On Thursday I fished again with Captain John O’Hearn and Ted Margo.
On Tuesday, while talking with Ted on the dock, I had dropped my glasses into the water at the ramp, and despite 10 minutes of diving and feeling with my toes on the bottom I had given up hope. Thursday began with a quick look on the bottom thanks to a mask supplied by John. One dive and they were recovered–a great start to a greater day, though the therapist tells me that my Kaenons might take a while to get over their fear of abandonment.
We started of by looking for small tarpon, and I hooked two before finally getting one next to the boat, where Ted performed a very professional release. This was due to the fact that Ted is a ninja warrior with katana blades for fingers. Ted hooked another three (four?) and used his skillz to get the leader in the rod tip for a release. This was accomplished using the previously referenced ninja skillz, obviously.
Two tarpon caught, and we were off to find a bonefish.
We began in a similar area to where we found fish on Tuesday, though they were far less eager to play along. I had a few shots and Ted had some, I hooked one that came off on the hook set, Ted slid a fly down one’s face that didn’t grab, etc. We thought that capturing a bonefish was going to be easier than it was, though the number of shots kept the morale high and while the catching was slow the fishing was incredible.
We left spot A for spot B, (next to C), and immediately found a school of nice bonefish. We had a good shot at them, but they seemed to feel the boat and bounce off. John saw the school continue to feed, however, and pushed over to get another shot. I put the fly near the mud, and stripped it a long way back towards the boat–a distance that I rememember as being close to 30 feet, though I might be wrong. When the fly was about 40 feet from us I was ready to pick up again and throw to where I thought the school was. John saw the fish first, and I saw them a moment after, just as I came tight a mere 35 feet from the boat. The bonefish took off across the flat, and we were elated. After a fight that included one of the longest runs from a bonefish I’ve ever experienced, the fish was about 70 feet away when the lemon shark showed up. While bonefish can often (and rather easily) evade sharks in a fight, a wrong turn from the bonefish and a lucky line for the lemon shark put our bonefish between two very sharp rows of teeth controlled by one very hungry apex predator.
I reeled as fast as I could, and thanks to the torque supplied by John’s after-market parts applied to his reel, extricated the bonefish from the teeth. I passed the fly line to Ted, who hand-lined the fish (very much alive but aware that anything was better than his most recent loction) to the boat without much of a fight. I grabbed the fish and hoisted it into the boat where we agreed that it would, despite a piece of tail missing and a small gash on it’s side, most likely survive. We had time for one picture that doesn’t do the fish (or our experience) justice, but here it is. For whatever it’s worth, this was the largest bonefish I have ever caught; one that was close to 10 pounds and fatter around than most of my leg.
The fish swam off, and we chased away some lemon sharks that had moved in on it’s scent. Our hope was of course that she would make it; I choose to believe that she did.
After that experience, we left spot B and went to spot C, where Ted was prepared to catch his bonefish. He had a few shots before we saw the tails. Ted generously gave me the bow for the shot at the two tailing permit on the grass near the sand, and John put us in position, the cast landed in front of the fish, the fish turned on the fly, and nothing happened. In another 10 minutes we had the same scenario–tails, position, cast, follow, nothing. Permit fishing at it’s most purest. *sigh*.
Ted went back to bonefish fishing, hooking a decent fish and fighting it before getting out of the boat in order to land it alone while John and I chased another tailing permit. Cast, turn, rush, nothing. Ted had a few shots, I had another few. We were wired and the permit fishing was happening. I had another near miss (close call?) at one more tailing fish before we left.
John graciously offered to stop at one more flat on the way home, donating an hour of his free time (a big deal when you have two small kids at home) to the pursuit of a slam. As soon as we arrived on the flat, we put the fly in a school of permit and it kept pace with them for 15 feet before they spooked. More of the same crappy attitude from permit. We had a few more shots at waking schools that spooked before they ever saw the fly, and we were done.
Here are some more photos:
Ted reeling one in:
Ted holding one up:
This day was phenomenal, and while the slam eluded us I am reminded that it is days like this, made possible by great guides and good friends, that are at the heart of what I love about this sport.