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.

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