- Wed May 16, 2018 10:29 pm
Ok, I'll step up.
The forecast was perfect weather, winds 5-10 mph, blue skies, rising tide in the morning. (Happy to say, I'm recently retired, so I'm in a position to take advantage of such things, even though it's mid week.) Loaded the yak and gear in the truck and set the alarm for 3:30 AM. I woke early, of course, with anticipation. On the road to Christmas Bay.
On the water at daybreak, paddling out. Water was flat calm, mirrored the sky in pinks and blues. Wind was just a whisper, heavy and humid. Didn't expect much luck, I never have this early in the year, not like in the Fall. But still, it was good to be out on the water. Struggled against the incoming tide as I paddled out to Cold Pass. My Tarpon felt heavy in the water, as I pushed it ahead, a little too excited I suppose. Had to tell myself to relax, fall into the rhythm of the paddle.
Sun was just breaking the horizon when I reached the pass. Along the way I could see the water was high up in the grass, flooding the back lakes. Still, I'd fish the edges of the channel this morning, always my best shot at a big fish. Broke out my flyrod, stripped some line from the reel, dropped it in my lap, ready to go. Paddled up the cord grass, watching the line intently for tails or backs or wakes of cruising redfish. But nothing. Just mullet, lots of mullet, splashing about as nervous mullet do. The water just might be too deep on the banks to spot a red, even if they are here. Remind myself, you can fish this water a hundred times, and it will always be different.
So I made my way up to a point where I know the trout hang out in the morning. They're pretty reliable, and good for a boost. A few false casts, I flip my favorite shrimp fly toward a point of grass. A bit short. Once again. There it is. A few strips, then a polite tug in return. I smile a bit, good morning. Then the tip of my nine weight bows deep. Hello. I can tell it's the yank of a trout, not a bulldog red, but a nice trout, a big girl. She comes to hand and I slip her back in the water, with just a splash. There, it's a perfect day already.
So I leave the trout to play on the point. Paddle on down the line of cord grass, looking for what I came for. Mullet. No, it's just fool mullet splashing about. Redfish, you know, are serious. They cruise a line of cordgrass in packs, flushing shrimp or mullet ahead of them. Anything in their path gets eaten, by the fish to the left, or the fish to the right, nothing escapes. And they make an unmistakeable wake, straight line and purposeful, like they own the place. In the Fall it can be a violent boil, a feeding frenzy you can see fifty yards away. You see, I'm talking to myself as I paddle along, half asleep, watching the mullet play.
Then . . . there ahead, something different, a wake, it persists, straight line along the grass, coming toward me. Not a heavy wake, but still, the water's deep. A little shot of adrenaline, wake up. I cut the yak toward the bank and hold it tight, drop the paddle across my lap and grap my rod, fly's loose and in the air, a back cast for distance, another, and I drop it, short. Pick it up quick, lead them a couple of feet, drop it there, perfect, wait, wait, wait, short strip, another, they're on it, a tail flashes, my nine weight doubles over, a heavy tug, then the water erupts as he peels the line from my hand. I tug back. This is a big boy. Then I realize he's pulled me out into the boat channel. I throw the anchor and get him on the reel. We go back and forth awhile. Then he gets smart and tries to dive under the yak, I maneuver him around the nose. Reds this size have snapped this nine weight before, twice. Wish I had my ten right now, but who thought I would need it. I slap on the side of the yak to push him away. Patience. Trust the rod, the drag, and that heavy tippet. Let him tire out. Eventually he came to hand, a big beautiful upper slot red. I flip my favorite shrimp fly from his lip, and he pushes off in a huff.
Where he came from, why he was there, I don't know. But I was sure glad to meet him. Sorry, no pictures. I really thought it would just be a nice paddle that morning.