Monday, July 1, 2013

So That I Might See

I close my eyes so that I might see.

You reach a point, staring across these endless shimmering flats, when your brain refuses to go on, refuses to sustain the intense focus, refuses to continue to filter the overwhelming visual input pouring in as you try to divine the shadowy shapes of bonefish - tropical snow blindness, I suppose, brought on by sun and wind and want - and you begin to wonder whether the problem is that there’s no fish to be seen or that you are simply incapable of seeing them. Doubt creeps in. Doubt, and the deep suspicion that your angling inadequacies are being exposed in the whole.

So I close my eyes and take deep, centering breaths; forgo sight to smooth the internal chop, to calm the inner breezes, and, instead, listen, smell, and feel through my pores the glistening expanse that surrounds me. I resolve to not look at the waters, but, rather, to look over them; to see this shin-deep Bahamian haven as a whole, not to fixate on parts, freeing my senses to wander, unfocused, to notice the imperfections on the periphery; the subtle variations that might mean fish.

So oriented, I open my eyes and, as if on cue, they appear. Three sleek shadows, sixty feet out, sliding through the shallow salt in short flowing S-curves like banners in a gentle breeze, moving tangentially to my right. There’s little time.

Stiff wind at my back, I turn away from the fish, put my left shoulder into the blow, and flip a quick backcast into the path of the ghosts. I’ve worn enough fly line this week. The small pink crab imitation lands lightly. The shades twitch, but do not bolt, and continue along their serpentine course.

Pivoting back, I drop my rod’s tip into the water, draw the floating line straight, and wait. The pod stays on track until a short strip, a bounce of the crab, pulls one away from his mates. Another strip, he follows. More, with increased urgency, and he swims towards me, intent on the fly, until my leader has but a tug or two left before re-entering the tip. I hold my breath and get low, expecting to be seen, but, at the last instant, the wraith turns and the line goes taught. I feel his weight.

A hard, direct strip sets the hook. But the bone seems unsure, slides a dozen feet to the right, and pauses, graciously allowing me a quick glance at the loose loops of line floating low at my feet. It's good that they’re clear for I’m allowed only that briefest of peeks before he evaporates in a puff of blue silt. Houdini'd be proud.

Loose line whips off the water, flies through my fingers, and sizzles up the rod. Graphite resonates like a tuning fork. The bone takes it all and gets to the hardware; drag kicking in, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees. The 8wt bends, and stays bent. Before I can blink, the bimini twist tying poly to dacron ticks through the guides and the stick begins singing a higher octave. Backing falsetto.

150 feet… 200... 225… I lift the tip skyward to maintain my tenuous leverage and to keep the streaking line clear of the sparse mangrove spikes that dot our shallow battleground. No down and dirty here. He’s in charge, for now. I’m just hanging on.

250… 275… Finally, spool getting thin, a respite. The bone slows, slides laterally, and begins an oblique return as I scramble frantically to keep tight, cranking spastically, cursing the size of my arbor. In what seems like forever, the bimini ticks, more slowly this time, back through the guides, but we’re far from done. The fish refuels, turns on the afterburners, and jets away once again. The reel resumes its complaint. The rod hums in refrain. We do it again. And again.

In time, the runs become shorter, less electric, until the fish acquiesces, comes reluctantly to hand. It’s as dazzling as the water from which it is lifted; silver scales, mirroring this sparkling environment, reflecting perfectly my cradling fingers; slices of light tightly packed on a sleek, strong frame, shaped for speed; adornment and form worthy of this fish full of spirit and fight and grace. It looks perplexed.

I’ve been there.

So as it slips from my fingers and returns to its haunts, I relax and give thanks that I’m here; that I’ve faced the work-a-day winds, the onslaught of detail, and the endless shimmering expanse of the too busy life – the corporate snow blindness of success and stress and want - and had the good fortune to be able to refocus; to refuse to go on. To look over instead of at, see the broad shimmering flats of life in the whole, free to wander, unfocused, to notice the perfections on the periphery; the subtle variations that might mean happiness.

I’ve closed my eyes so that I might see.

Note: My friends have heard me say, on any number of occasions, that the least interesting part of fishing literature is the fishing itself. It seems all the stuff around the endeavor has so much more meat. But this, after all, is a fishing blog, so I felt compelled to give it a shot, at least this once.

Besides, if you can’t make catching a bonefish exciting, you might just as well pack it in.

And thanks to the Long Island Bonefishing Lodge for making this all possible.


Unknown said...

Very nice Mike!

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks Bill. And I appreciate the loan of the Van Staals. Rock solid reels. And if it ever stops raining we need to get back on the water again.

dmnaz1 said...

Well written! Thanks.

CathyB said...

You need to stop making apologies for your writing at the end, Mike. First, it weakens the effect of the excellent piece of writing above, and, second, it's total BS and we all know it.

Suck it up and admit you're a damn fine writer, man!

A very nice soggy Monday effort indeed.

Unknown said...

I agree. Excellent writing! Great story!

Ethan said...

Dude that's good stuff there sir, Good stuff.

You've managed to perfectly describe the brutally abstract feeling of staring at a flat. Nice job.

Kenov said...

Yes, really nice, Mike. And you already know that i agree with CathyB.

Capt'n Preston said...

Keep taking us along with you (at least while reading your suburb accounts) My Letter of Marque would give me amnesty from the rat race - to live da island life doing everything on island time mon...

e.m.b. said...

Fine writing, my friend. Beautiful metaphor. Much enjoyed.

Mike Sepelak said...

THANKS dmnaz!

Cathy, your point is well taken, though I seriously question your premise on the BS factor. What's not BS is that it's good to hear from you. Soggy indeed.

Landon, I think Mrs. Baker would be shocked.

Nothing quite like it, is there, Ethan? An incredible fishing experience. I'm totally hooked.

Ken, don't encourage her.

So, Preston, let's do it for real.

Good to have you around, Erin, especially knowing what a busy lass you have been. Hope you're having fun. It sure looks like it.

Tbone said...

Sep...well done, both on the water and on the page. Once the rain ends and the water clears let's again exchange flies, stories and brews.