Not until I heard a crash, did the block finally fade away. A bugle blasted
in my ear. I looked up, kind of startled and foggy-eyed, to see my father's
blue eyes and bright smile. It was Saturday morning and time to get up.
After the usual bathroom hygiene, I headed to the kitchen. The aroma
was unmistakable. By the corner of the refrigerator, light formed a wedge
on the fake brick linoleum floor. I turned into what was probably the "first"
galley kitchen in North America. My mother stood at the window bathed
in morning sunshine, cup of coffee in her hand.
I slowly sipped my juice. I looked out the window into this morning's sun.
I thought it ironic that this image would surface after all these years. I saw
that image of my mom many times when I was in Vietnam. I was young,
impressionable, and awe struck by the mess war makes of human flesh,
of the suffering, of the pain, and the loss. Our combat air unit ran medical
recons in the western Mekong Delta from April 1967 to July of 1968.
We were invincible, like the fireman going into a blazing inferno. I was
medi-vac'd out to Manila in August of '68, and then sent home packing
with my medals.
"Morning Chug," she said with a smile.
"Be a good day for fishing."
"Take a seat now and drink your juice."
I loved cold grapefruit juice in the morning. I looked back at her as
she turned to look out the window. I couldn't help thinking she was
some kind of angel standing there, her silhouette wrapped in sunshine.
The image of the World Trade Center crashing down into the street and
the spires and cathedral of dust that rose back up, took me back a place
I've tried to forget. How ironic to be fishing with a reporter and his friend
from CBS when all this was going on and none of us realizing what
was happening. Here we were enjoying ourselves while at the same time
people were dying and enduring miserable pain. The World was in shock.
We were in the best place on the planet - insulated from humanity - basking
in the warmth of the morning sun and all the nature around us.
We motored to the backwater around Ponce Inlet and Lost Creek. The
southern sky looked ominous with a weather front moving in. But the sunshine
felt good. I figured we had about four hours before conditions would deteriorate.
Lost Creek is one of my favorite haunts. Don't see many anglers in the back
lake because few know that it's there. A small creek opening narrows on a
curve. It is only passable on an incoming tide. We would make the best
of a three-hour window.
The County Mosquito Control District dug a canal connecting Spruce Creek
to Lost Lake (all saltwater). Strong tidal flows provide the right habitat for
predators that need fast moving water. This is an area known for Snook,
Jacks, Bluefish, Redfish, and Spotted Sea Trout. An occasionally Barracuda,
Tarpon or Shark can also be added to the mix. Four rods were ready with
floating and intermediate lines and twenty-pound tippets. A couple of
Redington RFX light tackle rods were rigged with Excalibur Spooks.
Flies consisted of my favorite Fur Shrimp (#6), Redfish Diver (#2), Redheaded
Mullet (1/0), Blue/White Deceiver (1/0), and Palmered Crab compliments
of Capt. Mike Critzer of Chesapeake Bay.
Both Gerry and John were excited by our morning adventure. When you
are sight fishing it is easier for the fly angler to make the first cast. The reason
is simply that the fly angler is less likely to spook a fish than the light tackle
guy who is slinging bait or a lure onto the water. A blind casting situation
requires you to pay attention to the water movement especially along a grass
or mangrove line. In this situation the fly angler always has first shot.
I had my hopes set on a big jack or snook. Gerry started off using a floating
line rigged with a green redheaded hair bug fly. Sun at our backs, he worked
the mangroves. After awhile and no action, Gerry took a break and let John
try his hand with an olive/white Spook Junior (with a teal lateral line). John
cast along a drop off next to an oyster bar. He cranked the lure back and
forth imitating a wounded mullet. Two casts later a four-foot tarpon came
up and rolled on the lure.
"Fish On!" John yelled.
But as soon as the words came out the tarpon rolled off the lure and swam
around it for another look. Even with changes in retrieve speed and pauses,
John couldn't get the tarpon to bite. This happened several more times without
any hook ups. So he relinquished his rights on the casting platform to Gerry.
This time Gerry picked up my custom 9-weight with intermediate line and the
Palmered Crab fly. He laid down a beautiful cast in the same area that the
tarpon rolled. His stripping action had to be faster because of the weighted fly.
On his third cast his line went tight bending to the butt. We had "fish on." And,
Gerry also had a lot of running line on the deck that he would feed up until he
could get the line on the reel. I wasn't sure what he hooked up because the
fish was down about four or five feet. Gerry applied pressure by sticking the
rod tip in the water and following the fish around the boat. Finally with sure
determination, Gerry managed to get the culprit to surface. It was a nice
four-pound black drum. He was handled gently, photographed and then
released after making sure he could swim away on his own power. It is a
great feeling when the fly angler is the first to land a fish.
John got up on the platform. Naturally I positioned him so that he could cast
into the same area we hit all morning. John cast again and this time landed
a nice 4-pound jack. Gerry let him cast again and he landed a baby snook.
Rotating back and forth the two friends cast and caught fish until it was time
to leave. We had a great morning.
Back at the ramp, Gerry turned on his cell phone only to find fourteen messages
waiting for him. We learned of the terrible events soon after that. I hope
that none of your loved friends, family or acquaintances was lost in this nightmare.
I wish you peace and comfort in this time of sorrow. ~ Doug
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.