Only a small shudder... just a faint, almost imperceptible, ripple disrupted the long line of chop that rolled ashore on this windy and overcast February day. With my eyes riveted to the spot, I probed the sand with my toe. I eventually found and then shimmied the hefty jack I had just caught back into the mix of wind and waves. Getting a photograph of this recent catch was not on my mind. I was now looking for bonefish sign and hoped for a subtle half-tail to betray the location of the fish that had shivered the surface and shattered my daydreams. My senses were alert. I was prepared to decipher even the most subtle of clues. With the bad weather, I was determined to be patient. This could be my only shot today and I was not going to miss it.
What I got was not the subtle sign of angling lore as seen on the pages of the Drake. No glassine tail snaked delicately onto the dark turtle grass like one reads about on classic posts of Bonefish on the Brain. What I got was not nervous water, but a full-blown psychotic charge as three huge tails abruptly broke the surface and barged onto the flat like a group of high school bullies itching for a fight. They were a marauding band scanning for prey, locked together for security, but determined to out-compete each other for any tasty morsels. The gang charged past me and headed upwind with purpose. I dropped my camera and sprinted up the beach.
I ran 25 yards before I tripped and sprawled in the sand. Managing to embarrass even myself, I leapt up giggling and quickly spotted the huge tails once again. I waded two feet offshore and lofted a sloppy cast four feet in front of the lead fish. It was a good thing that I was alone, for if the flat’s police had been present, I could have been arrested for CUI (casting while under the influence). Guilty as charged officer... yet another adrenaline impaired angler. Remember, if you're going to do adrenaline, always select a designated caster before the day begins.
Confidently and without pause, the head bully streaked ahead and engulfed my pink whatchamacallit Charlie. At the precise moment that my line pulled tight against my thumb and forefinger, I saw my fly line disappear through the guides and quickly morph from pale blue to bright orange. It was not a discernable process and I was not a party to it. It all just happened to me. I meekly watched as backing melted off my reel’s spool like an ice cube thrown on a hot plate. I thought I had no chance with this fish - too much coral, too many channels and cuts and too much line out already. I hoped to get a look, but I was not optimistic. I knew this fish was big. I had seen his tail and even with my historically overactive imagination, I knew he was worth admiring at close range.
With rod held high I waded out, climbed onto a crunchy coral pan and worked him towards me. He ran along the edge of the reef, then swam up and over another coral patch. I knew all was lost now. I just wanted my fly line back and prayed that he would break off at the leader and not at the backing.
But somehow I kept retrieving line. Over time, I felt his resolve begin to weaken. I backed out of the water and carefully back pedaled up the sandy beach. He made a few more short runs, but eventually tired. I hauled him ashore. He was a thick, huge bonefish that lacked the cute, cuddly look of a school fish. A big, triangular dark green plate on the top of his head gave a menacing slant to his eyes. I was truly thrilled and after photographing him, measured his thick body from fork to pale pink snout at 28 inches. Probably ten pounds... and if he wasn’t, he was now and would be for perpetuity. To me he was a true trophy and I was reluctant for some reason to let him go. I let him fin in a shallow pool ostensibly to revive him further, but really because I wanted to be with him a bit longer. Eventually, I released him, then watched him disappear into the mesmerizing mix of wind and waves on this suddenly beautiful Bahamian day.