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Volume XVII, Issue 7 - February 12 - February 18, 2009
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Enduring Days Too Cold to Fish

I’ve got my memories to keep me warm

Lately, against the oppression of our relentless winter, my mind has been given to reminiscence. This week it happened in the shower. A tropical scented coconut shampoo triggered the recall.

The memory was of a place at this same time of year but 1,200 miles to the south. A great deal warmer, I was in the throes of bonefish fever. I was making my way across a narrow point of arid land, avoiding cactus spines, poison bush and the sharp edges of pygmy palms. And I was teetering on the edge of despair.

I was on the upper reaches of Flamingo Lake on Providenciales Island at the invitation of David, an American acquaintance who had decided that the Turks and Caicos Islands was the ideal place to build and manage some apartments. David had offered me the assistance of his oldest son, who he said was a fanatical bone fisherman and knew all the best spots. It was a dream trip.

But David’s son had not returned from a vacation in the States, a promised car had broken down and David was way behind on finishing an apartment that had already been leased. I found myself on my own.

But I was in a house poised on the edge of a big, beautiful piece of water named Turtle Cove, which allegedly teemed with bones.

The afternoon I arrived, I fished the southern flats and found nothing. The next morning I waded the western flats, at least a mile. I saw no fish of any kind.

I tried fishing Flamingo, but my luck continued. And these were supposed to be the very best spots on the island. Hence the edge of despair.

Breaking out of the thick, thorny foliage, I saw my last opportunity. It was a broad, quiet cove, and on the opposite shore mangrove shoots poked up out of the gin-clear water, perhaps a good sign. I stumbled down to the water and waded out to make one last try.

The Bonefish Fever Cure

The glare of a high noon sun blinded me. By the time I spotted the school of bonefish, they were almost on top of me. I slid to my knees in the muddy shallows and made myself small as they passed by not 30 feet away.

Awkwardly and as silently as possible, I stripped line off my reel and prepared to take my shot. It was doomed. The departing school was at an impossible angle, and my clumsy cast resulted in a clap of water as the alarmed fish bolted for safety.

I had blown probably the only shot I would have that day. It was early afternoon, brutally hot and the worst time to fish shallow water. The tide was falling, and I had a long, long walk back to the house. I was almost sobbing. Then there came a flash of silver from the water off to my left.

Another school of bonefish ghosted their way along the shoreline toward me. They would pass within easy casting distance. Staying on my knees, I made my throw well in advance to avoid spooking them. As they approached, I noticed something else.

The mangrove shoots across the cove were moving. They weren’t mangroves at all; they were bonefish tails waving in the sunshine, lots of bonefish tails. The whole cove was lined with schools of fish.

I gave my small fly two short hops. It never got to number three. A husky bonefish shot out from the school ahead of me and inhaled it.

When the fish felt the hook, it burned out of the shallows toward the deeper water. My face cooled from the fine mist of the water thrown off by the line escaping my fly reel. I wore a big, wet grin.

It would be almost an hour before I would regain my feet. The lovely schools that stretched around the cove paraded right to me. Kneeling and casting, I caught fish after fish, fighting, landing and releasing them until my shirt was white from salt sweat and I was ecstatically exhausted.

Lingering Warmth

My daydream stopped just as the shower turned cold. But my lingering reverie warmed me.

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