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.


Travis said...

Sounds like a "horrible" day on the water...You should come home! ;-) (Hope the rest of the trip is just as exciting!


Travis said...
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Steve Schmidt said...

Travis-every days great when your fishing. I know how much you'd like to fish for these giants. I hope you get the opportunity soon. Your days fishing the Ranch will have prepared you well.