Skiff full-on running out of Islamorada open water pounding wave to wave in the backcountry fleeting bottom playing tag rising and falling beneath our haul and current rip sprawling flat to white sand pothole to grass edge to channel to suddenly skinny water again and again four days in a row dockside coffee and painfully gorgeous sunrises bow to still blazing overcast-and-blue to slate gray and blackening skies clouds rising up and over dragging walls of rain blasting the water’s surface swallowing each key erasing each from the horizon south north west east sounding like the wind in the hardwood leaves of my northeast youth rod tips buzzing electrically current finding its obvious channel we don’t abide till evening sore backs or empty gas tanks force us grudgingly to the take out
Here we are four names from four corners that have become grateful handshakes beers laughs and stories here we are comrades in hard-fought long-ass patrols staring in shit light at likely expanses for tails shadows pushes nervous water fish that make you forget to breathe here we have discovered that time is nothing and timing is everything here we wade into the psychedelic sunset and gulf-side glass philosophy of fly proportions hypothesize about the geometry of presentations and 30 knot right-shoulder double-hauls theorize about instinct and the insanity that should ensue and consider the futility of our efforts reliving every short-strike follow spook snub blown shot or un-buttoned fish grateful for the few brilliant cold bodies we brought to hand here we may be humbled and mortal but here our souls have discovered immortality
Thanks need to go out to those Comrades mentioned above: Davin Ebanks (flatswalker.com), Bjorn Stromsness (bonefishonthebrain.com), Adrienne Comeau (femaleangle.blogspot.ca) and Eric Estrada (iamwaseone.com). Thanks also to Mark Richens of Thomas & Thomas Fly Rods for generously putting us up (and putting up with us) for the weekend and the fine folks at Skinny Water Culture and Fishpond for the gear.
By the time you read this I’ll be on a plane that’ll deliver me from my northern Point A to a southern connection that’ll then deliver me to an even more southern Point B. Deep south. Keys-deep. Islamorada. I’ll have enough fly fishing gear for four people and not nearly enough to prepare me for the ass-whuppin’ I’m sure to receive from the bonefish, peacock bass, (hopefully) permit, ‘cuda, and tarpon we’re sure to cross paths with. I’ll be debating whether or not I should ask the flight attendant for a beer. I’ll be staring out the window listening to a stellar playlist, mouthing words, avoiding the no-one’s-that-effing-happy-this-early-in-the-damn-morning conversation with whoever happened to draw the lottery ticket for the seat next to me, and trying to reconcile a couple different minds lingering like tropical evenings and campfire smoke in my head. I’ll wind up realizing that I left something like my phone charger on the passenger seat of the truck and ordering that beer somewhere over the Carolinas.
Islamorada, I’m here and everything about you is foreign to me. Timeless retro hotel and diner and marina signs. Languid, saronged women in their generous brown skin and strong, salty women in their salty brown skin. Bar-top sweat-rings telling stories between drinks. Backcountry islands hovering on the teal horizon. Clouds building and climbing and retreating in five thousand sunrise and sunset hues. Skiffs and single-masts and cruisers in powder blue, white and pale aqua-green. Impossibly tight-woven mangroves and endless channels. The soul-wrenching siren-song of tarpon and bonefish and permit on the constant, humid breeze. Your guides and anglers in sandaled feet and tan-lined eyes at the bar immersed and unwinding in the vernacular of day after day after day on the water. Everywhere, ghosts of writers, artists, movie stars, sports figures, fishermen, smugglers, drifters, lost and wholly-found souls – bohemian shadows in their public anonymity – still clapping each other’s backs while in gritty, close, passionate conversation over whisky or rum or beer or all three. Islamorada, I’ve only been in your tide a few days. But I’m here and I can see how easy it would be to absolve myself of mainland life and simply chart a course for nothing. To look south over nothing but eternity’s tide from the bow of this skiff waiting for northbounders and see everything I need.