4:15 Am, Pompano Beach Florida.
(Phone Vibration Begins, Cliche I-phone Ringtone Slowly Gets Louder)
I slap at my phone trying to find the snooze button…
(Phone Vibration Begins Again…)
I roll over, wipe the drool off my face, scratch the eye boogies off my eyelids and slowly limp to the bathroom. Stubbing my toe on the camera bag, I am reminded why I am awake this early.
I meet Mark from Bonefish Tarpon Trust in downtown Miami at around 5:20 am. After picking up the boat, some coffee, and some snacks for lunch, we head to the docks. It’s dark out, the air is heavy with condensation, we pass a large crocodile on the way out of the inlet. Mark mounts the Poling Platform, hands me a first generation Orvis Helios, with a Hatch Reel, a well tied crab pattern dangles on the end of the leader.
We enter the first flat, slowly edging our way towards the mangroves. I point to some tails in the distance, “2 O’clock, 75 feet!” We approach. Seeing a tailing fish out of the corner of your eye is a special moment. It sends a chill down your spine and makes the hair on your arms stand up.
After a few poor casts we scared the school away. They were bonefish, 2 or 3 munching on crabs in a few feet of water. The sun Illuminated the horizon as we pushed on into the day…
The rest of the day was slow. We dodge several lightning storms, talked about fish, girls, life, the usual… We drank some beers, traveled from flat to flat and 10 hours passed with no signs of life or hope. The sky began to darken, Mark was getting texts from his Girlfriend. My face felt raw, I forgot sunscreen again… Dammit. We pretended not to care about not catching anything. But we both knew, deep down inside thats all we wanted.. Just one more shot…
As we slowly cruised off the flat, signs of life began appearing in the distance. 1 tail, 2 tails, 5 tails! Was I hallucinating? The storm had just passed over, their was a slight drizzle, but the water was calm. My hands were shaking, and the wind was picking up. My first cast was horrible, not even close. We snuck closer, whispering every move to each other… Guide and angler moving and thinking together as one unit. I made a cast about 2 feet from a pack of eager Permit…. Slow strip… Slow strip… BAM… My line shot forward, I lifted my rod tip up and the drag started to scream.. My face burst into a wide smile… The line went limp, the fish was off.
In the distance we saw more schools. We approached, swiftly and efficiently, as I would imagine a Ninja to move if he fly fished. My next cast was perfect, three feet in front of a pack of bonefish. And these were Happy bonefish. I let the fly sink down a little, and started pulling the line back. After one long slow strip, the line went tight, and a missile launched into the distance.
Listening to your drag scream with a bonefish on the end of the line is one of the greatest “highs” in the world. It’s a feeling better than any drug could ever make you feel…
We Landed two bonefish that day. Both bigger than I ever expected to be living in Miami. “Biggest Bones in the world, Mark announced in the background”.
Two fins were clipped for genetic testing.
Fly fishing is the kind of sport that takes time. It takes patience, hard work, and a passion for the outdoors. The sport is not for everyone. But for those of you who persevere, and put in the time, boy can it change your life.
Please take a moment to go check out Bonefish Tarpon Trust.
They are an incredible organization dedicated to protecting our saltwater fisheries.