Category Archives: Florida

Jumping Cues, Making Haste

The guide had the boat staked off on a flat on the edge of I-275 and the angler on deck stood poised to cast.

I don’t know if he actually did because I was driving southbound at 70 mph. Whoever they were, that’s the farthest they got into my visual memory–a split second freeze frame through the passenger window.

Still, If I hadn’t seen them…

Traffic paced up to 80 mph and I had somewhere to be and the water disappeared from view but the idea of me being on it didn’t. I had a brief but less menacing wander along the lines of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

The hard part of being a fisherman is the not fishing. Which sounds a little self-inflicted and absurd on the face of it. Sometimes having had the experience is enough of a thing, like watching the great migration in Kenya or checking out the gargoyles of Chartres. Sometimes something you did in the past, like high school football or geometry, stays locked in that place and you don’t mind.

But fishing brings the irrational desire to be doing it when you shouldn’t be, and the dangerous speculation that you’d be happiest doing it at all times.

When I start to think that way I’m drawn back to “Some Remarks,” the opening essay of Thomas McGuane’s The Longest Silence:

“Worst of all are the lamentations of the angler who has given himself entirely to the the sport and feels that sportsmen up for the week or the season only to return to jobs or family don’t understand him.

I’m afraid the best angling is always a respite from burden. Good anglers should lead useful lives, and useful lives are marked by struggle, and difficulty, and even pain.”

Even so, it doesn’t always stick. Especially in Florida.

So against better judgment, I pressed down the gas pedal and guided the rental car into the fast lane, and cycled through a few more scenarios that would put me on the water, and not that fucker on the flats who by now was probably deep into a 40-inch redfish.

When Tarpon Aren’t

“Sure is pretty down here don’t you know.”I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House

Other things to do include snook, trout and Euchre until last call.

snook slr

The price of the plane ticket is supposed to be exchanged for silver but for a well-placed low pressure system that’s been given a Christian name.

An osprey swoops down low over the grass flats and spears a mullet and flies it across the vast bay to an island in the distance full of dead trees. Add watching this to the list of other things, as well as Bimini ring toss, eating, acoustic sets, ladyfish, mangrove snapper and rehydration.

Midnight From The Inside Out

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.”

“Red Buttons.”

“Listen…”

“RED. BUTTONS.”

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.

peacock

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.

*(Alan Funt)

Side Effects of Hurricane Sandy

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.

 

Florida, Press Repeat

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.

*(Self plagiary.)