Saturday, January 28, 2012


 Panga: a fishing boat indigenous to Central America and Mexico

It begins so innocently. One moment you're cruising along in your panga taking in the early morning sights and smells. Maybe your eyelids droop a bit... perhaps reacting to last night's Margaritas. Maybe you sit for just a second and let your attention slide. You're relaxed, you're content, hell, you're barely awake. Then a silver side flashes enticingly against the a patch of dark turtlegrass. This innocent observation serves as a mental wedgie that shoves you from your early morning reverie and takes you to fully amped in only a small slice of a second. 

And thus it begins... pangamonium... the time-honored ritual, really more of a combination affliction and reaction, but I digress. When pangamonium begins chaos reignsPangamonium is apparently a required activity when tarpon fishing. In the throes of pangamonium, an adrenalized angler can find a million ways to blow his shot: wrap the line around the rod tip top, catch it on the cooler below the casting deck, stand on the line, let the wind blow it overboard. It's all part of the symptoms that afflicts most of us when that first tarpon is sighted. While not everyone gets to cast to the sighted fish, everyone gets to participate in pangamonium. Pangamonium is an equal opportunity virus. It spreads like ebola and afflicts everyone in the boat. Soon,  not only is the angler finding new and creative ways to screw up, but everyone is aiding him in his pursuit of "buck fever" by yelling  helpful, but mutually exclusive suggestions and instructions. Pangamonium sounds like a bunch of chimps in a fig tree or my family at Thanksgiving .
 "Cast longer!"...  "Cast shorter!"...  "Cast again!" 
"There he is, to your left, more right, over there, he's behind you, there’s one, etc., etc.” 
Sure everyone is excited and just trying to be helpful, but it is a confusing situation! Some anglers get really pissed off and tell everyone to shut up.  That's just wrong and it's not in the spirit of panagamonium. After all, this tarpon belongs to everyone and to force people to be quiet is like taking the ball and going home. Besides, when it's not your turn to cast, you'll be wanting to play too! What a well-adjusted angler needs to do is to try an accommodate everyone's suggestions ! At least until the fish had disappeared or you have learned to tune everyone out and make your cast. Not too early or too late, but when the time is right.  If you can ignore the pangamonium party and do it right, and if the tarpon eats, Stage Two of pangamonium begins.

Stage Two can be even more chaotic than Stage One and although it begins with the hookset, it continues through the clearing of line and bowing to the first jump. All these activities must seemingly be practiced simultaneously.  If you sucessfully pass Stage Two and the fish is still on, then Stage Three of pangamonium isn't far behind. It begins when the tarpon is on the reel.  
Stage Three not only involves physical work, but also demands you listen to many more countless suggestions and helpful observations... this time on how to fight and land your fish. 
"Put pressure on him." 
“If you aren’t hurting him, he’ll hurt you”. 
"Lower your rod to the right, pull hard off your hip."  
"Don't raise your rod tip!"
"Bring your rod parallel to the boat’s deck." 
And  the time honored, 
" You can't wait for him to tire... you must tire him! "
All true, all helpful and all rarely heard by the angler engaged in the fight! 

But whatever you do and no matter how much craziness ensues, Stage Three can be a long process. It only ends with Stage Four which begins when the fish gets somewhat close to the boat. Now a skilled pangamaniac can still lose his fish in a variety of ways so you must remain alert and watch for late slow motion jumps and courageous runs. The suggestions from the guide and your fishing mate at this point are creative, instructive and seemingly endless... as well as useless.
If your luck holds and you have a guide who has the hands and the mind to handle a bucket of a mouth hitched to a muscle mass accrued by millions of years of evolution, you’ll get your picture and then watch as this huge, ancient silver beast with the dark green back slides back into the blue of the ocean.  You'll feel exhausted. Your hands will ache and your biceps will tingle. You'll feel a need to chatter and tell everyone that you don't want to do that again... but that's a lie, the last symptom of pangamonium. In truth you love pangamonium and you want to get very sick again soon!

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