Fishing With Mr. Murphy
By Capt. Paul Darby (QRR)
"Welcome to my world," with that flag I signal my charges that another night
of Flyfishing for trout, reds, and a whole array of other tippet challengers
has begun. Fly fishing at night became a passion early in my career. OK, It
started from day one, but that's a story for another time. As I backed down
the ramp in the fading light of day, a fellow angler was also launching his rig
for the evening. We exchanged rope duty and hope for what looked to be a
perfect evening of fishing under the light of boat docks that line the bay
and bayous here.
After too many yanks on the starter rope my just tuned antique 25 Evenrude,
coughed and belched smoke in the gallant attempt to burn 18 month old fuel
left in the line from the last time that hose was used.
Water smooth as glass slid under the bow. Head for the furthest light and
fish my way back, that was the plan. I've run these flats hundreds of time
day and night, know every sandbar and snag by heart, or so I thought. We had
a tropical storm a few days ago -- a tropical storm is an under achieving
Hurricane. It gets a name and fifteen minutes of fame on the weather
channel. No one remembers it the day after, accept those with hangovers from
the almost Hurricane parties.
I snatched the tiller hard to the starboard to avoid doing a ski jump in a
Jon boat as the overturned hull of a twenty foot boat loomed up out of the
darkness. "And the sea will give up its dead," flashed through my mind as I
maneuvered past this new GPS way point. The first stop is in sight, sky is
full of stars and the faint sound of chuckling is easily dismissed as just
With the push pole stored, the anchor on a short scope, shadows of trout
patrolling were being noted as line was stripped on to the deck. The first
take of the evening registered well on the bent tip-o-meter. Though it was no
wall hanger, a twenty-inch speckle trout is the potato chip of inshore
fisherman, the first one just flames the addiction.
Scanning the shallow water for more shadows, I scarcely took note as a cool
breeze came creeping down the bay. I often dispense a piece of sage advise
to cover this situation, "If you feel you should leave, you should have left
15 minutes ago." Thing about being a sage is you are much too wise to heed
your own advise.
A bit of spray comes over the gunnel as I turned the boat in full retreat.
Each thump of the aluminum hull pushing back white caps served to remind me
of the 15 minute rule.
Hard to port, the tiller handle protested a bit at such rough treatment as
the sunken hulk took a second fix on my bow.
Having bucked the still rising head wind I ducked into the nearest Bayou to
find a wind break. Idling down the backwater, I'm assessing the
rearrangement of my gear; tackle bag, anchor, cooler are now huddled at my
feet. The hat that had seen so many night campaigns with me has broken faith
and abandoned ship. I'd like to say that I lashed out at the darkness with my
trusty Q-beam blazing but it opted out of this trip by refusing to luminate
at the launch and thus was left in the cab of the truck.
Discovering the stern light was now dark, I turned my attention to it. This
was a common drill accept tonight with the light in pieces I look up to see
not one but two family cruisers bearing down on my position. The rule of
power boats is; Whom ever has the biggest boat can disregard all other
boats, and these guys knew the rule. The motor fired on the first pull but
that bit of luck came at a price, seems my line clipper got caught in the
pull rope, and sent both the clippers and zinger to search for my hat.
Heading back in the general direction of the boat ramp, figure, get a bit
more fishing in. Wind laying down and I see some fish breaking, OK, the fish
were a mile away and I ran over there past the ramp on a hunch. I was right
having boated and released 4 or 5 keeper size trout, I look to the other side
for more conquests.
As is often my habit when approaching a light I'll stand on the bow, light a
smoke and just observe the fish activity for a few moments, weighing their
activity against my fly selection. A sinking feeling gripped my stomach as
the flame from the lighter burned thru the fly line draped across the palm of
my hand. Groping in the semidarkness for the ends of my fly line, the bulb
in the bow light winks out. Digging in my gear bag up comes a mini mag light
and roll of tippet material to fashion a new loop on the line. Folding back
the singed end of the line, I whip and reconnect my forward section of multi
tip minus about three ft. Within a few casts a red fish took a fancy to the
fly and my knot tying skills are being tested. "Don't bring me home any
trout, but a nice Redfish or black drum would be fine," my wife's final
instruction to me as I left this afternoon, served only to remind me I'd left
the landing net in the other skiff. With a fine 19 inch Redfish flopping in
the live well, start thinking "things are looking up, perhaps just a few more
moments and I'll sneak back to the ramp." Oh, like you never answered the
siren song of 'One last cast and then I'll go?'
A cool breeze on an August night in the Florida Panhandle, means one of
two things. You either need a new calendar or a squall line is approaching. In
my haste to secure the boat for a run to the ramp I forgot the incantation
required to start the aging motor in a hurry. Precious moments were lost
before the bow rose into the air and turned to face a wall of wind, rain, and
lighting. The rain suit safely stored behind the seat of the truck would be
little comfort this night. With one hand on the throttle I dug in the gear
bag for the emergency rain ponchos kept there for customers. Ever try to
unfold one of those things with a sputtering motor in a twenty knot head
wind, pouring rain, and of course no running lights.
I'm not the only one running for the ramp. They cannot see me, but I can see
them, so I get to wait for a safe shot to the ramp. Motor dies again "GREAT."
Over goes the electric motor, but not enough power to pull the boat in this
much wind. So back to the gas motor; it grudgingly comes back to life and I
wide open it to the ramp. Everybody else is off the water by now. I didn't
stop till I heard concrete under the boat. I ran to the truck only to
discover I left the keys in the gear bag back in the boat. Other than that,
it was a really great night of fishing.
Oh, and as to Mr. Murphy, he is a lousy tipper. ~ Capt. Paul
Lighter Side Archive