with our offering.

Eventually our day comes to and end. They all end much too soon. Running across the backcountry late in the day we begin the long run optimistically hopeful for the days that still lay ahead. Given our day’s success and the weather that’s predicted for the remainder of our stay, we’re all enthusiastic.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's been Worse

Tuesdays forecast; winds out of the NE at 13 knots changing by the afternoon to the NW. Highs for the day near 80, which it never reaches, clear skies. The Weather Channel monotonically yields our first window into the day. Before collapsing last night the weather was one of the last things we checked. Given the conditions we arrived under we had some legitimate concerns. Simple changes in the weather can make or break a tarpon trip. With these elements bearing significance, all anglers and guides manically monitor these elements.

At 7am our Captain, John O’hearn, pulls up to the Cypress House. At this hour when most tarpon fishermen begin their day, the streets of Key West are quiet, void of those pale tourists who will crowd these sidewalks later in the day. Although they are entertaining to watch, they are a noisy distraction from all that Key West once had to offer. Several houses down, one of islands notorious roosters breaks the silence. That’s a whole other but related Key West story and debacle.

After a casual but warm greeting we pile into our Captains truck and head to Sandy’s for Cuban coffee and a quick breakfast sandwich to go. Sandy’s is one of those obscure local holes in the wall that’s reminiscent of the way island life once use to be. Since its inception much has changed on this island. This and a few flavorful places like it thankfully haven’t been tainted by those that drive this burdening tourist economy. Consequently more and more of our countries corporate commonness erode this islands and our nations character.

The suns yet to crest the eastern horizon as we launch from the City Marina. Being our first morning, it takes a moment to put our rods together and get settled. It’s always kind of a cluster fuck getting situated on first days. There’s a definite chill to the air that we’ve seldom experienced here in the past. Under a sky clear of clouds John quickly has his skiff on plane. It doesn’t take long for Kenny to don his Buff Ball Vest. Between the cool air and Cuban coffee our senses begin to finally come alive.

Entering Boca Chica, boats are already stacked up on the first flat we were hoping to fish. Not wanting to take a number John’s assessment of the crowd has us back on plane and moving oceanside up the Keys. Now sometimes when you’re the only one on a flat, it’s for good reason. Other times it's just good fortune. Such was not the case here. We see one lazy roller, but the fish never gives us a shot. Being early on the first day and still untainted by any sequences of events we optimistically leave and continue our quest.

Terminal tackle takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to these fish. Having my fair share of failures, until I learned how to tie my own leaders properly, there’s still lingers some subliminal uncertainty. That first year I tied all my own leaders, every single one failed. Some frustration came with those failures, but I still wanted to learn to tie my own. If you tie flies, you remember that sensation of catching your first fish on a fly you tied. The elation from landing a tarpon on my own leaders was very similar. I’ll never forget that success.

About mid day, Kenny gets the stink off as a small string of tarpon moves onto the flat. Up to know we’ve seen only a few sulking fish. These guys are lit up, happy and lazily. Their dark bodies are easily visible as they move over a bottom of mostly white sand. As the string gets within casting distance their brown backs are out of the water.

The first cast produces an eat, but the fish is so aggressive it out runs Kens ability to strip the fly fast enough to make contact. The string slides away from us, but still at a leisurely pace. With some work our Captain keeps us within the school, eventually Ken gets another shot. We all see the fish flare, than the brilliant flash as it takes the fly. This time the tan fly finds it mark. The initial surge is quick but powerful, before the tarpon shatters the silence with its first and only jump. Somewhere in the next few seconds of mayhem Ken’s line goes slack. The fight ends as quick as it starts, the leader parting at the knot. Although disappointed, were all energized by this short success.

That fleeting moment of chaos was the cumulative success of our day. There were a number of other opportunities, but none that produced the optimism and confidence that this one little string of tarpon did. Having had days and trips where such single success never materialized, we eventually yet optimistically headed in knowing that tomorrows another day.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Journey Begins:

It’s 11:30pm in short order I’ll board a red eye that will eventually take me to the Lower Keys. Like the giant Tarpon that annually migrate through those waters, myself and several afflicted souls migrate south to pit our fly-fishing skills against the elements and a fish that has captured my imagination since first being exposed to images and writings of there existence.

All trips have roots. As the days passed prior to my late night departure I pondered them. Really this journey and quest began decades ago without me really being cognizant of this fact. My first boss in the fishing industry, Gene Snow, had the tarpon bug bad. Until he’d met this creature he’d quite easily conquered many a species with his fly rod. Such was not the case with Megalops atlanticius. Gene’s animated frustrations and misadventures brought this fish and its reluctance to eat a fly to my attention. I remember him being 0 for 10 at one juncture. Not ten days but ten enduring frustrating trips without a single leadered tarpon. Yet, the illusiveness that these fishless days created led to his obsession that now has crept into my soul. Subliminally seeds were being planted, but it would take sometime before those seeds germinated.

Impressions left after reading Lefty Krehs, “Saltwater Fly-fishing” are the first conjuring images I recall that elevated a certain curiosity and astonishment that has led to this now growing obsession. Actually it wasn’t the text of the book that created this sensation, but a photo, and the cover photo to be precise. If you’ve read or picked up this book you know the image I’m referring to. Little did I realize the impact that photograph would have.

At first, I thought that the quest for these ocean travelers was precipitated by the sheer size of these prehistoric creatures. Billy Pates videos and his documented quest for a world record tarpon more than peaked my curiosity. These videos brought the emerald waters of the Florida Lower Keys and it Silver Kings to vivid life. Yet as incredible as these images were, being tethered and towed by one of these migrating giants didn’t quite appeal to my sense of sport. All that changed eight years ago on a family vacation to Key West.

My early business travels introduced me to, Jeffrey Cárdenas. His shop, the Saltwater Angler was Key West’s gathering place for migrating tarpon anglers. His warm personality and enthusiasm for the Keys raised my curiosity enough to lead me south to the southern most point in the US. On a Thursday evening during that family vacation he called to invite my son and I out for and evening of “Splooshing”; when Tarpon eat migrating shrimp like trout eat giant mayflies. I’ll never forget when Jeffrey hooked the evenings first tarpon. That evening and it’s events changed me forever.

One cool spring morning, over a cup of strong coffee, Ken Louder and I cast into the mirrored surface of a local pond in preparation for this years trip to the Keys. A light rain accompanied our effort. The locals, Green Heads and Honkers, rejoiced in the reprieve from last weeks heat. This ritual of meeting in the predawn hours helps us shift gears from everyday life to the incredible world of the tarpon. Some years that transition is smoother than others. In most instances neither of us has any control of that. As we both head south via differing routes today, we anxiously await to see what this years trip will have in store. Only time will tell.