It’s morning; early and humid. I starred out my hotel window to see the haze already settling in. She decided not to accompany me on this final day. “Where’s my gear?”, I said. That’s right, it’s on the skiff. The skiff that I have grown to love and hate all at the same time. Two days of disappointment, beauty and self-loathing all wrapped into one.
She rolls over and looks at me, “Why do you do this to yourself? We’re on vacation”. I look back at her with a smirk, “Sometimes, I don’t know”. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, at least that’s what I’ve come to conclude. In a way, I’m kind of like Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick. He never learned. It killed him, literally. He chased that whale at all costs. I guess that’s what I’m doing, chasing my own white whale.
I put on my clothes, covered head to toe with gear to help shelter my skin from the unforgiving sun. I meet up with Luke at the skiff. He looks and asks, “Fly or Die?”. I respond with a “That’s the plan” and a nod. We set off into the backcountry. A cruel, beautiful, unforgiving, bitch. Typical, I think to myself. Aren’t all the most beautiful things, the biggest pain in the ass? It wouldn’t be adventure without obstacles. We skate across the water like a dolphin gliding through the sea. Nothing but crystal blue ocean as far as my eyes can peer through the thick Florida haze. We find a spot. “Get set” Luke commands. I take position at the bow, sweating already from the heat and humidity in the morning sun. The current slides by the boat, “Perfect”. It seemed as though the stars were aligning. “This is it” I think to myself. Two days of emptiness, bad wind, horrible casts and hot days; all leading up to this.
A ghost maneuvers toward me. “You see it?” Luke whispers. I hold a thumbs up in response. “Cast” he demands. I oblige with a myriad of false casts. “Drop it now!”. My line shot out of the tip of my rod. I begin my strip as my line hits the water. Like a sniper hitting his target, my fly hits with precision. Tick, tick, tick. My rod bends and my reel erupts with energy. Line tearing off like a drag racer heading for the finish line. “There you go!!!” is all I hear from the poling platform. Like a love struck teenager I grin from ear to ear.
The fight is on. Like a back and forth battle between to opposing forces. The heft of the battling creature on my line is felt with every run. Two steps forward, twenty steps back is what it felt like. “I’m gaining line, I think he’s done!!”. I haul my trophy over to the skiff. My forearms are throbbing, my hands hurt, and my eyes are stinging from the sweat. “Bring him here” he says. “Where is he?” Luke asks. I look out and a sickness overwhelms me. I watch as my quarry swims slowly into the distance. “What happened?” we both ask ourselves. We inspect the shrimp pattern to see what went wrong. “Did the hook straighten?” I asked. “No” with a long pause from Luke. “The fly was de-barbed”. My face flows with blood in anger. In my hast to get out there, I tied on a barbless bonefish shrimp. The permit swimming way as if mocking me in victory.
On this day he won. I was the loser, in more ways than one. As I watched my rival move back to his school, I thought to myself, “I’m obsessed”. This creature is still pulling me back. I dream about it. It’s beautiful chaos calling me back. Like drug addict, I need another fix. It’s like a siren singing to me, luring me to it’s domain. “One day”, I think. “One day, the two of us dance again”. Dance again, like a twisted waltz where neither one will lead.