August 14th, 2000

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The Roads Less Taken

By Tammy DiGristine, Mims, FL, USA

Secret Sunset

It's nice having home waters. It's great to know at any given time, during any given season, at any given point, you can head out to your home waters and know what is going to bite, where they are and what it is going to take to catch them. It's the kind of knowledge that only comes from time and love of a place that is dear to your heart. Home waters are always there for you, no matter where you travel, and they always have the answers when you need them. They are calming, exciting and thrilling and no matter how many times you fish them and how well you think you know them, they always seem to throw in some surprises to you.

But what do you do when your home waters are the ones most sought after by those coming to visit your state or your community? How do you react when you go to your favorite hole and find 12 people fishing it with little or no respect of how precious and fragile it really is, no matter how tough it looks? Where do you go when every magazine on the rack has an article about that little place you used to fish in solitude just a few months ago? How do you get over the heartache?

I guess that is the time to go ahead and find the roads less taken and look for new places to fish. It shouldn't have to be that way. At least here, there is so much water to cover, that it is possible. Though I am still on my home waters, I am finding new and exciting places to fish every day. It was saddening to see the things I saw upon my return. On the flats were four boats working one redfish. When wading out, if I hooked a fish, three boats would come screaming in . . . and not one of them a local. It was time to move on. Anger and harsh words only breed more of the same.

It was then I decided to start looking for places that nobody would fish. I began looking for places so out of the way I was sure I would have them to myself for a long time to come. I started taking the roads less traveled by, and from that decision, I have grown . . . as a person, as an angler, as a woman.

Birds

It was in finding these places I realized things aren't always what they appeared to be. It was in finding these places I realized how often I just passed them without even giving them a second glance. It was in finding these places that my angling skills were put to the test, challenged and forced into growth. It was in finding these places I found once again the peace and solitude of having my own home waters.

Back there in those places that are far off from the beaten path and the roar of the motors on the flats boats and the constant tramping around of the wading folks and the endless assault of the bait guys is a world like no other. It is in those places I can imagine what it was like to live and fish 100 years ago. Gone are the beer cans, balls of mono and potato chip bags. Gone are the prop scars on the delicate bottom of the flats. Gone are the tense moments when someone else gets too close.

Back in the real back country of the river I have always loved, back where I never really bothered to explore before, I can only get to by canoe or by walking in. It is never really an easy walk in or canoe ride and it is sometimes a long haul for no fish, but it is never a long haul for nothing. Back is the beauty I had been missing for so long, since the magazines made the waters where I fish a national attraction. I had found once again the flocks of birds, the beautiful sunsets unmarred by boats and people and buildings. I had once again found places where the fish were not educated to the point that they held doctorates in fishing equipment. I had once again found a place where fish did not immediately spook away from me as I approached.

The places I fish now are the same places I used to snub my nose at when I passed by, opting always instead for the wide open spaces of the flats. The places I fish now I don't worry about ever running into anyone else. I know there will be fish there. I know sometimes a redfish as long as my paddle will swim alongside the canoe for 40 feet before rushing forth to grab a fly I had carefully and quietly dropped in front of the canoe, not really believing it would take the offering, but completely amused when it did.

Black Drum Tail

The places I fish now hold marvels I cannot understand and try not to. There are black drum there, where nobody would imagine there would be. There are birds like I have not seen in years. There are otters. There are gators and snakes and stingrays and horseshoe crabs and so many fiddlers you can actually HEAR them as they scurry along the banks. There are mullet as big as some of the predator fish and there are other wonders as well.

Sometimes I just take the canoe back there and anchor it and kick back and read a book or listen to some fine classical music while taking in the rediscovered beauty of the world around me. I often wonder if Robert Frost was indeed a fisherman, and sometimes I think he must have been, for it was he who inspired me to take the roads less traveled, and because I did, I have my home waters back once again . . . only this time, I only have to share them with those I choose to show them to, those who I think are worthy of appreciating the world in which I live, and the secret world we sometimes overlook. ~ Tammy DiGristine (Chat room Host Tam)


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