Wednesday, April 25, 2012
There’s movement in the bunk above me. Austin. Five-thirty already? Seems I’ve just put my head down.
I thumb the illumination button on my watch to be sure. The battery's low and, for weeks now, rather than being lit, the display simply fades away. I know this, but thumb it anyway, with predictable results.
Austin cautiously climbs down the makeshift ladder so, in the absence of digital confirmation, I accept that our planned departure time is at hand. I slip from beneath my light summer bag, pull on a pair of quick-dry pants, a shirt, and tip-toe through the dark cabin in search of a Clif bar and a Mountain Dew to kickstart the day.
Gavit and Banning also rise and step onto the front porch, gently pulling the door behind them. Speaking in low tones, they plot their upcoming day, mentally arranging boats, tides, gasoline, gear, and, of course, the movement of redfish.
The others slumber on.
Austin and I gather the gear we’d roughly staged the evening before and head for the Diablos beached on the west side of the island. We load the boats – which means little more than mounting a fly rod and tossing a box of flies and a bottle of water or two under the seat - and drag them to the eastern shore, a full thirty feet. We wade into the warm waters of the Laguna Madre. With few words, unwilling to break the spell of salt and silence, we mount the sturdy watercraft and paddle into the darkness. There’s only the sound of lapping water and the occasional scrape of paddle on hull.
With quiet, steady strokes we cross the intercoastal waterway, a thirty-five foot deep trough cut through the laguna, and quickly find ourselves in shin-deep water once again. On the liquid surface the transition is seamless.
The eastern horizon begins to glow and we paddle a mile, maybe more, to the east. Dark waters turn pink, then molten, as another day’s sun begins to emerge from the distant depths. We continue in silence, gliding on a sea of fire.
A tail, a dark flag against the blazing waters, appears. Then a second. Three more. “Blacks” says Austin. “Let’s go find some reds. These will be here when we come back.” I nod. Having opened my black drum account the day before, I, too, am anxious to find redfish. We paddle on, each silently contemplating our violation. Don’t leave fish to find fish.
Let’s go find some reds. These will be here when we come back. We don’t. They aren’t. The morning goes fishless.
And I don’t care.