and the moon stuck with us
a full half the day three-quarters
hanging high and quiet to the west
a translucent whisper
not enough for even a reflection
on the oceanside glass I stood
on the bow and let go closed my eyes
and gave myself to the unknowable
back and forth of the water
the slight lap against the skiff
occasional bird call the breeze
and rising sun at my back
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.
6:30 a.m. skiff running wide open and silent but for the already warm racing wind sun starting its upward creep steady growing fire and orange reflection til it’s suddenly high and baking baking baking we’re on the hunt for birds in their wheeling fleet focus hunting backcountry shrimp hunting for the surface while tarpon give themselves away in glorious porpoise rolls wide-mawed cruising circling breathing eating the day before we ran from Big Pine through the same backcountry maze scouting settling a one-off shot or two at one-off fish on the run again and again the day before that spent oceanside patrolling open sand grass breaks on the rising tide looking for northbound bodies prehistoric strings following the coastal contour shots looks turns follows snubs spooks at noon eleven o’clock right here at nine or three shit where’d they come from some riding high most low and cruising discerning their attitude their presence immense in this immense space but this morning birds and tarpon raiding the calm surface as I let go of forty fifty thirty feet of line with my rookie and un-aggressive double haul lay it down now stripstripnowbumpbumpbumpbump everything halts my heart my breath my eyesight all hope for another day on this planet my mind empty but for the noise of adrenaline car battery and cables jumpstart arc between my ears suddenly airborne airborne airborne reeling off yards everything un-halted multiplied the silver exponent I’m not ruined but I’m damn close.
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.