I know these reports have suffered recently; I have been travelling in Vermont and NY for 10 days, and have some stories to catch up on here. Let’s begin with the two days with Joe Rodriguez before I left for northcountry.
Joe and I readied the 6 lb tippet and attendant gear into his skiff early in the morning, drove to Islamorada, and splashed the boat. By 9:30 AM, we were fishing in the glades. The clouds were heavy, and we found a good number of big fish in a nice shallow area that would have been prefect for light line capturing. Due to the clouds we didn’t have a lot of shots, and moved on to another place. Here, we found fish and even hooked one, though it was little (50 lbs) and immediately broken off to keep our focus on the task at hand. After a few more hours and some good shots, during which time we were surrounded not only by tarpon but also jacks and clouds (neither one of which makes feeding a tarpon a fly very easy), we hadn’t hooked another fish and we called it a day. Our plan was to go to sleep early and rise at 5 AM, return to our first location, and find those fish when they were rolling in the morning half light.
We woke up early, and we were leaving Islamorada in the skiff by 7 AM. By 7:30 we were fishing, and a little before 8 we were approaching a rolling school of tarpon, many of which appeared large enough for the six. The fish were happy, and we were content to watch them roll slowly and piece together our shots. We were, however, conscious of the growing cloud cover and the upcoming sight fishing it would surely render impossible. Our first shot was at a group of rollers, and while we didn’t get a bite we soon had another: this time, the fly landed where it needed to. I came tight, felt the weight, and then there was nothing. I was still in the string, and kept stripping until I felt another fish eat–this time I set the hook and felt the fish turn away from the boat. I had cleared the line to the reel when the fly came out again. There was a deafening quiet as we watched the water bloom in strange shapes as the rest of the string bolted away from us.
We continued on, and even though the fish were still rolling we could feel them begin to slow down. Often we would blow a fish out that was laying on the bottom, safe under the mirror of the surface. (It’s worth noting that I’m fully aware of the lay/lie thing, but tarpon lay–that’s just how it is. If you’re reading this and are an English teacher I apologize but refuse to change). I had another shot at a nice group of fish, this time coming tight and keeping the steel in its target lip. This fish was maybe 50-60 lbs, and we broke it off after its first jump. Ah, the joy of record fishing. Between the glare and the occasional roll of a fish we were stuck in angling purgatory for longer than we should have been. After three hours of perhaps the most frustrating fishing I’ve ever experienced, we decided to relocate. I was reminded of fishing with Steve Huff, where our minds were distorted by both the presence of large fish and a reflective glare that produced mental load equally difficult to bear.
We left the mirror funhouse to find some targets we could actually see, and in short order we had a nice high sliding fish creep towards us. I made a cast and the fish ate the fly–again, the fly came out. In retrospect, it seems that my edginess leaked from my brain to my hands–my angling cool had evaporated into a cloud that sat darkly over my cognitive abilities. And even though the fish appeared slightly under the current record, it would have been nice to dry a good one off, just to do it. In the comic book version of this story, my thought bubble was dark and raining.
For the last hour of the day we returned to Mirrorland for another shot in the dark. Needless to say, I’m not really into writing more about how hard it was on the eyes and grey matter behind them. We left, both tired and beat up. While we hooked five fish in two days, it felt like we worked a lot harder than that. Hats off to Joe Rodriguez, who not only put up with some of the most difficult guiding conditions but also with more than a few mistakes on my part. We plan to do it again soon.
After these two days I left for New York, where I fished with Paul Dixon in Montauk with my friends David Nelson and Scott Bennett. A report will follow, I’m still catching up. I fish Monday with Bruce Chard, and I’m looking forward to that. A report will follow.