High Spirits

(This is a piece I submitted for publication. It, eventually, didn’t make the cut, but I still like it, so, I’m sharing it with you good people.)

Typical

Typical

They call Florida “The Sunshine State.” It’s marketing. At 44.82″ of rain annually, Islamorada gets more precipitation each year than Seattle. When the rains come, it comes in biblical torrents. When heading to Florida it is hard to get the vision of sunshine out of your head, but you are a fool if you don’t pack your rain jacket.

Our trip held out hope for sunshine, as all tarpon tourists do, but that was not the card we got played. Each day the sky was dark at noon and the rains followed. Every day we watched it bear down on us, starting from out there and then arriving. We never dodged it. There was a dark inevitability about it.

As Matt and I were wading one flat he turned to me. “Do you hear that? You can hear the sound of the wind on the water!”

I was near the shore and Matt was further out as we searched, in vain, for bonefish. We couldn’t see anything beyond the odd shark which was large enough or careless enough to push some water and let us know where they were. We cast at them. They didn’t eat.

What Matt couldn’t see as he turned toward me was what was coming up behind him. There was a wall of rain, a visible sheet of water advancing at his back. The sound was the rain.

It rained when I fished with Adrienne and Martin. It rained when I fished with Davin and Derek. It rained when Matt and I fished on our own and it rained when I fished with Adrienne and Bill.

We had traveled hundreds, in some cases thousands, of miles to be here, in Florida for Tarpon. This is where and when it was supposed to all happen. We had come together as a group specifically for this place and this time, never having met in person, eager to share the Florida experience.

When we got to Florida the lights were off, the flats were dark. The fish were there, but invisible. Our opportunities literally swam by us unseen.

Every one of us was disappointed with the weather, but despite that we all tried to stay positive.  Maybe it was because we were new to one another. We were making first impressions. No one wanted to be the bummer. No one wanted to be the one crushed by the rain and darkness. You are supposed to power through, and so that’s what we did.

We fished. We fished hard. We got some shots. We missed some shots. We missed most of our shots, truth be told. We didn’t get a chance to settle into a groove or ditch the jitters which naturally present themselves when you see 140 pounds of tarpon within casting range.

At the end of every day we found ourselves back at home base talking about how wet we got, the fish we missed and our hopes for a drier, brighter tomorrow. We went to bed late after a few six packs and we got up early and we fished. We fished relentlessly in the rain every day until we had to go back home.

Maybe, if we knew each other better, someone would have had a tantrum. Maybe someone would have sulked. Maybe it was for the best we had not settled into being comfortable where we could have complained and bitched a bit. It would have been easy to let the weather get under your skin and blow the trip apart.

I’m glad it worked out as it did. We managed to tell ourselves we were having a good time so often I think we actually did. We were there for Tarpon, but we found friendship instead. I’d take fishing with people I like and having crap weather over nailing the fish with people I can’t stand. So, there’s that and in a certain light, that looks a lot like victory.

Shooting the shit... and learning.

Shooting the shit… and learning.

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5 comments

  1. Please visit you local shaman, obeah doctor, or sorcerer and have this rain hex expunged before March 17. Thank you.

  2. I really like this Bjorn! Well done!

  3. Nice Essay! Completely parallel to my own friendships and fishing trips.

  4. Good read, my friend. Wish we could make this work again this year. It was fun in a million ways.

  5. Thanks man. Wish we could do it again this year, but with the new kid, it seems like 2014 isn’t the year for my return trip to the Keys.

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