Well, it was a great time together. We learned a few things. It was good family time.
We’re all familiar with the excuses that follow a good skunking; they focus on the positive, and emphasize the bonding and stories that come from unfulfilled expectations. They’re the précis of a half time talk after a good whomping.
And so it was on the plane ride back from Boca Grande, Florida, where we had gone in search in tarpon, or for those with a liberal arts degree and aren’t afraid to show it, a megalops atlanticus. But all we came home with with a megalackofiscus.
Our first trip here, a few years ago, had been a success: we caught a 95 lbs tarpon the first day (see my post here) and, being blown out on the second day, chased fish in the interior. We felt triumphant, and determined for more.
On the first morning of this trip, dawn yielded a dead calm interior and gentle waves on the outside. We found rolling tarpon, tails backlit by a rising sun. My dad hooked and jumped one in the first thirty minutes — a fight with three huge leaps and, thirty seconds later, a slack line as a reward. Game on boys, I thought.
That afternoon, we spotted tarpon traveling along the beach and had a few good shots at close range. One fish followed my fly with a big open mouth, but spooked at the boat. The water was clear and we could see their scales, their silver and golds, and their sheer enormity.
But then, wind, rain, and lightening blew in, and the tarpon blew out. For two days, we hardly saw a thing. Shut out, we were. Fishless in Boca Grande.
I’ve been processing the trip and, having worn through all the typical platitudes and excuses, have come to these conclusions.
This sport can be at its best when its humbling. It’s so easy for us to think, after catching some schoolies or trout, that we’re good at this. That we have this down. Tarpon, like Atlantic salmon, are a humbling species. They remind you of how hard the sport can be, and how absurdity and chance play a larger role in this sport than we often care to admit. Those reminders are a good thing. I’m reminded of April Vokey’s interview on 60 Minutes when, in response to a question about how she became so good, she responded that she wasn’t good, she just loves it more than anyone she knows.
The places it takes us are beautiful. Boca Grande pass. Cayo Costa. Gasparilla light house. The Temp. Turtle Bay. These are beautiful places, teeming with fish or stories about them. One of the things I love about this sport is the beautiful places it takes us.
Family time is important, and rewarding. A dinner is good; a trip is better. A little hardship, plenty of jokes, and time outside without a lot of technology. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s said because it’s true. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are with my dad and uncle fishing or canoeing in Maine. Different, warmer locale, but same result — some great memories, and plenty of laughs.
Tarpon are addictive. God, I want to go back. Bad.
Here’s some photos from the trip.
Our guide was Anton Barrington, a chill South African with a penchant for tarpon, bit coin, and eastern philosophy. A good dude and a good guide. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org