I absolutely love fly fishing. For this sea loving lady, saltwater fly fishing is particularly exciting. Thus, I was quite keen on every aspect of the outstanding article Oliver Hartner wrote on the subject for this issue.
As I read Oliver’s descriptions about Columbians who have the opportunity to fish on a regular basis, I could only smile — with a twinge of envy. And then I wondered if such regular pursuits might not, once and for all, help me overcome my weird, if not embarrassing, reaction when I hook a large fish. And that is I scream. I mean the kind of scream that has caused grown men on boats with me to drop their rods. I always think my last scream is just that, my last scream. I delude myself into thinking I’ve moved past that out of body reaction that puts Henry, my husband, into hysterics and startles my three daughters, every time.
Some years ago, I went on a trip to Belize with my dear friend, Jenny Walker, to fly fish for bonefish. We arrived at Turneffe Island and met Dubs, our guide for the next few days. Jenny poked me in my side. “Should you tell him that you scream?”
With complete confidence, “No,” I replied. “I don’t scream any more. Maybe we should tell him you won’t wade fish in water deeper than your knees because you’re scared of barracudas.” We both decided to keep our secrets to ourselves. The first day out, we fished on Dub’s 20-foot boat and caught one- and two-pound bonefish. All was safe. Jenny didn’t have to wade fish, and the smaller bones, while still quite feisty, didn’t prompt any outburst from me.
The next day we went for the big boys, wading up to schools of bones with fins barely poking out of the water that looked like miniature sailboats in a regatta. Jenny, an excellent fisherman, hooked a large one on her first try, a solid 8-pound bonefish. The only problem was, as she stood in clear blue water up to her thighs, she wanted Dubs and me to track her fish and yell directions while she watched the surrounding waters for some man-eating barracuda that her bonefish in distress might attract. I wanted to enjoy poking fun at her, but it was short lived when Dubs said he, too, was terrified of barracudas. We celebrated when Jenny landed her trophy with all 10 fingers and toes intact!
Now it was my turn. As Dubs did with Jenny, he stood right beside me to guide my casting. That part went well, but every time I had a strike, I snatched the fly out of the fish’s mouth. I tried to remain calm and set the hook, but fish after fish, I kept missing. I cast again and Dubs, in his kindness, saddled up closer to me with his cheek only inches from mine as we leaned over my line. Strip, strip, strip. Another fish hit.
“Steady,” Dubs said, still cheek to cheek. Remaining momentarily calm, I hooked the fish with a short tug of my line, the fish took off like a freight train, and then it happened. That bloodcurdling scream came bubbling out with no restraint. It swirled around Dub’s head and lifted straight up to the heavens. Certain that his worst nightmare of a Godzilla barracuda coming to eat him alive, Dubs took off high stepping it across the thigh deep water to get to his skiff. Jenny was no help as she was doubled over, struggling to breathe in her fits of laughter.
After a few moments, I settled into fighting this amazing fish; Jenny motioned for Dubs to come help me land it; and, finally, I too caught a nice bonefish that I still enjoy reliving.
As you turn to page 84, I hope the opening shot of the redfish swirling on top of the surface gives you a moment of awe — wondering just what it might be like to hook into an exciting fight for a short while, giving you a memory for a lifetime.
And if you give a little grunt or maybe a yelp when you hook a fish, think of me.