Saturday, May 23, 2009

This Almost Didn't Happen

I almost didn’t go. I had set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. I hadn’t slept well last night, and that time of the morning is awful early, and today would have been an ideal day to sleep in. But the sound of the little crack of dawn kept me awake, and the stillness of the past few mornings called me toward the bayou.

So I dragged my carcass out of the bed and got dressed. I grabbed a couple of Cutie Pies and a couple of bottles of water. Loaded everything into the car and hit the road to Highla—er, my “secret fishing spot”. In the growing daylight, I constantly monitored the breeze; I watched the grass at the sides of Highway 6 for the sign of increasing wind, the tops of the trees were eyeballed for any extra movement. All seemed calm for the time being.

When I arrived at the appointed spot, there was only a breath of a breeze with a slight Northerly component. I walked up the gravel road and over the levee to survey and choose my line for the day. On a whim and a bit of experienced impression, I decided to head West, into the corner. I know that the redfish tend to congregate in that spot up there, and so I set out to get into the water to wade to my destination.

At this point, I must confess that I had made the trip down to the water on Wednesday morning, which was the first time since last August. I wasn’t sure about what Ike did to my favorite spot. Would there be a lot of debris in the water? Did it change the shoreline any? Were there any dead animals in the water that I would (shudder) snag on? Worse?

I wore my long pants to protect my legs in the event of lawn furniture or a fence or something just under the surface of the water. Wednesday I chickened out. I wasn’t sure of the bottom, or anything, and when I saw a furry form in the grass at the edge of the shallow water, I froze. On closer inspection, it was small chunk of carpet rolled up. That did it, I decided to hike around to the road and fished a little on either side of the railroad track. Then I went home. The wind was strong out of the East, and the old rhyme came into my head, “Wind from the West, fishing’s the best; wind from the East, fishing’s the least.” That, coupled with the mullet playing around in the water was an indication to me that they were unconcerned with any local predators. I was unwilling to get into the high tide, up to my back pockets in the water and have to drive home in wet pants with no fish.

Today was a different story. I charged into the water on a mission. I made some casts in my trek to the corner, but had the feeling that they were in vain. I waded through the mud and the rising tide, water that was usually knee deep on me, was now at my mid-to upper thigh. Maybe Ike had something to do with that, I didn’t know. What I did know was that the regular sneakers I wore on my feet were NOT the wading shoes that I usually wore. They were neoprene with a zipper up the side and they came up past the ankle. I write of them in the past tense, for alas, they are no more. They only lasted about twelve years.

About halfway to the corner, I was pleasantly surprised by a strike on my line. I use soft plastic lures on a lead head jig. The strike was not a big “WHAM” like a redfish usually makes, yet it wasn’t a flounder, either. Turned out to be a 17 inch redfish. Under Texas law, the red drum must be between 20 and 28 inches for a fisherman to keep it. So I let it go, as prescribed by law. But my heart was light since that is what I had come for.

After nearly losing a shoe in mud up to the middle of my calf, I arrived within casting range of my target area. I sent a cast just past an old post standing in the water. My retrieve was medium speed and with a couple of yanks on the rod. In just a few seconds, the whole tone of the morning took an exciting (for me, not necessarily for you) turn.

My lure paused for a split second, then took off in a different direction. I yanked on the line hard, and the fight was on. The big fish ran like a torpedo (not actually “running” since it lacked legs) and I did my best to turn and reel him in. The fight was spectacular, with me grinning and laughing like a big idiot. At times when trying to slow his progress, my line started to sing from stretching so hard. I am impressed that it held together, but for a few seconds I was in doubt.

I finally got the fish into my net, removed from the line and put on the stringer. He was a hefty, strong and by now, tired 26 inch red drum. During the fight with the behemoth, I saw other reds take off out of the vicinity; so they WERE there!

I fished for another hour and a half, and in total, hooked 12 fish; three that I kept, five that were undersized (but very strong and vigorous fighters) and four that broke my line in several creative ways.

I have to say, fish breaking the line is not too uncommon, but I have never had four of them in one fishing trip. The first ran up on a partly submerged fencepost and broke the line. Next, one of my hook eyes broke the line that went through it (the knot was still intact when the slack line flew back in my face). The third one used his brothers on the stringer to break the line by diving beneath them at three-quarter speed. The most ingenious was the last one.

After a fierce fight, line singing, rod bent in a big “C”, me laughing and straining to keep my foe away from that fencepost (yes, that one again) the creature made a run at me. At the last second, he dodged left and ran to the fish on the stringer. I was smart enough not to let that happen again, but the angle was nearly impossible to turn a fish this strong. He ran under my stringer, turned right and circled my right leg. I felt the line through my Wranglers and eventually it gave way with a muffled “ping”.

I was only a little aggravated, it was a sizeable fish and I would have liked to put the tape measure on him before I let him go. I already had my limit of three reds on the stringer, and another big one would have just been illegal.

My Dad later asked how big that last fish was, and since he broke off, I told him it was as big as I wanted it to be. I’ll say it was 32, no 52 inches long.

The epilogue to this “best day of saltwater fishing ever” is that I cooked the big one for dinner this evening.

Twelve hundred and fifty words to say, “I had a great day and a great meal today”.

7 comments:

Paula said...

lead head jig...hmmm....sounds interesting..

DammitWomann said...

hahahah - 32" or 52" ... yup . you are a fisherman thru 'n thru

the photoSmith said...

i don't know what i'm more jealous of, photo 1 or photo 2. either way i'm JEALOUS!!!! glad to hear it was a good day.

aA said...

Well Mr. Smith, play yer cards right and i'll let you caddy for me some morning...

;D

innominatus said...

Nice work, aA!

Ever have a crummy day of fishing, when nothing is happening? When you're about to go home in frustration, and you decide to give it just one more cast? And then, Finally! You reel it in and find it is just under minimum. Grr!

That's how it usually works for me.

aA said...

Innominatus: yes, has happened to me just that way, on more than one occasion.

Rob V. said...

Hey, great fishing adventure story. Course, you coulda avoided a lot of hassles and just hopped on over to a big supermarket and bought some red fish -- scaled, and gutted, and cleaned up, and filleted for you. But then, you would have missed all that grinning, laughing, and excitement that goes along with landing some big lunkers. Yup. Feeling that tug, setting the hook, reeling and fighting until you bring him in after a challenging fight -- aint nothing like it.