Victory at Last!

Brian_1st_tarpon2
The winds backed off. But it still looked pretty iffy for the tarpon at the ditch—otherwise known as Boca Grande Pass on Florida’s west coast, and if you’ve been following these recent posts you know that Brian Lynn and I hit a dry spell following our little altercation with the guys in the brown suits—sharks, that is—a few day’s back. So Capt. Ray Van Horn, Capt. C.A. Richardson and his girlfriend Jessica, Brian and I were about to head to a little cay where the redfish were supposedly schooled up. Then the Nextel call came. Capt. Artie Price, a close friend of Ray and C.A. and fellow competitor in the redfish tournament game, had a quick message for us. He was already at the pass. “You might wanna head this way,” he said not so cryptically. “We’ll be there in fifteen,” Ray told him. The ‘poons were in.

The bite was on, all right, hot as firecrackers and the word was soon out, too, boats zooming in to start the rotational drifting that makes fishing the pass such a circus, crazy, exciting, and dangerous as hell. There were fish in the air, fish falling from the sky too close for comfort, though this time none fell into a boat.

Capt. Ray, also known as the Colonel, barked orders in fine fashion and in moments were into fish, losing fish, breaking off. Then Brian hooked up and shortly was clambering into Capt. Artie’s boat to fight his first tarpon ever, and to allow me take his photo. Brian fought his fish well. He also proved that he was lucky. During the fight the fish had rolled into the leader, effectively lassoing itself, which was good considering at some point the jig in its mouth had yanked out. It was a thick fish, well over 100 pounds you could tell when Artie and Brian pulled it most of the way from the water for some quick photos.

C.A. had an adventure, too. He was working on a jig snagged on a bottom ledge, the rod bent, but not dangerously so, when the thing exploded. Fiberglass isn’t supposed to do that—at least not as easily as a graphite stick.

Between one thing or another we were down to just a few functional tackle rigs when Jessica hooked up. Another first. With C.A. coaching Jess did a great job on her fish despite a gimbal belt that kept slipping, and then, of all things, the composite gimbal on the rod butt, breaking. Not fun. Her rod was now free to rotate to either side as the big fish she was fighting changed course. But she was into it and then, with her tarpon tiring quickly, starting to show through the clear water, maybe five more minutes left in the fight, a tarpon being fought in a neighboring boat rocketed ahead. The line to which the neighbor’s fish was attached crossed and cut Jessica’s. Her fish was gone and she had a few choice words to lay on the guy next door.

Then the sun began burning through the haze of the smoky sky and lo, it was as though a Mayfly hatch had begun, nymphs emerging from their shucks and exfoliating into delicately limbed adults. In this case, I refer to the fishing ladies of Boca Grande pass who in pretty short order were out of their windbreakers and, well, you get the picture. As the temperature rose, the disrobing continued until the fisher ladies, practicing for the all-female tournament in just one week, were down to barely legal threads. Let me tell you it was pretty tough to concentrate on fishing then.