Tears rolled down his cheeks. Nothing but a slight wind helped to
shield his eyes from their burning sensation. Chop as best he could
with somewhat primitive utensils. A fillet knife did the chopping,
really slicing. There next to the skillet, the sauté was being prepared.
Add a little of this and a little of that. What was carried in zip-lock bags
to keep the vegetables fresh would go on first. But he always did the
onions his way. Even as sweet as they were Vidalia's' could make a
grown man cry. The fillets would wait.
Embers glowed a bright silvery red. Heat drew down a chill from the
air. From the far side, dwindling flames pushed smoke up towards the
dark sky. They appeared gray against the darkness. Sometimes you
could hear the crack from fire straightening a limb. Sparks danced
through twisted wood like a ball from a disco light. How is it you can
watch, so intently, the dance of the flames? One fish, four people. A
long awaited treat was at hand. The fire brought us warmth and provided
fuel for cooking. We sat there for hours. Very few words were exchanged,
partly because we were beat. But nothing needed to be said. Only a faint
sigh and some snoring interrupted the silence.
Somewhere in the night you could hear a mocking bird call. It signaled
its mate, letting it know there was warmth down below. In the pit, aromas
were cascading upward. Sizzling sounds. A strong smell of basil, thyme,
oregano, flat-leaf parsley, green peppers, and Vidalia onions were
churned in an olive-oil-lined skillet. Sliced tomatoes were prepared.
Some ground pepper too. There was no mistaking scent from the oak
logs and cedar fronds edging the fire.
From a large plastic bag, fresh fillets were laid ever so carefully on
the sautéed veggies. After a minute they were transferred to their
own skillet, greased with peanut oil. The sizzling never ceased. More
aromas filled the night air. Bodies stirred. Appetites would yearn for
some good outdoor cooking. And what a feast this would be. Many
years had passed since we had tasted the sweet white meat of a
freshly caught Redfish.
Normally, catch and release would prevail. But on this one occasion
we took this fish. It was a beautiful redfish. Roaming just inside the
cut in Hong Kong flats, this redfish took a KG Pink Bucktail. We were
out after big Gator Trout. The KG Bucktail fly, I named after a good
friend of mine. He never went anywhere with out a Bucktail jig and to
get him fly-fishing I always had Bucktail flies. This was a new fly.
Pink/Brown on top combined with some Pearl/Yellow ice chenille.
Along a narrow slit a deep cut channel ran along a grass line on the
west bank. The trout held up along the grass. JR threw the fly and
let it settle. It got two bumps but no hook up. He recast. Same thing
happened, a couple of bumps and no hook ups. JR threw again, but
this time started stripping as soon as the fly hit the water. Again more
bumps and no hook ups. I polled us away from the drop off. And waited
for things to settle.
JR threw the fly past the drop and then led it back into the drop off.
He was using a WF9I, an invisible braided monocore fly line. He let
the fly sink, then stripped. As he repeated this retrieve a couple of
more times, the line went taught. Line started off the spool in an
explosive run. We saw the redfish come up out of the hole and onto
the flat. The redfish startled the Trout who also bolted from the hole.
We polled after him. The redfish made a dash to the north side of the
island and then across the flat back towards the drop off. Line screamed
off the spool. One hundred fifty yards of backing sliced through the water.
JR was constantly reeling and spooling line. His hand looked like a
machine attached to a bicycle pedal.
JR high-sticked the fish for awhile to wear him down. Then he side-sticked
the redfish to pressure him. Meantime the 10wt rod was bent to the butt.
Forty minutes passed and the redfish wasn't tiring. After an hour, JR was
wearing down too. I got off the platform. We traded places. Carefully JR
handed me the rod and line. I figured we needed to put pressure to the
redfish's lateral line to stop him. Eventually, you could kill a fish this size
by prolonging the fight. There was 20-pound tippet between us and the fish.
Finally he started to slow. I put more pressure on the fish as we closed the
distance and started winding fly line back onto the spool.
Once to the boat, it was evident we wouldn't be able to save this fish. The
red was just 26.5 inches in length and about 8 pounds. The fish looked
healthy, but really fatigued. We worked for 20 minutes to revive our fish.
After 30 minutes, it just wouldn't swim away. It was clear this fish would
die if we left it in the water. So our justification for keeping it was we would
celebrate its life rather than having it die a lonely death in the Lagoon.
None of us had eaten a redfish in more than 5 years. We were all staunch
supporters of catch and release. It took a lot for us to take this fish.
There was joy and sadness in this meal. The chopping of the onion, the
burning embers, the sparks and crackling of the fire, were reminders of
what nature gives to us. This was a time to give thanks to the beauty of
the great outdoors. This was a time to cherish each bite of our dinner
and remember to protect and respect the species.
Catch/Release: it's the right thing to do.
Capt. Doug Sinclair has relocated from New Smyrna Beach, Florida to
Grantsboro, NC. He specializes in fly-fishing and light tackle charters.
Doug charters the Coastal Carolina area of New Bern or Oriental.
Catch him on the web at
www.flyfishacademy.net or call him at (252) 745-3500.
Doug is also a Sponsor here on FAOL.