|The trip slips away... no bones about it.|
It comes, instead, in waves. It washes over you, permeates you. It seeks out your weaknesses and puts them on display for the world to see. It giggles and sniggers. It points and whispers.
And today, I am humbled.
I spent a week on Long Island in the Bahamas, and I didn't catch a bonefish. And, damn it, I tried. Hard. And I've spent the better part of a week trying to figure out how it happened, how a guy who's been fly fishing for the better part of 20 years could wander among the mangrove flats in the tropics and not, even by sheer chance, catch a bonefish.
I've worked through an odd series of emotions over the last few days. First came frustration. Then anger. Then disbelief. Then, on the last day of the trip, resolve. Finally, when I stepped off the last flat without a single bonefish captured in megapixels on my camera, acceptance. It wasn't meant to be.
Sure, there were factors that played into my poor showing. It was my first time bonefishing, and we had some challenging weather that included wind and rain. And wind. I also ventured to a lodge where the whole idea is to basically "do it yourself." I figured, with the group of guys I was fishing with--experienced bonefishers all--I'd get the instruction I needed, and while I certainly didn't expect to catch fish hand over fist, I did think that I was good hands.
And, truthfully, I was. I had lots of great advice. One of the lodge's guides even walked and waded the flats with me one day, and I saw fish. I put flies in front of a few of them. I even watched as fish followed my fly nearly to my feet before I spooked them. The only solace I can take away from this latest adventure is that, even for the experts who were fishing with me, fishing was slow. Conditions were never really perfect and, on the day the fishing turned on, it turned on like a light switch. Sadly, it turned off again just as quickly.
I had a lot of close encounters on the last day on Long Island. Two, in particular, still wake me up at night.
The second near catch breaks my heart. Rod Hamilton, a bonefishing guru, took me under his wing that last day, and to his credit, he found the fish. He put me in position for a number of good opportunities, and together we watched as fish after fish followed my fly but refused to eat. And, for clarity, I'm quite certain that much of the problem had to do with my limited saltwater cast, a skill I intend to work on. After watching my loop fall apart in the wind countless times, I was forced to admit that I was simply under-equipped.
But as the sun slid into the sea on that last day, Rod spotted a pod of bones moving at us about 40 yards out. I managed to keep my cast together long enough to put the fly in front of the nervous water as the fish approached.
Strip. Strip. Line tight. I set the hook and came tight ... against the bottom. I think Rod was as dismayed as I was.
As I stepped off the flats that last day, I gave one final glare to the skinny water that beat me down over the course of the week. I plopped into the bench seat in the bow of the skiff and brooded all the way back to the lodge. I was ... embarrassed.
That's when the acceptance set in. As I said, it just wasn't meant to be.