The last thing you want to do is humanize them because they’re not looking at the world in the same way. But they are looking at you.
Others may think we treat them like toys with the hollering and fist bumps that ensue from hooking them but that’s not what we do.
The eyes are alive and maybe their brains don’t process us like facial recognition software but their photoreceptors still collect the light. I’m no scientist but I know these fish remember.
Possibly (hopefully), some day 15 years from now this baby tarpon will be far removed from the swamps and moving along the coast, and it will notice the potential food twitching in its face that looks a little bit like craft fur.
There’s the chance it will catch sight of your refracted profile rising from above the waterline, which will trigger an historical recollection of trauma, and it will pass.
It’s not complicated. If you find the water and its surface temperature is in the 70s and the air temperature is in the 80s, they will be hungry. And if you cast they will chase. And when they do that and you watch it go down in the shallows it sets off a wave of opioid polypeptide compounds that washes over your neuro-receptors, and you are happy.
The water outside the inlet looked glassy and the rain bait made audible splashes as they circled together and jumped to escape pursuit. Bluefish caused this. They appeared as bright flashes when they turned sideways and slashed through the tiny fish with their mouths open. Once in a while one would break the surface with its forked tail. Then everything would go down but fish oil slicked on the surface and the water glittered from the refraction off thousands of tiny free-floating scales. Evidence of dismemberment.
One bait ball remained tight and we idled over to it and I witnessed something I had never seen before. The rain bait pulsated and we made casts around the edges and waited for the thump. Something peeled away from the bait ball and followed my fly but it was not quite right. It swam lazily behind right up to the boat, and another followed and they were red and clumsy and did not eat. We moved closer and watched as two dozen of their kind fanned their pectorals and jacked the bait. Sea robins.
Hey man, this is the ocean. Everything eats everything, and everything’s looking for a reason to go off.
A tree falls across the road barricading you from where you want to go and there’s no way around it and the people already past it aren’t going to stop and look back on your account, so the only thing to do is pour gasoline into the chainsaw.
DIY is the prevailing ethic behind most of the blogs out there in the fly subculture. There are no set rules as to what one is or has to be and anyone that tells you otherwise is not worth the breath he just wasted.
I am proud to be part of two projects that have come forth via DIY channels in the past year, with my participation in them a direct result of doing this blog. Allow me to self-promote:
Pulp Fly: Volume One came out in April, but it started way before that. Bjorn Stromness of Bonefish on the Brain came up with the idea and assembled a roster of contributors–of completely different ages, backgrounds, home waters, influences, styles, motivations, and reasons for putting pen to paper. The stories are as different from each other as the people who wrote them, and that’s what I like most about it. (Homogeneity kills.) And that we did this ourselves.
Thanksgiving 2002. I don’t know why I felt compelled to do it, maybe an insecure need to prove I actually did catch that bass on a fly rod. Although in reality it proves nothing; it could have been a stage prop for all you know. (It wasn’t, piss off.)
A recent post by Bows and Browns reminded me of my personal evolution in fish-related point and shoot.
I have a large catalogue of hero shots that will likely sit unviewed for generations until my offspring’s progeny discover them in a hidden box and discard them after the estate sale.
For a while I wanted to document everything. I bought a sleek and compact Elph and thought that Eastman Kodak really hit on something big there, only to throw it in a drawer after purchasing my first digital and taking advantage of all 3.8 megapixels.
Taking one or two pictures per season increased to one or two a trip, then ballooned into memory cards filled with images of me and my friends and sometimes total strangers hoisting bodies. I filled three albums with pictures depicting some variation of the fish across the midsection, a montage of bad lighting and autofocus.
The last pages of the last album remain unfilled. If anthropologists look only at these and not my hard drive, they’ll hypothesize I quit fishing or died in 2006.
The digital cam is still a bad habit–the waterproof version is point and shoot oxycontin–but the fish burned into silicon always seem diminished. But the ones that exist only in the hippocampus somehow get meaner in recollect.