There are things you can do every day, like the crossword puzzle, and there are things that can only be done when time and opportunity present themselves. Sometimes the windows close so quickly that a passion once so simple and ever present appears remote and complicated.
Cats kept indoors too long will still spring to life at the sight of a live mouse; the instinct to hunt never goes dormant. So it all comes together: a short trip to Florida, a window of time along a shoreline, a fly rod in hand.
I’ve heard musicians talk of the phenomenon of the space in between notes. Maybe it’s like that…the spaces in between the routine that produce moments of electricity.
This is all to say, I hadn’t been fishing in a while but I went, and it felt good.
There is always that moment, upon first contact, where it feels like it’s going to be a much bigger fish. These panfish with their broad profiles are wont to do that, to turn against the pull and create drag…like a drift anchor. The Mayans down in Florida do it and then they wedge their bodies into the weedy growth on bottom and it’s like pulling a stuck Danforth. Hope the knot’s 100 percent because it’s a shame to lose a fly to a bastard little widebody.
Overall, going sideways would be a pretty good life lesson if you’re inclined to think of it that way…fight the power in panfish metaphor. I’m not so inclined; I’ll take the jumping bass and whatever meaning goes with that.
The convenience store at the gas station had an aromatic little kitchen tucked into the corner, behind the registers, so there was no way to resist buying an empanada.
I have heard two working theories about the prevalence of spices in meat dishes of tropical origin. But whether the spices harbor antibiotic properties or trigger cooling perspiration seemed beside the point: I’d already built a sweat from walking the canal perimeter.
I like to fish the culverts and the dead ends where the water is a mirror that shatters upon impact, after the fish jumps out of it to escape what’s fighting against it only to be pulled back under by gravity. Five minutes later it is a mirror again. (Thank the miracle of surface tension.) The next interruption comes from the far gentler landing of a size two ensconced in craft fur. It causes tiny ripples to pulse outward in concentric circles.
Fresh water is the most under-appreciated aspect of the Florida experience. (They wanted to drain the entire swamp in the 19th century, the sonsabitches.) But there’s also food. Key lime pie made with real key limes, moros y cristianos, ropa vieja, country grits and collard greens, Bahama bread and cracked conch and grilled pompano that your neighbor gave you.
The trick to Cuban coffee is the espuma–the foam they make with sugar and a little just-percolated espresso. This little cafe next to a barbershop in Miami Beach makes it perfect. They pass it over the counter with four plastic shot glasses but I just drink it straight from the styrofoam cup.
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.
Six of them walked into the hotel bar and ordered double bourbons. They had already lost their situational awareness and laughed loudly at their own crude comments directed toward the bartender. She laughed along and defused the tension in a way that suggested hard-won poise in handling drunkards.
“George bought a boat today boys,” one of them shouted and they clinked glasses. “Nothin’ gets you off like droppin’ a million.”
They were from Alabama and they run 100 miles out to fish the Gulf and they came to Miami and George found the boat to do that.
A cold front brought in rain and everyone migrated from the boat show to the bars. The chill also shut down the tarpon running the bay and the beaches at night, and that reason to escape from the hotel.
Some of the people inside hid scars earned in the recession and saluted George for his free spending.
Places in Florida bear the scars more openly, from the boarded up apartments behind the hotel to the construction projects way out west that only recently resumed.
The peacock bass that live out west have recovered from the chill that did them in back in 2010.
The fly moved along the drop-off and two little fish fell in behind it. One outpaced the other and charged the fly and dropped it. A big one swerved in and grabbed it and felt the tension and jumped. The fly fell back to the water and another one hit and held fast.
No doubt the result turned out differently than expected.
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.