A north, northeast wind with gusts to 30, even 40 mph can make the east coast of Florida an unpleasant place to be, especially outside the inlets. But there’s a lot of water to cover between the coasts, too, and there’s always a lee somewhere¹.
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 Douglasand 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.
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.
When there is no time afforded you have to steal some. Five casts. Fifty casts. Five hundred. Whatever it takes to make something out of another thing that you don’t rightfully have. One jump should suffice to bend it back in your favor.
The whole thing started with the least of expectations. I had a rod and some time to kill due to a delayed appointment. I made some casts. I caught nothing. I drove to the appointment. Delayed again, for another hour.
I google mapped. I found nearby water. I tried a new fly.
On my first cast I caught a mayan cichlid. Sweet.
Then I saw a dark swirling shape hanging out near a submerged drain pipe. I made a cast.
A largemouth bass with a middling amount of heft liked my offering. OK, cool.
I released the bass. Then I saw two bulbous fish cruising the shoreline at a fast clip. I made a lead cast. One charged like a mofo.
It took off with the force of a Tri-Rail and I had to run down the bank for 20 feet or so until it settled. Actually took me to the reel. My uncertified genero-grip registered the openly hostile oscar at around two-pounds.
What an ornery little cuss.
This became interesting. The fly I had tied on looked similar to a juvie peacock, proving the cardinal law of fish: Everything eats everything. Could I make some sort of slam out of this?
My cell phone rang. I had to meet my appointment in 15 minutes. I was five minutes away.
Would a peacock bass hit a fly that looked kind of like a littler peacock?
On a back road between New Smyrna and Sanford I pulled off to the side in front of a goat farm. A pond sat in the front pasture between the house and the roadside fence. I’d always heard of people asking farmers for permission and it looked fishy and I wanted to try it.
The crushed rock and sand driveway under my feet made loud sounds as I walked to the house, causing the nanny goats and kids to look up from their grazing and I could feel them staring at me behind my back. No one answered when I knocked on the door–I couldn’t find a doorbell button–and I quickened my step going back to the car. I closed the driver-side door against a chorus of bleating. On the road I fell in line behind a truck with the back window covered by a confederate flag.
An immutable law of the universe is that in August, it rains in Florida at 3pm. I knew this as I pulled the rental car over by the money canal near the airport. I tied on a bug against the backdrop of a rapidly darkening sky to the south and west and a quick succession of thunder claps set me to breaking my rod back into four pieces.
The windshield wipers made a syncopated rhythm in lockstep with the heavy rain that beat on the car on the way to the terminal. It finally let up near the parking garage and I looked at my watch. I’d seen a little body of water near the cell phone waiting area, and I still had 30 minutes to clear security.
I Google Earthed the locale near my hotel. Water. Accessible water.
Sometimes the satellites do not present the full picture.
I took to Beta testing some bad-ass prototypes from WT. Prognosis? They cast well and swim well. Fish? What do you want? It’s Florida in July; 95 degrees in the freaking gloaming. Due time for paydirt.
Field testing in the name of science builds an appetite. This is what you call a dynamic cuban sandwich.
On to the hotel bar to cleanse the palate and hear the lounge act.