The old saying goes, “If you’re gonna be dumb, you’ve gotta be tough.” Even though I know most of these old sayings have some basis in truth, I tend to either forget or ignore them from time to time, and do things I should know better than doing. I put the above theory to the test this past weekend.
A ladies flats tournament was happening here in the Florida Keys, and my wife invited Joan Maxwell, president of Regulator Marine to come fish in it with us. Joan is an enthusiastic and capable angler, and accepted our invitation. If you’ve been paying attention at all to the weather in south Florida this past weekend, you may have noticed the giant cloud of red that appeared whenever a weather radar screen popped up on TV, hovering over my house it would seem. It started raining here last Friday and has barely stopped since.
Saturday morning, the tournament anglers and their guides gathered at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada, as lightning crackled in the distance, the wind gusted and waves of rain passed over us. At the appointed time, all of us headed out, some to hide under bridges in search of “bridge tarpon”, a species which always seems to live near a restaurant that serves a great lunch. Others of lesser intelligence (us) headed north into Florida Bay toward Flamingo in Everglades National Park.
As the day wore on, we convinced ourselves we had done the right thing. The rain drizzled all day, but we were able to tuck in out of the wind behind a point on the mainland and the fish were biting. We caught lots of trout and ladyfish, jumped off a large snook, had a close encounter with a nice tarpon, and managed to scare a few redfish. The crew was pleased, but became restless as the afternoon bore down on us. They wanted new species.
Looking back to the south, toward home, I made the decision to run west to Cape Sable, at the extreme southwest corner of Florida. We ran through Lake Ingraham to the Middle Cape Canal, and into a large creek which runs north from there. The fishing was good in there too; we saw a snook that will never see 40 pounds again, although we didn’t catch it. In the end, it was more trout and ladyfish.
Lines out came at 3:00 p.m., and it was time to make the long run home. But when we exited East Cape Canal into Florida Bay, we were greeted with higher winds battling an opposing tide, and a wall of rain bearing down on us from the south. There was no escape, so into the breach we went.
It was ugly. The three-mile run across the bay to shallow and calmer water was brutal, in a confused three-foot chop on the port quartering bow, and then heavy rain pelted us mercilessly for the next 20 miles, with visibility reduced to near zero. The Buff headgear I wear to protect myself from sun and wind, and on this day, pelting rain, became so wet that air wouldn’t pass through it and it became hard to breathe, so the Buff had to go. I drove the skiff home by staring intently into the five-inch screen of my Garmin GPS, which had broken off of the console on the ride across the bay.
I drove with my left hand while holding the GPS in my right, a less than ideal situation, but the machine guided us to where we needed to be. Had it not, we would have had no choice but to stop and wait out the storm, because the usual visual landmarks were nonexistent.
We made it back to World Wide two minutes before the cutoff time of 5:00 p.m. The ride which normally takes 45 minutes to an hour, took just under two hours. But later that evening at the awards ceremony (we didn’t win, in case you were wondering), we all laughed about our adventure and resolved to do it again soon. Only next time, if the weather looks anything like it did this year, we’ll be checking out those “bridge tarpon.”