Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Flats fishing in Key West Florida

Windy days like today keep flats fisherman off the water. The normally glass-like nearshore waters of the Florida Keys can become broiling with chop and muddied. Searching for those inshore species like the bonefish, permit, and tarpon, that forage in those shallows, is pointless.
All one can do is think back to last day it was calm, maybe a week ago, when the water seemed invisible across the streches of turtle grass and sand. A ripple and a swirl ahead foretold of the crescent-tailed permit. Pointing the rod in the direction of the fish, your buddy/guide on the poling platform confirms your read. Make one noise, move too quickly, or fumble with the rod, and the permit will notice, leaving you exasperated and respectful. With a held breadth and a jump of the heart, you make your best attempt at casting, hurling a small blue crab to the toughest fish in shallow water. Fortunately, just as the crab hits the water, the permit has his tail out of the water and is preoccupied and unaware of the splash. All he sees is a crab frantically trying to get to the bottom. Gulp! The fish turns, drawing the line tight, and immediately sensing trouble, explodes in a burst of speed and reel screaming noise. Before you can comment to your buddy, the fish is 100 yards away.
Even if you miss, and the fish has spooked (which I should add is still considered a "good" day of permit fishing), you are surrounded by a true backcountry: expanses of gin-clear water dotted with mangrove islands and not another boat, structure, or person within the horizon. Only pelicans and egrets are above the waterline.
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