Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bad Day Fishing...

...Is better than a good day working. That’s the old saying. It’s true. I went on a fishing expedition Sunday evening and confirmed it, even though I was not otherwise required to be at work. Partly because it was Sunday, but mainly because I have a week of vacation coming up.

I decided at about 5:30 p.m. that I was going, and by 6:30 I was on my way down Highway 6 to my super-secret fishing spot. Not that it’s all that secret; there are only about 4 people who go down there at all, my Dad being one of them. It is a great spot, but most people have boats and like to skipper them around, whereas I just like to wade and fish. I have no boat, save for the ones at the end of my ankles.

As I decided to make the trip, part of the decision was based on the lack of the strong wind we have been experiencing the past few weeks. At our house, there was a slight breath of a mostly North wind. With evening coming on, that would only die down and likely make for a glassy smooth bayou. The commute to the spot progressed and as I made my way down Highway 6, I noticed the trees along about Hitchcock began showing signs of a strong Southerly breeze. Undeterred, I stayed the course to my destination.

The evening was turning out beautiful, save for that wind which only increased as I neared the water. Typically, when the wind is up, the fish are down, but stranger things have happened. Once I caught a flounder in a wind so strong, that when I landed it, the wind had it turned inside out by the time I got it off of the hook. I pressed on, persistent as a cat hair on a grilled cheese sandwich.

I walked up over the levee from where I parked, and I noted the gale blowing out of the Southerly direction, with hardly a cloud in the sky. The waves were kicking up and in the bigger part of the flats, there were a couple of whitecaps. As I peered down from the top of the hill, I noticed among the waves, there were some birds working on the North side of the flats. That was a good sign.

I was watching the sun make the rapid slip down to the horizon. I could smell the water, and I got to watch a big brown pelican make some lazy circles over me, scanning the shallow water for a snack before going to roost. The pelican, not me. There were terns and black headed gulls hovering and diving for small mullet. As I walked through the water, shrimp skipped ahead of me. The setting sun made the colors so warm, and the breeze was so cool. I began to care less and less if a big redfish or flounder decided to take my offered bait or not.

Not that I didn’t WANT to catch a fish, it’s just that the overall experience was taking on a completely different purpose. There was a family across the bayou, approximately a half-mile away, were firing up the grill for dinner. Birds were flying overhead to their evening roosts. All of the shorebirds were headed for the islands and marshes. The blackbirds and starlings were headed to the trees over the levee toward I-45.

Being out on the water, with the wind blowing as it was, I was somewhat removed from the Gulf Freeway which was only about a mile and a half away. It reminded of its presence only when a Harley with straight pipes or a high powered Honda with a coffee can for an exhaust would pass, bound for Galveston under full steam. The occasional semi truck under a heavy load accelerating for the overpass sounded off to remind me of where I was on the map.

After one particularly difficult cast, I found the limits of the magnetic brake when casting across the wind. A birdnest the size of a hawk’s homestead appeared from the interior of the new reel. I worked for about 15 minutes to extricate the overrun. The sun slipped toward Highland Bayou Park and I whipped out the pocketknife. Even with the blade, I needed a couple of minutes to perform the surgery and re-fit the bait. Then, back to my quest to the corner where I have caught so many reds and flounder in the past.

At about ten minutes till eight, the wind laid down a bit. Now the magic was beginning to happen; all my casts were on target and the air was just right. I turned back to the East to check for “throwback fish” and saw a sight that surprised me enough to cause me to make a slight sound of alarm. It was the moon rising from Galveston.

It was glowing like a giant pearl on a lavender-to-pink-to-deep blue background. I was surprised because I had no idea where the moon was in its phase. The fact that it was just nearly full (mere hours, it seemed) caught me completely by surprise.

As the sun settled into the salt grass, I headed to the exit to go ahead and move back to the car. I made a couple of final casts and lo and behold, a tiny trout took my bait. It was not much of a fight, but a fish on the line is a fish on the line. I brought him to hand and removed the hook and got the obligatory haze of fish slime on my paw. After I released him, I sniffed the slime that was left behind. It was fresh and clean and fishy, the smell of success in the hunt.

Being near the “jumping off point” I waded through the reeds and deep shoreline mud. The smell of decaying plant matter bubbled up alongside my feet as I made my way to the broken concrete at the edge of the grass. Ascending the side of the levee, I secured my net and fishing rod, and reveled in the evening. The smell of the grass was comforting, as was the aroma of the water and saltgrass, the smelly mud I had just trudged through and the light scent of the grill from across the water.

I have a good friend who can’t fathom what hold the Gulf Coast has on me. He would flee to the Hill Country at the drop of a hat, and he would drop the hat. I tell him that this place is in my blood. The sights, the smells and the sounds of the coast have all come together and made the giant eleven-year-old that you have all come to know. Now you know the reason that the smell of skunk does not offend me; the olfactory assault of rotten mud does not repulse me. Fish slime is a reassurance.

Geezers are not born, they are made. Call me strange, call me weird, but that’s what makes me the best geezer I can be.

Oh, and just so you know, there is no "bad day fishing."


Howlsatmoon said...

Great post there aA. Smelled the bayou my own damm self in your words.

Saw that same damm Moon at my house, coming up over the Easterlies....Beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time....

Course that's why my sort Howl at times like this. Makes me think ove a love dead, a love gone away, a Friendship that's been dullied, and a new love just beginning.....

Oh, that was a bit too serious. Here, I'll fix it.

I don't fish. Never had any luck at all. Used to love to try...but finally realised the truth.

When it comes to Wollf, there is a frogs hair fine difference between Fishing....and standing on the shore lokkin' like a big ol' Dork.

G-d bless ya, my Friend.

aA said...

Sr. Wollf: but if you stand around at WORK lookin' like a big ol' Dork, you get fired.

When you're fishin', you're doing just what was intended by our Creator!

Thanx for the vote of confidence!

Rob V. said...

Love this post aA. One of your absolute best. Thanks for taking me with you on a memorable excursion. Sure wish you would have carried your point-&-shoot to take a snap of that surprising moon. I saw that same moon while speeding down BW8 and it also caught me by surprise. And I know just what you mean about the potent, distinctive odor of fish slime. There's nothing quite like it to conjure up visions of waves lapping against the shoreline, fishing gear, throwing out seine nets to snag some cut bait... Now you got me to remembering some of my fishing excursions on Matagorda Island. Wonderful times. You're right. There's no such thing as a bad fishing trip.

Dammit Woman said...

WOW! I have never been fishing - and never felt the yearn to do so- but reading your post was like actually being there with you. Thanks for the experience.

invigilator_tex said...

Where is this secret, sweet spot, Geeze? I'm fantical for flounder fishin'...

invigilator_tex said...

make that "fanatical"

aA said...

Mr. Invigilator, you're TESTING my patience and resolve. I regret (not really) that I cannot disclose the location of the alleged "sweet spot", due to my concerns that some "fantical" flounder fisher such as yourself will come and fish all the flounder "fantically"!

Besides, I'm afraid Wollf will stand there on the other side of that "fine line" looking like a fisherman instead of a "big ol' dork!" Where will that leave me? On the "big ol' DORK" side of the line.

invigilator_tex said...

Ok then, geeze. Be that way. I got bigger fish to fry anyways. I don't blame ya though; if I ever find a sweet spot I'll likely keep it to myself too. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

kittykat said...

This most definitely was a great post. I only have one fishing story, which I will not be commenting on, as it would only make the fisherpeople present angry. But I agree there is something special about the Gulf Coast. I don't care how much more beautiful the water or the sand may be in other locales, the Gulf of Mexico is home!