Thursday, March 1, 2018

Crooked and Acklins Islands... Day 4

Day 4... Valentine's Day
A message to my wife Sara

The three boats that left Turtle Sound ran into a brisk 20-25 knot headwind after turning east and leaving the protected sound. With buffs up and heads down we raced along knowing today would not be an easy day. But it was sunny and we were opimistic. Clinton Scavella, Anna Riggs and I soon peeled off to the north to see if we could find fish on the falling tide. Our plan was to check out an extensive creek system that should be draining both water and fish. Clinton dropped Anna and me off at the end of a long white sandbar. He suggested we begin to walk in while he anchored the skiff in a deeper channel that would be safe at low tide. 

Anna Riggs changes flies... Doug Jeffries photo

"You guys go and I'll catch up in a few minutes." Clinton suggested.

Anna and I took off hoofing it back towards a small bay that we could see was separated from another larger bay by a short channel. I assumed the creek came into the smaller bay although I couldn't make it out from where we started hiking. The dry peninsula we walked in on was a little sticky at first, but quickly firmed up. Soon we reached the aqua blue channel. We waded into the water slogging through a soft white marl as the channel got deeper and stickier. Our struggles stirred up a big cloud of muck. But it didn't take long for us to be on firm ground once again as we reached the other side and a solid pan dotted with hurricane killed mangrove bushes.

I thought we should check out the channel just in case any bones were hugging the edges during the high tide. Then we could split up. Anna could go up the creek with Clinton and I would check out the next bay over. If we were going to split up, we needed to stall for a few minutes so Clinton could catch up. Anna started to pull line off her reel while I waded around a small inlet to check further down the channel.

With rod still strung, I snapped to attention when I saw a bone chugging up the channel towards me. I quickly unhooked my fly and yanked my leader through the guides. I frantically stripped off line, threw a hurried cast against a strong cross wind and grossly overshot the bone that was moving quickly toward me. I made two long strips to retrieve line and the bone, obviously not bothered by my poor presentation, moved eight feet to inhale my small tan crab.

I stripped and he was on. I quickly realized this was a very big fish. I went from the usual nonchalance one feels after a successful hookup to a cookie-cutter bone to the intensity you feel when you really want to see and hopefully land a fish

The bone rocketed across the channel then headed back quickly in my direction. I reeled hard then dropped my rod tip to my left side trying to keep him out of the many dead mangrove bushes that surrounded me. It did not work. My fish reached the bushes then strung me up like a Christmas tree pulling my line through a half dozen small bushes. I threw my rod down in the muck and raced forward to break off the branches he had sneaked through. At the end of my gardening, I was pleased to see he was finning slowly about 50 feet away. I raced back to my rod, put some heat on him and he made another strong run out to deep water pulling my line and a wad of backing before heading back to the mangroves once again. This time I was able to keep him out of the branches, but my victory was short-lived... 

After another long run across the channel, he for the third time returned the mangroves and strung me up. I cold do nothing as I had no angle to keep him out. But I knew the drill by now. I jettisoned my rod, trimmed a few more mangrove branches then hurried back to pick up my rod and gooey reel. I could see exactly where I'd been as a cloud of fine sand stretched 100 feet behind me perfectly describing my erratic path.

The fish was now about done... as was I. I was sweating profusely as I finally walked the fish into very shallow water. I knew this was big fish, but when I reached my hands around his body and tail, I discovered just how big. 
Anna graciously yelled, "You want a picture?"
Without hesitation I yelled back, "YES!"
I could have hugged her!
Rarely do I want a photo of a fish... but I did with this guy!

Whew!... Anna Riggs took this photo and the series that follows.

By this time Clinton was on the far side of the channel. Anna took the last of her photos just as Clinton joined us. I told him I thought this fish was at least 8-9 lbs. 

"More than that!" Clinton said. 

We measured the fish. He was 28 inches at the fork probably 31 inches overall. 

Close enough to double digits for me. I wanted this fish back in the water. He was most certainly exhausted. We revived him until he was eager to go then watched him fin away.

Clinton making sure he was OK
...and off he went

Anna and Clinton took off for the creek. When I finally joined them she was casting well into the strong headwind and hooking up time after time. Over the course of the day, Anna pushed her tally well into double digits. She told me that evening, "I had a GREAT day".
Me too Anna, too!
...and later, a dinner message from us guys to our wives!

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