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,
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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