Fear and Loathing in Flamingo

by Carlos Baz May 15, 2013

Their time had grown short. One hour. Two at most. Shadows had beset them. He craned his neck and peered up at the sky. Limpid blue and full of astringent afternoon light. He shielded his eyes against it.  Hung near the meridian of its descent the sun was bleached with starry white and free of the burnt orange tarnish wrought by impending dusk. Not a cloud be seen riding across the vault. Save the miles long reef  of billowing cumulus stretching from horizon to horizon hovering above them where they waited at the foot of the peninsula. He looked for breaks in the clouds.  A seam had begun to open ahead them.  Tunnels of light poured through and fell upon the water. A perfect facsimile of the trite, budgeted design used to evoke the divine.  He smiled.   With the light there might yet be one last chance to sight fish. True providence. He looked at her where she stood on the casting deck firing the topwater plug in long arcs at the muds blooming down range of the skiff.  He swung the soft plastic bait screwed onto his hook towards himself.  Space guppy.  The gold fleck was dull in the flat light.  He checked the hook point.  Weedless where it lay just barely tucked back inside the plastic flesh of the shad tail.  He let go with a long cast out towards 10 o’clock.  The hiss of the bait entering the water was carried off and away by the blow careening out of the west. He turned the handle of the spinning reel over a half-dozen times and the bait stopped short in the water.  He set the hook.  The water boiled and there was a thrashing at the surface. Then the line went slack.  He started reeling.  There was a fluttering of the rod tip. The line jerked again. A yellow tail turned and slashed above the water. The tiny fork was unmistakable. He laughed. A small welter of froth erupted around the jack where it shook its head at the surface. This is the one, he said bringing the fish to hand.  This is the fish I’ve been waiting for.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

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If someone asks, this is where I’ll be.
Photo: Nicki Manchisi

A week before I left for this most recent trip to Flamingo a very close friend of mine passed away.  His name was George.

As I charged batteries, cleaned camera lenses, and pored over weather reports in preparation for my return to Florida Bay, George occupied my thoughts a great deal.  He was that singular type of human being who moved unflinchingly and inexorably forward through life.  Perhaps what was most admirable about George was that his fearlessness extended right down into the minutiae of everyday life.  Doing a favor for a friend. Painting a bathroom. Building stairs. Fixing a light switch. Learning how to cook. Or kayaking out to sea to wrestle a very large  and very disemboweled striped bass from a pair of frenzied sharks because his kids love barbecued fish. These things all seem trivial, but in my experience they are often the most difficult to surmount and carry more weight than the size of the act would betray. More Importantly, consequence and the concept of failure weren’t even factored into his equations.  He just did things. It was a sight to behold. Watching George just be George and go for it. As my girlfriend Nicki and I boarded our 54oam flight to Miami I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. That George was simply unafraid.

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With that in mind I reminded myself how much I like to fly fish. I’ve known this about myself from the moment I threw my first loop at 10 years old.  I also knew that it was going to be blowing when we got down to the Park in that afternoon.  I also knew that it would blow the next day and the day after that. Granted, it’s no impossible task to fly fish in higher winds, just a more difficult and rather annoying one.  In the past, to be perfectly honest, in light of the wind we would be facing, I would have altogether abandoned the notion of fly fishing and opted for a spinning rod and fistfuls of soft plastics,  and made easier on myself the task of putting metal in mouths and getting fish to hand. And it was something I was considering up to that point. Then, somewhere between watching a foolish woman dump Fruit Loops all over the floor while in the midst of trying to argue her toddler down the aisle and passing out cold in my seat I decided that on this trip I would do the George thing and just go for it.  I would only fly fish.  If that meant landing two fish instead of twenty then so be it.  If it meant landing zero fish, well, then I’d have to deal with that.

We arrived at Miami International Airport without any of the incident or impediment encountered on my last expedition to the southern states in search of redfish.  After the rather tedious process of getting out of the terminal and to the rental car center and having to wait in line behind confused tourists who managed to overcomplicate the relatively banal task of picking up a reserved vehicle, and who also appeared to require a crash course in the finer points of cartography in addition to every single point of interest in southern Dade county, we were hightailing it south.  A quick pit stop in Florida City allowed us to drop our gear off and hook up with our close friend and incomparable fisherman, Capt. Steven Tejera. After that we were Flamingo bound.

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Upon at arrival at the marina we found the wind humming out of the west.  An unfavorable and cumbersome wind for that particular fishery that even comes complete with its own salty adage: When the wind is from the west, stay home and rest.  Or something like that. Well, fuck that. We were there to fish.

As we launched Tejera’s super clean, fresh out of the mold Hell’s Bay Professional, which still had the vauge, chemically sweet odor of a thing that’s brand new, like it was still curing, we talked over the game plan for the afternoon.  The previous day, Tejera had found big numbers of laid up and hungry redfish and snook along a wide stretch of shoreline.  Sight fishing opportunities would abound and the proximity to a land mass would also serve to give us a bit of a break from the wind.

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Just before noon we pulled out of the marina. The faint smell of gasoline and the rattle of insects in the mangroves rode the wind.  It was good to be back on the water after almost three months. I was home.  Immediately I started psyching up for the various scenarios that we would encounter.  Fish facing away. Cruising fish. Fish facing us.  Tailing fish. Double hauls.  Exactly where I would place my fly. Strip sets. I explained to Nicki what we would be looking for.  The appearance of our quarry in the shallows. How she should present a delicious jerkbait to a fish. She nodded. We were ready.

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Our arrival at the appointed stretch of mangroved shoreline afforded us a respite from wind, though it came at the price of dirty, windswept water that had invaded the serenity of this pocket of the Everglades only overnight and carried from the mangrove edge, across the  adjoining trough and to the edge of flat.  Tejera, unmoved at the arrival of the off-color water, ascended  poling platform and scanned the shoreline ahead.

They’re here, he said.  We’re going to go real slow.

After some back and forth between Nicki and I as to who would take the casting deck, Nicki finally consented to my assertion that she should go first.  Though, I could tell by the smile crossing her face as Tejera poled us into position that there would be no stopping her from stepping up to the plate before me. I took my spot in the middle, peeled off some line, and prepared myself to back Nicki up on any missed fish or those unwise enough to try to escape unnoticed.   With eyes searching we started forward. We didn’t have to go far.  Tejera was calling the snook  just before I spotted it.

Nicki. You’ve a got a fish at 8 o’clock. Snook.

The snook, a solid over slot fish, was floating fifteen feet off the mangroves and so high that her back was almost white in the afternoon light. Nicki turned and looked for the fish.  She pointed with her rod.

Right there?

Yup. Make your cast.

She pointed again.

There?

He’s right there.  Put it right in front of him.

With a slow sweep of her tail the snook turned and was facing us. Nicki pointed again with the rod.

That’s him!

She did not cast. She pointed with the rod again. My heart rate spiked and the crash of blood in my ears sounded like small arms fire.

Should I cast?

Yup. You’ve gotta go now. She’s gonna see us.

Nicki started to cast, but before she reached the top of her backcast the snook saw us and spooked.

There is something remarkable about the fashion in which a snook spooks. They seem to take it personally that you’ve disturbed them. The ferocity with which they blow out of whatever repose they were enjoying is nearly as epic as when they strike. And the speed that they attain in departing the scene is explosive enough to turn even a bonefish’s head.

Watching the snook wake out towards to the horizon I felt the sting of a missed opportunity. Nicki did too.  Her frustration became evident in the furrowing of her brow and slump of her shoulders.

What did I do wrong, she asked.

You waited a little too long, Tejera said.  Next time get your cast out faster.

Tejera had us moving forward again.

Don’t sweat it, he said.

I could see it in her face. Nicki was sweating it. Big time. We pushed further down the shoreline.

There are gonna be more fish, he said. We just gotta get the next one.

It sounded like something that my friend George, ever the optimist, would have said in the face of frustration.  Though George would have managed to squeeze “fuck” in there too.

Nonetheless, Tejera was right.  We would have to get the next fish. Perhaps it it only seems so when viewed through the lens of hindsight, but all to often we hear words spoken and their prescience is lost on us. Such was the case with what Tejera had just said. At that moment it was a bit of needed encouragement and a call to refocus. By the time we hit our final day on the water it had become my mantra. Something I caught myself whispering over and over and over and again. Gotta get the next one.

With a roll of her neck and a shake of her shoulders Nicki regained her composure and readied herself for another shot.  It was a short wait.

Nicki stiffened. She made a long cast that landed at the edge of the trough where it rose to meet the shelf beneath the mangroves.  She popped the jerkbait twice and came tight to a stout and pot-bellied young redfish.  First blood had been drawn.

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Nicki has a propensity to both name and kiss fish. She named this fellow Frederick and wasted no time planting one on her new friend.

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Nicki released the redfish and wished him a good day as he swam off.  She got back up on the bow and we worked our way further down the shoreline.

Fish, invisible where they lay couched on the soft mud at the bottom of the trough, blew out one after the other from underneath us and left the water ahead and on both sides of the hull stained with still roiling silt.  The number of fish we could actually see had dropped to zero.  The fish were there, but they had fallen out of the ultra skinny water beneath the mangroves into the safety of the trough. A cowardly act if you ask me.  After some more minutes of watching blowout after blowout occur for every few feet that we moved forward, and a few dozen blind casts that failed to result in even a strike, the decision was made to seek out some more cooperative fish. We left the mud behind and after a short run we were pushing across the kind of exceptionally translucent water that flows through the dreams of sightfisherman.  A wonderful thing to see when it’s you turn on the bow.   Before I stepped up onto the casting deck Tejera motioned towards a small mangrove island at 11 0’clock about fifty yards ahead of us.

They’ll be from the point on, he said.

When we reached the point a redfish popped up on cue.  I made a pair of quick false casts and took a shot.  My cast was long and the fly hit the fish in the middle of the back. Splitsville. Not how I wanted to start.

As we came around the point Nicki and Tejera were scanning for fish off to the port side as I walked my gaze off to the right.  What I saw was a pale head attached to a body striped with electric yellow and jet black. A strange looking ornament hung in that small column of water.  I laid out a forty-foot cast and the sheepshead lunged at the fly so quickly that he missed it by a foot.  I gave another short strip and the fish cartwheeled underwater, motored up and thumped the shrimp pattern.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

There you have it.  My first sheepshead on fly.  I had zero expectation of this fish eating.  I probably cast to twenty-five of these the last time I was in the Louisiana marsh. Each time to no avail.  So, I was certainly happy to welcome this guy aboard.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

I would have loved to commit this fish to a cauldron of hot oil.  However, this wasn’t a kill mission.  After a couple of quick Glamour Shots this convict was granted his freedom.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

We continued working across the flat, and the wind continued to blow.  Tejera called an overslot redfish at 12 o’clock.  My first cast landed where it was supposed to. It should have been game on, though when I stripped the fly the fish just kind of nosed forward, looked at the fly and turned off in the other direction. I tried him again. Nothing. Another attempt landed the fly directly in front of fish.  Again, nothing.  Three grooved pitches in a row.  No reaction.  The phrase I was looking for  as he just kept swimming was, what the fuck? Still confused by what happened I just stood there a moment.

As I was stripping my line back in and muttering epithets Tejera called another fish at 9 o’clock.  Going away.  Nothing like a 75-foot cast into a wind creeping into the high teens and over the shoulder of a fish. I got the fly in front of the fish.  But not before the line smacked him in the tail. Terrified, the redfish took off for the far side of the flat.

We saw a few other good fish, but could not get close enough to make a shot with the fly.  I could have hit them with a spinning rod.  I wanted to. I thought about it.  Instead, I gripped the cork tighter and straightened the wing on my fly as the fish kept swimming. We came off the flat and moved back to the area where had begun the afternoon.  This time around we were going search for mudding fish in the middle of the flat.

This is one of my favorite games to play.  A fish kicks up a mud, you dial in on the plume, and try to spot the fish either within the mud of moving slowly off.  It’s not a classic sightfishing scenario. More like a game of hide and seek.  And you’ve got to be able to react quickly when the fish is sighted as the window of visibility closes fast and there is often only time for one, two shots at most. Sometimes the fish never shows.  Fortunately wasn’t the case this time around. We scouted a half a dozen plumes that yielded no signs of the offending fish and blind casts did us no better.  Mud seven proved to be a winner though.  Tejera called the mud at 2 o’clock. A few seconds later the familiar blue gilt of a slowly waving redfish tail cut across through the plume.  A backhand cast and a lazy loop were enough to reach the fish and two strips later he tailed up on the fly and got his ass got.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

We had a half a dozen more shots at the mudding fish, though none would oblige the well placed shots that both Nicki and I made.   At this point we picked up and moved to a different flat in the hopes of capitalizing on the last hour of the outgoing tide. This scenario with the fish moving out with the tide is one I’d fished with Tejera in the past and one in which we’d done extremely well. As we poled up to the flat we passed a long section of mangrove shoreline. A handful of blind casts at the edge of the bushes produced a pair of snook on the fly and a mangrove snapper that leapt clear of the water like a miniature tarpon.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

When we got to the flat the redfish were right where they should have been.  There were lots of them too.  Fish were pushing, a few fish tailed up, and we saw fish mudding.  We took shots with fly and spin. The shots were good too. Not a single fish was hooked, and apparently, not a single fuck was given by the redfish we found. They were oblivious to us.

Heading back to the marina at the end of the first day we couldn’t help but find it odd that so many fish found it acceptable to just outright refuse us when they should have been trying to swim over the nearest fish to not just eat, but crush, what we were throwing at them. After all this was Flamingo.  These are some of the most competitive fish I’ve ever seen.  No matter though.  We would make them pay for it tomorrow.

Gotta get the next one.

 

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We dropped the boat on day two and set out into a clear and windless morning in search of tarpon.  A rising barometer and morning temperatures fifteen degrees cooler than what they had been the day before posed a bit of concern. And eventually the wind would blow west again. But we were not to be deterred.

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What words could do this proper justice?

After all Nicki had never seen a poon up close, let alone been in attendance to witness to the awesomeness that is the gravity defying aerial display of a triple digit silver king made angry.

We arrived at the appointed location and tide was still a bit high.  It needed to fall just a little further before the poons would show themselves.  Then we could go hunt.  We dropped the stake and waited. I took some photos.

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And those would be the only photos we took for another five hours. The poons showed up right on time.  In fact, before we saw the first fish roll Tejera looked at his watch and said the fish would show up in ten minutes.  The first one rolled nine minutes later.  We pulled the stake and moved down to where the fish were rolling.  One fish showed in range. I made the cast and it fell on target, but the fish kept going.  Another fish rolled thirty yards away. It was the last one that we saw that morning. The area we were in shut down.

A quick move brought us to a flat where the fish should have been laid up. Ready to eat.  They were there, but slammed against the bottom. All we saw of them were eruptions of mud once we got inside of within thrity feet of them.

We made another move, saw another rolling poon, and suffered another refusal.

A last poon, one in the 50 pound class, would be sighted on this day late in the afternoon. He too would refuse my fly.

We took the hint and changed gears from flying silver to floating fish.  We made long run in search of tripletail.  An exciting prospect, as I had never caught on of these tasty, though quite ugly, fish on fly.  We found them.  A couple of them just lazing at the surface and couple other slowly cruising with their flanks turned skyward. Once again our efforts were met with scorn.  I kid you not, I hit a tripletail in the face five times in a row with one of the best looking shrimp flies I’ve ever seen.  That fish didn’t even look at it. With the sun hung high in the vault and the sky empty we made another run. This time we were in search of sightfishable redfish.

We were greeted by a lot of this:

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Which in turn led to this:

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This is a freak out. Not an eat.

Ultimately leaving us with this:

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The loneliest topwater plug that you’ll ever see.

Most of redfish that we encountered didn’t let us within a hundred feet before they would turn and make for any direction save ours.  The shots that we took came via jerkbait, fly, and topwater.  All were met with upturned jaws and fairly major blowouts. What’s worse is that all three of took shots in trying to get just ONE of these fish to eat. Not one of them did. It was brutal.

Sure, at this point we could have packed it in, only fished half the day, gone back to the motel and sucked down cold beers by the pool. That would have been nice. But it would have meant the fish won.  We were not going to let that happen. Since we’d had success the previous day, albeit fairly limited success, working mudding fish we decided to give that tactic another shot. We made another run and arrived at the flat just in time for the afternoon gale.  The trees began to buckle behind us and not a minute later the wind was swirling and gusting all around. The visibility of the water on the flat had deteriorated further in the last 24 hours, but no so much so that it was rendered unfishable.  We just had to be patient.

The first fish to show was a small redfish.  I put a cast on him. He turned. He ate. I missed the hookset. I took a deep breath.

Gotta get the next one.

When we’d put my failure a hundred feet or so behind us Tejera called a snook at 40 feet. It took me a several heart beats to find the fish.  Nothing more than a pencil line in the murk, the snook was at an acute angle to the direction of the wind  and was on my backhand side. My first cast got blown off by the wind. The second shot landed wide right.  There was time for one more shot. I kept the last cast as low as possible and let it rip with a fierce double-haul.  Two strips. The snook absolutely crushed the fly as it slid before him on the surface.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

Finally.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

This snook felt damn good.  Unfortunately he’s also the final punctuation on day two.  We fished as hard as possible for another three hours trying to get a second fish. It didn’t happen.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

Despite the laughs that this foolish looking creature provided as we launched, our third and final day was met with intense focus.

Blast redfish.  Blast snook. That’s all we were going to do. To hell with the poons and anything else.

We stopped at a good distance from the first flat that we would fish.

We retied leaders, changed hooks, adjusted flies, and threw some salt over our shoulders.  Nothing was left to chance. Gamefaces were put on and the level of intensity rose. I stepped onto the casting deck.

I am of the opinion that in the life of an angler there are few moments that are as inspiring or more intrinsic to the sport of fishing itself than that brief period of time between arriving at that location that you have carefully chosen and when you actually start fishing. For that moment has yet to be embellished by anything .  Especially the quality and ultimate outcome of the day’s fishing. It exists after all the planning and preparation and talk of what may come. All that remains then is the doing. The act. That moment before the first cast is partisan only to the fact you are fishing and the possibility inherent to the act of fishing. That you might catch a fish. It seems counter-intuitive to think that the only pure moment in the sport of fishing is born out of not fishing. But it is the truth.  And I fucking live for that moment.

This is what we found when we poled up onto the flat:

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For three and a half hours we were absolutely covered up with redfish.We must’ve seen seventy fish. Not one was caught.  No eats. Not even anything that could be considered an actual follow.

The first six fish I presented to were spooking before my fly even hit the water.

I put the fly rod down, gave up the casting deck and started taking photos. George would have been pissed, but  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was ready to pull my hair out. Nicki held down the platform for the better part of two and a half hours and would not quit.  Shot after shot and still these fish wanted nothing to do with us.  To call them cracked out is a gross understatement.  It was the most difficult and frustrating morning of fishing I’ve ever been a part of. I felt beaten. It made me question the very fabric of my angling soul. I felt unworthy of the boat beneath my feet and the fly rod in my hand.

Tejera remained undaunted though.

These aren’t our fish, he said.  We’ll catch ’em somewhere else.

Gotta get the next one. Gotta get the next one.

We got off that godforsaken flat and made a short run to an area that was just receiving water at the very top of incoming tide and still a couple of hours away from being ruined with filthy gulf water.

Nicki was up on the bow first. I took my place in the middle swore a solemn vow to both god and captain that if a redfish came aboard that Hell’s Bay he would find Hell to pay and the price would be an open hand slap to the face. I scanned the flat for a redfish on which to take out my aggressions and I was only idly listening as Tejera called out a fish to Nicki.  11 o’clock.  I heard the fizzle of the braid racing over the ceramic guides. Awash in self loathing, my attention was consumed with the search for redfish and I did not turn to look at the fish they had lined up.

However, there is no better call to awareness or medicine for a bummed out angler than a screaming drag. Nicki and Tejera yelling, SNOOK!  BIG SNOOK! doesn’t hurt either.

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Watching Nicki land this fish was one of the highlights of my angling career. No doubt.

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Just like that the mood changed.  There were high fives and hugs all around.  Nicki’s smile was as wide as I’d ever seen it.  I’d never been more proud of her. For a few short moments all of us forgot about the fact that we’d gotten the shit kicked out of us all morning long. It felt damn good to be on the water. To be catching fish. Perhaps this was the literal and figurative turn of the tide that we’d been waiting for.

Following the successful release of the snook I took my turn on the bow. I had a shot on a redfish minutes later.  He was facing me when he ate and he kept coming right at me after he did. I was toast. The hook pulled. I collected my line and regrouped.

Gotta get the next one. 

I had my second chance less than 5 minutes later. A solid mid-slot redfish all lit up and silvered beneath the noon-high sun was laid up at 12 o’clock. I laid the fly down less than foot in front of the fish.  On the second strip the fish turned to follow the fly and on the third strip he inhaled it. When I set the hook the fish bolted,  throwing up a huge plume of mud a sending a smell rooster tail flying from the fly line as it cut through the water.

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The mark of a pissed off redfish.
Photo: Steven Tejera

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Action photos by Nicki Manchisi

When this fish came to hand I was, in a word, ecstatic.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

I am nothing if not a man of my word.  So, call PETA, because as soon as I removed the hook I slapped the shit out of this redfish. Twice.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

You tell ’em I’M coming, I said. And hell’s coming with me! Hell’s coming with me!

After we set that fish, sore of cheeks and lips, free it seemed for a moment that we had escaped that purgatory of sightfishing fish that had no intention of eating.  That we had finally found willing fish and we could remain on that muddy, grassy  Shangri-La and get to work.  Much like in The Perfect Storm where our heroes are given a glimpse of clear skies and it appears for just a moment that they will escape the iron grip of the angry Atlantic only to have the moment pass and that window slammed shut in front of them, so it was with us. More spooky fish, more refusals. Then the wind found us again.

We made another move.  One that found us and the tract of water that we wanted to fish buried under a cloud bank that stretched from Cape Sable to Key Largo.  A dark line striking through our final effort of the day.  Staking out, we decided to burn some daylight and see if the clouds would oblige us and fuck off.  The former glories of two hours ago were relieved while we waited for the light to return and Nicki, stalwart angler, stood on the bow and made long casts down wind with a paddle tail in her favorite color. Space Guppy. Sometimes lucky colors pay off.  It wasn’t long before she came tight on a trout.

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Space Guppies

Then she caught another one.

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And another one.

Down, but not out, I played out some line and started throwing loops downwind.  After twenty minutes of furious, unrewarded casting and watching Nicki land a few more trout I came to the conclusion that I needed to catch a fish.  I was afraid that if I didn’t I would be too sad for words.  It’s a bad addiction that I’ve got and I needed to fix.

Gotta get the next one, right?

Three days of steadfastly doing it the hard way would have been a fitting requiem for George, but I ‘d just run out of gas. I tried. Sorry, dude. You always were the better man.

I stowed the longrod and went to work with a topwater.  After a few missed a attempts a trout smacked the plug and managed find the treble hooks. There was another trout caught after that.  It wasn’t the most technical fishing, but it sure was fun.  The pressure had eased.   Tejera pulled the stake and worked us down the flat.  Clouds be damned. We had fish to catch.

CB May 2013 Snook Rapala

Photo: Steven Tejera

We caught this spirited snook and a couple more  fine tout before Nicki stuck a good one.

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Shortly after Nicki had returned this porcine single-fanged trout to its pothole I came tight on a miniature jack crevalle.

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

Strangely enough, this fish turned out to be my favorite catch of the trip. I’ll stay my own hand and save the erudite soliloquy in telling you why I enjoyed this fish so much for a another time.  Simply put, for all the time I’d spent in those few days stressing out over getting hooked up on a snook, redfish, trout, or tarpon it felt good to catch a fish that I didn’t give a shit about catching. To be so unconcerned with the fish at the other end of my braid felt nice and with the moment of the last cast fast approaching it was good to be stress free.

I released the jack and as I watched him swim at the surface, clumsily wobbling off towards the mangroves Nicki found time to catch one last trout.

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Photo: Steven Tejera

This image essentially captures where our three days of hunting shallow water predators, very, very bewildered shallow water predators, in Flamingo ended. On a high note, with a fish in hand.

That’s not the whole story, but it’s most of it.

Yes. The sun came back out. Yes. We did go back to fish the redfish from the morning. Yes. We’re stubborn.  Yes. We were shut down by them again.  And, yes.  I did fall out of the boat.  But who wants to hear about that?

 

Epilogue:

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Photo: Nicki Manchisi

I love Flamingo.  I feel more at home when I fish the shallows of Florida Bay than when I fish my actual home waters of the Treasure Coast and Indian River. I look forward to my time spent in the Everglades with unwaning enthusiasm.  Like a favorite movie or spaghetti with meatballs I take great comfort in the fishing I do in Flamingo. Perhaps it’s the familiarity with the environs that comes from years and years and many, many visits or  the variety of the scaled denizens that can be caught within the boundaries of Everglades National Park or maybe it’s just that Flamingo was the place where my love of fishing was rekindled after laying dormant for a few years. However, the point is moot.  Because no matter what I try to pin down as the reason for that feeling all that matters is that Flamingo is beautiful and fishy and wild.  George never got to see it, but looking back on all the time I’ve spent there I think it’s a place he would have loved too.

On this trip we caught fish. Some good fish. Even still this was some of the toughest fishing I’ve ever experienced and it happened in a place that is generally epic.  It wasn’t for lack of trying either.  Tejera worked tirelessly to put us on fish, and had us on fish the entire three days.  Nicki and I didn’t let a fish swim by without taking a shot and another and another. The fish just didn’t live up to their end of the bargain.  It was harsh.

It’s important to have bad days fishing. Having to work hard to catch fish keeps you honest and keeps you from getting lazy as an angler.  It makes you search harder, throw tighter loops, forces you to be more accurate, and makes you appreciate it that much more when you do feed a fish.  There’s no better way to tighten up your game than a few tough days on the water.  After this trip I am going to be nothing short of exacting when I’m on the water next.

A lot of you reading this know and fish Flamingo already, so you are familiar with how awesome the fishery is.  For those reading this who haven’t fished down in Flamingo or are considering making the pilgrimage; do yourself a favor and go. Do it immediately. Now is the time to get down there.  If you aren’t convinced by this report just check out the content that Chris, Dan, and Eric regularly post on the blog from their adventures in Florida Bay. Flamingo is one of a kind.

In three weeks time I’ll be winging my way down to a top-secret location on Florida’s Gulf coast to reunite with my good friend and consummate angler Capt. Greg Dini.

Our Target: Late spring Silver Kings.

Our Mission: Search and destroy.

Get some.

-Baz

 


Special thanks to Capt. Steven Tejera for the awesome photography work and for battling it out with us three days in a row through some tough fishing. If you’re interested in sampling the world-class fishing that Flamingo has to offer there’s no one better than Steven.  Look him up at Knot Tight Charters. You can also find him on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I told you I fell in:

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