My fingers lead the way with my hand and arm close behind in the attempt to hit the snooze button. It’s 4:45am. As I felt my way across the bed, my hand hurdled the gap between the bed and the night stand, but it falls a little short and jams one of my fingers into the nightstand. There’s nothing like a good case of expletives early in the morning to get the day off on the right foot. I begin to drift off again, until the sudden shrill of the hotel phone starts to ring (I love wake up calls). “They put these damn things right next to the head of the bed. Why do they have the ringer turned up so loud?” I ask myself as I reach over to answer it. I am awake now. Today is my last day, I have to get a bone on fly. I pack up all my gear, food, beer, and clothes and fire up the Yota. The humidity is up, the heat has already started, and the skeeters never sleep. Today is going to be a hot one for sure. I check out of the hotel, crack my first beer (5:30a), and make my way to Bob’s casa. I pull up to Bob’s house and find that he has already backed the trailer up to the boat, and is milling around the garage. Yep you guessed it, it was hot, humid, and skeeter abundant over there too. The game plan is discussed and we load up our gear, food and water and hit the road(6:00a).We pull up to Don’s bait shop only to find that it is far less crowded than it was when I drove by 30 minutes ago. Ashley was standing in the doorway smoking a cig and sucking down one of those energy drinks. Being that it was six in the morning, I thought that might be a little too early. Who am I to judge, I am not afraid to crack open a beer at 3am to rid my hangover from the night (or morning in some cases) before. He might have attended a bachelor party at “The Booby Trap” that was just down the street for all I know. Regardless of the circumstances, he was happy and willing to chat with us for a little bit. I picked his brain a little on flies for tarpon and bonefish, in which he was glad to divulge a few secrets. He even gave us two “secret” flies to try. A couple dozen shrimp and a couple freshly made shop sandwiches and a couple sodas and we were out the door(6:30a). I’ll tell you about the sandwiches later…
After swallowing another fifteen-dollar park fee, we work our way to the ramp. I am daydreaming about the previous day when I hear Bob say something that snaps me from my dreaming. He points to a flagpole that is above the tree line and explains that the wind is blowing pretty good and in the wrong direction. Guessing at the speed of the wind (12-15mph), I immediately calculate that to equal a bumpy, rough, and wet ride as we prepare the boat for launch. The boat ramp was filled with fancy flats boats and snooty anglers that eyed the “Bonaflied” snickering amongst themselves. One could only imagine what they were saying, but we knew that we held the ultimate weapon that they would never hold. After a few early morning expletives, the engine came to life and we were under way(7:00a).
The ride was everything I expected without the wet. Bob did a pretty good job of keeping us high and dry, but the boat in front of us was not so lucky. It was about a 14ft. aluminum boat with a deep V. Powered by an old 4-6hp. Johnson/Evinrude that you can no longer buy parts for, she was taking on a little bit of water. The passengers were sitting in the chairs that fold up into a bag, and were taking an azz beating. We chuckled to ourselves and realized that things, no matter how bad they seem, can always be worse. We went around these wet-clowns and continued on to the Holy Land.
As you can imagine, the wind didn’t lay-up when the boat ride was over. In fact, it seemed to get worse. Aside from the wind, we had another adverse condition present itself. Another boat was invading our territory. We were pretty sure it was a boat from yesterday and decided to intervene. That’s right. Bob was more pissed off than I had ever seen them. He wanted to shove a milk-bone down their throat and stick a hungry dog up their azz. Bob did what any good Christian angler would have done….He ran right up to their boat and proceeded to do donuts around them, while showing them the full moon, until they left. (A little coffee just came out of my nose thinking about this actually happening. That was the little man behind my eyes sharing his feelings.) Bob did neither of those. Instead, we continued to work our way wide of the fishermen and set down a good distance behind them. Something felt odd about this morning. It seemed that even though we had set down, the wind still felt like we were headed into it at 20+ mph(7:30a). Am I insane to break out the buggy whip this morning? Insane? No. Determined? Yes. I tied on the fly that Ashley gave me and handed Bob his fly. It takes no time for us to drift to the ledge and begin our search. I turn on my “Bonefish-vision,” and Bob turns on his “Permit-vision”. Yes the wind is blowing so hard that we can’t hear each other, and the water is darker and there is no sign of life anywhere. I practice casting in the wind a little to get my range, while daydreaming that I get another chance to perfect the “crouching behind invisible bush” pose. After a short while, I barely hear Bob scream “Let’s …something…something…something….wind.” A.K.A. let’s move (9:00a).
Having patients is one thing, but to have patients while keeping your focus is another story. Losing focus is a contagious disease and can snowball if you’re not careful. Before you know it, you feel like the day is pissing away and you swear that all the fish died over night or were eaten by the sharks. Often I find myself staring at the water in a glazed over fashion almost like I am in the middle of a conversation that I don’t really care about with someone I don’t care to know. These are the times when my focus fades in and out and I will see fish that aren’t really there, or I won’t see the signs of a fish until he blows up right at the boat. This is what sets anglers apart. That quarter of an inch piece of tail that just broke the surface then disappeared even faster than that, if you don’t catch any and all subtleties that may or may not be thrown your way, you may be dealt a goose egg for the day. Skilled anglers like Bob can make quick work out of nervous water without seeing any fins. He uses the speed of the push with the path it takes and quickly determines its maker.
(9:15a)The move landed us along an all-too familiar flat with one thing missing—bonefish tails. It is incredible how one day they are there and the next day (with near identical conditions) they are not. This seemed to be the case today. Being the trooper that he is, Bob poled me for the next two hours in search of life. It seemed that only sharks inhabited the flats today. We moved up to a corner where we saw tails the day before and found nothing. (10:30a) Bob pointed out one small swirl in the dark water that we both guessed was a ray at first. As we intently continued to watch it move right, I decided to give it a shot. My shoulder was cold and could use a little break in the lack of movement it was doing. I worked up a shot that landed 10ft in front of and 5ft past the last disturbance. To our amazement, the instant the line touched the water, about 8 underwater missiles launched across the flat. I had to fetch my jaw after it fell in the water. They were bones and they were holding still. Something I (in my short bonefish career) had never seen. Those sneaky little bastards… Expletives flowed freely as I was afraid that my only shot had been no more than 25ft away from me and I never saw it. I had slowly lost my patients, and in turn I “F.U.B.A.R.ed” my only shot.
“That’s fishing!” Shouted Bob with a little frustrations under his breath. I was unsure who he was more frustrated at, me or the fish. One thing held true, Capt. Reeves was a patient man. “Let’s keep looking,” he says. Not wanting to let another chance get away, I am now on high alert. Armed with a new set of eyes, we start to look for little swirls in the water. (11:00a) It didn’t take long before Bob spotted another swirl. It was moving along the bank from right to left. As Bob spins the boat, as I patiently watch for the next swirl before I make my cast. We both see the swirl and I place the fly about 5ft in front and 3ft past and begin the retrieve. I still can’t see in the water due to the platinum glare that is created by the clouds. The way the water moved, it looked like a cross between metallic, clay-mation and computer animation (If you can visualize that). I see the water bulge up behind my fly and a little to the right. A small rip between the real world and the clay-mation is divulged for an instant, but I can’t make out what is chasing my fly. Seeing sharks all day long made me want to pull the fly out of the water for fear of losing Ashley’s secret fly. Instead, I force myself to keep working the fly slowly based on the hopes and dreams of “luck.” As the fly gets closer to the boat, it catches something and my heart stops. I continue to slow pull and it comes free. (The little man behind my eyes laughs at me, because it was only a piece of grass that caught for a split second.) A split second after that, I briefly lost touch with the world. I stopped breathing as, “Tap” was felt. I drew the line tight for a millisecond, afterwards line ripping began through my hands. The world came back to me as I realized that I was connected to a bonefish. In a blaze of fury the fish made four hard runs taking me into my backing each time. Between the first and second run the fish actually ran right at me. There was no way I could reel line in that fast, so I reached up and started stripping (you want to talk about the “pucker factor”). I couldn’t match the speed of the fish, with so much slack in the line and the fish still sprinting at the boat, Bob and I were going to watch this fish come off. I kept stripping as fast as I could and Bob started slamming the push pole in the water and stomping on the deck. It worked! The fish turned the other way and was now into his second run towards deeper water. He tried everything he could to get free. They know where every crab trap, buoy, stick, mangrove, and piece of coral is and they have no problem using them. Once he was done running, he proceeded to kick my azz by running me around the boat 3 or 4 times like a jack or permit would. Once subdued, I heard the lip-grabbers lock down on the fish and I think my heart started to beat again and I un-puckered. I think my butt bit off a hole in that back of my pants. 9.5lbs! What a feeling…..(11:30a)
I am not even going to tell you about the tarpon that scared the living crap out of me. He was laid up about 5ft from the boat before he took off in about 2ft of water. I think I launched my own missile out of the hole that my butt bit off in the back of my pants. Holy crap!!!(12:30p)On the ride home, we opened up Ashley’s store made sandwiches. WOW! Is all that I can say. There is about a 1 ½ of meat (3-types) and about ½ a pound of cheese (2-types). It is a hard sandwich to finish, but it sure hits the spot after a long day. Make sure to wash it down with a frosty 24oz. beer, or 2-12oz. beers. I can tell you that one beer will not be enough. I finished my sandwich and beers and near passed out on the way home (20min. ride), while Bob threw out the last ¼ of his.
There you have it. Sorry for the delay, but I wanted to tell you the whole story. Hopefully you enjoyed riding along on my journey as much as I enjoyed writing about it. I’m just showing you that there is a lot that goes on in the crazy mind of fishermen. Thanks again for the unbelievable and unforgettable experiences Bob-who-doesn’t-know-were-any-fish-are-so-don’t-anyone-ask-to go-fishing-with-him….