Beartooth highway looking east through Round Meadow and Soda Butte Creek
Twenty Minutes

Sometimes it is hard just being a guy. Then sometimes we just have to realize we all live much the same lives... This story  was first published by The Montana Pioneer,  a Livingston, Montana publication in which I write a flyfishing column.  This is also one of the resons many of my short stories are so short.

Picture to the left:
Just  inside the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park the Beartooth Highway travels along side Soda Butte Creek a favorite stop for anglers from all over the planet.
This meadow is just south of the Pebble Creek campground.

Twenty Minutes

    It’s already winter and as many of us sit beside a warm fire and flip through our favorite magazines we are inundated by articles calling us to the warmer climates in search of whatever. California desert communities offer golf and flower blossoms, Central American fishing lodges offer crystal clear waters teeming with fish, cruise lines offer us fantasy. Life would be extremely good if we could leave our animals to feed and water themselves for just a short while.

    It is during sessions by the evening fire that I often close my eyes and relive past personal experiences such as casting  to and chasing bluefish down a sunny Floridian beach. Baiting tiger sharks in the steamy Melbourne moonlight or  watching a snook roll up to bash a mullet pattern as it is stripped beside a mangrove root.  Well, that is until I begin to smell the fettuccine with shrimp in a  garlic cream sauce dinner  being prepared by my better half, Amy.  So  as I  stand and ever so innocently slip into the kitchen, she quickly tells me, “beat it. I still have at least twenty minutes. Now get your fingers out of the shrimp bowl.” 

    So back to the fire I go to stretch out beside the cat and dog. Now where was I? It’s hard to concentrate on important stuff  when  Amy’s kitchen is smelling really good but  visions of shrimp boiling in a beat up pot on a beat up white enameled propane stove in a beat up Floridian shack do come to mind. Yes there it is. I‘m back in the Florida Keys and the air is still in the Islamorada  night. The shrimp are beginning to run. I can hear the tarpon and snook sucking them from the water’s surface.

    Non commercial shrimping is a trip. It’s  not hard to do. You simply get out on the moon lit water where a current is flowing out to sea  and drop a 12 volt submersible light over the side of whatever boat you may have at your disposal. Within  a short period of time you will begin to see live shrimp drifting by the glowing hull of your boat. A handy two foot wide dip net and a short stroke will quickly  scoop  the little critters off the surface. Then suddenly,  the constant trickle of shrimp begin to swarm much like a hornet’s nest struck with a stick.

     The theory that there is  safety in numbers holds true. As you try to scoop up “these” shrimp “those” shrimp distract you for just a moment and every little thing darts away. You laugh at yourself  but in time the five gallon bucket does  fill, the currents slacken and the time for fresh boiled shrimp nears. Life is good. But, as I crack an eye open the clock on the mantel is telling me that only five minutes have passed. Man that food really smells good. Quick, I better think of something else.

    Steamy tropics and river mouth tarpon? No.  How about Rhode Island summers and humungous stripers? No. Wait. There it is… roosterfish on a fly. This will work.

    Baja Mexico is a 1000 mile peninsula of desolate bare mountains, sand and cactus. Mid way along  its eastern coast lies a sleepy little fishing hamlet of Bahia de Los Angeles.  This is one of the places where you can actually see all those hammerhead sharks blotting out the light as they swim in formation above you. That is if you are stupid or bold enough to don an air  tank and think they will pass before you run out of air.  However south of town the rocky cliffs fall dramatically into the gulf. It is against these prominent points that  roosterfish roam and seek out its existence. If you have ever fished for stripped bass you have an advantage. The roosterfish behaves much like its very distant cousin. It lulls around in the surf or cruises behind the breakers and occasionally, when allowing its funny looking dorsal fin to break the surface,  puts the targeted  fish in reach for a long cast with a large streamer fly as my son, P.J., once learned.

    ‘There it is,” I said as I pointed at the rocks. “Drop the fly ten feet in front of him.”
    The young boy of thirteen began to false cast as his older sister gloriously sunned herself on the bow of the boat oblivious to the drama which was developing at the stern. I watched the line  spool off the deck as it was sent toward the small school of coastal predators. As if in slow motion the fly line reached its limit. The fly then continued the short distance of the leader until it also settled into the deep blue water with a distant “plop.”  It was an envious and good cast.
    “Wait….Strip it…. Faster….” I urged as the boy followed my directions. “He’s coming“ There was a sudden flash of light just under the surface as the fish turned with the fly in its mouth, “Set!”
    The sounds of P.J. howling his Carolinian southern expressions  at the fish, the reel’s drag singing as line was pulled from the reel  and his sister reappearing to ask me, “Dad, what is it? Oh that fish must be big!” made for a moment that lives on in all our minds. 
    But this fish managed to fray the leader as it ran along an outcropping  of submerged rocks leaving a youngster wondering if he had just lost a record fish. I replaced the damaged leader and together we stood together looking for another sign of feeding fish. Yes, it was a real good fish. In fact the more I think of it the bigger it gets. Someday maybe P.J. will hopefully return and show his own son  how to hook one. Oh, what was that? Sorry, I’ve have got to go. My dinner is ready.  
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