Hey whoah, is this thing on? I’ve got 45 minutes of footage and half of it looks like this and the other half looks like it was filmed by rodeo clowns. No worries, I’ve got a bitchin’ soundtrack for it that I made with my new banjo on my Mac.
In the winter on the full moon the shrimp run the inlets. On the incoming tide, the thing to do is go out in a boat with a handheld spotlight, flash the water until it reflects tiny red eyes floating by and scoop them with a long-handled dip net.
Brendan had all the necessary accouterments and a 16-foot Whaler and he’d ask you to bring beer. By all accounts this was one of the saner activities that could be undertaken by kids in South Florida.
The wind funneled in between the condominiums stacked aside the inlet and the humid air chilled to the 50s and felt ice cold. (Humans acclimated to 80 do not adjust well.) On the accelerating tide tiny flagellates riled and set the black water aglow with phosphorescence, interrupted by the red eyes that set off reflexive jabbing motions with the nets.
Weirdness funnels down the Interstates into South Florida and after midnight the purveyors end up in Denny’s.
Brendan sat at a table and he had bloodshot eyes and an elderly man in a plaid blazer walked up to him. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.
Brendan had a well-developed Irish temperament and he shouted, “Red Buttons!”
“No,” the man said. “I’m Alan Funt.*”
“No way,” said Brendan. “You’re Red Buttons.”
“No, I’m Alan Funt.”
The waitress came over to calm them down but it kept going back and forth until Brendan got the final word.
“F*&k you, Red Buttons.”
Last week I went to Florida but I ordered in and fell asleep well before midnight. In the morning I took a boat to Boca Chita and Elliott Key in a head sea and got soaked and the wind turned everything to mud.
Florida, though, makes amends.
I caught peacock bass in a canal and saw some strange people in a diner but I was smeared with zinc oxide so they avoided eye contact. I ordered carnitas and iced tea and watched the front door in expectation that, somehow, Peter Funt would walk through. He did not.
The metal support beams of the tents at the boat show started to sway, creak and groan and the fire department said that’s it, go home.
One of the rooms by the elevator emitted trace evidence of marijuana from under the door; such undertakings are typically frowned upon at Best Western but maybe the perpetrator has glaucoma.
Yesterday I basked briefly in the glow of fat little peacock bass getting stuck with a fly I tied for just that purpose. But then the winds kicked up and the tenor of the entire place changed from Steel Pulse to Lightnin’ Hopkins.
There’s cold beer at the hotel bar but only in cans, which is alright when you think about it. Might be a little hard to execute the double haul at the moment but it’s fun to make bad fishing analogies and watch the palm trees bend like a mid-flex.
Bass in Florida are like Led Zeppelin on the radio: Always on somewhere.
I’ve said that before* (in one of my infrequent posts on Buster Wants to Fish.) But I am saying it again because the words and the actions behind them are repeatable.
Sometimes I wonder if it seems like a broken record with me, and maybe it does, but we all need sporting traditions.
One of my main riffs goes like this: Fly down, rent car, criss-cross the State on back roads and wait for the rain to break. Drive past a body of water, look for access, cast.
The coasts and the Keys are incongruous with the interior, the land of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjory Kinnan Rawlings. All the way up to Shingle Creek (documented by a green highway sign on S.R. 528 as the Headwaters of the Everglades) the fresh water that flows South through Okeechobee and the big swamp is dyked, funneled, redirected, canal-ized and otherwise manipulated so that the River of Grass and Florida Bay do not get their full eventual dose.
The roads cut through cattle ranches and orange groves and migrant farms and small town main streets that maintain an Eisenhower ambience despite the scarcity of Buick Roadmasters.
The water is a distraction. It’s always sitting just off the main road or down obscure side streets, where it would remain undiscovered if not for the invasiveness of Google Maps. Whether it should rightfully be swampland or something other than a containment born of front-end loaders is past the point of consideration.
It could contain bass, and is impossible to pass by.
I was standing on a rock and I fell off it. I banged my shin, right in that spot where there’s nothing but skin over bone, and it hurt. The rod did not break. The reel had a gash in the bar stock but still worked fine. I pulled myself up and on to the beach and the person fishing near me laughed. (He was a plug fisherman.) I did not catch a fish.
This happened in New York. Fortunately there is a cure for every fishing drought and it’s called Florida. I fished from a lakeshore at dawn for bass and I did not fall in. There are alligators. I had pulled pork and sweet tea for lunch and a cuban with black beans and rice for dinner.
My friend further south has a boat and I ran down the turnpike and we idled through the inlet on an outgoing tide and the breakwater was loaded with pilchard. Two boats took turns drifting close to the rocks so someone could throw a cast net. When they hauled in the nets stunned pilchard fell out and snook bolted from the rocks and ate them.
Hooking a snook near structure can end badly because that’s what they do, and even on the beach their gill plates can cut through shock tippet or draw blood. Phonetically, the old-timers pronounce it snuke, but try mentioning that in a way that doesn’t make you seem like an asshole.
Pilchard are easy to mimic with fly tying materials, particularly super hair assembled with mono thread and epoxy in Hamilton Eat-Me fashion.
Snook also jump, and I like them very much.
Florida trip. Rental car. Free moment. GoPro for birthday. iMovie. Procrastination. Distraction. Unnatural affinity for butterfly peacock bass.
It all adds up to 50 seconds of pointless footage for your enjoyment. (At least it’s under a minute.)
A town without one is a barren town, where there are no shamrocks drawn in foam, where sparkling wine is allowed to be ordered, and where Shane Macgowan is heard only in minivan commercials.
A town with one has a first line of defense against Applebees.
The fly line entangled in some shoreline debris and I looked down to yank it free, and at that moment a green shape chose to cut through the water to my popper. I had no tension on the line so I watched its fat profile surge and descend on the popper, create a brief interlude of chaos and disappear.
The excessively corpulent type of largemouth, the kind that would give FLW types arrhythmia, has eluded me for 12 years, ever since a memorable encounter on a small lake in Michigan. Since then I’ve had to settle for the small to decent to merely large.
In the end it gets added to the personal rolodex of frustration, along with the monster snook that broke free on the jump, the convincingly stuck tarpon that did the same, the bluefin tuna that spit the hook boat-side and the striped bass that straightened the hook before you even saw it.
It can reduce your evening to a good walk and and some attempted pictures of wading birds.