Monday, July 13, 2009

Breaking the Bikini Rules....

It’s always been a dream of mine to fish the salt.  No, not the cold, survival suit, jigging for salmon, salt….. but the tropics. So when a  friend invited me to join him and some of his friends on a trip to the Bahamas, there was no way I was turning it down.
The group.
We were off to Freeport, chasing after bone fish and anything else that happened to have the misfortune of being spotted by one of us.
Even the poor starfish weren't safe (April Vokey photo).
Among this list of unfortunate species included shark, sting ray, permit, baby tarpon, barracuda, and snapper;  Each of which we hooked (with the exception of the permit; no surprise there) though didn’t necessarily land.
April Vokey releasing a sweet little bone fish.
Day one on the boat was incredible.  Our guide worked the pole better than an upscale dancer and the amount of visible bones were plentiful (no pun intended).
Our guide working it....
Never, would I have imagined that a reasonably small fish could run with such speed.  Truly a bullet, I was starting to understand what all the fuss was about.
Straight into backing, silver as a rich kid’s spoon, and pulling pound for pound, I was able to temporarily forget about my hangover and the glaring sun long enough to laugh hysterically as a feisty bone kicked my ass.
Getting my ass kicked.
The next day, I was ready. Only today, I was going to break one of my steadfast rules….I was trading in my long sleeves and khakis for….gasp….a bikini.
I always sneered at the girls in the photos who rocked the swim suit, making the fish appear invisible, all the while keeping the boat afloat with an abundance of silicone. “Not this chick.  Long live those who don’t need to get naked to produce a good shot…” But damn, it was hot, and these Canadian thighs were blinding and as white as the sand on the beach. Guess some rules are made to be broken; don’t get used to it.
Holding a mutton snapper.  These things were so cool!  (Anthony Reiss photo)
We headed for the flats in search of tailing bones.  Our rods were rigged and our eyes were trained; it was going to be a good day.
I brought the Spey rod (packed it for shits and giggles, which for the record, ended up leaning more on the side of the shits), and set it up with a wire leader and monstrosity of a fly (spinner blade and all).
I’d be damned if I had to watch another huge shark or barracuda swim by me again this trip.
Got the Nautilus reel ready for business (April Vokey photo)
Wading the flats was awesome.  A true test for the caster, we chucked and ducked into the wind and nervously watched black tipped dorsal fins swim close by.
Screw this….I grabbed the Spey and cast at a six or seven foot blacktip shark, failing to have the common sense to realize that I was wearing long, flowing, black sarong style pants over my bikini bottoms.  That’s right, the equivalence of a playful baby seal swayed in the water around my hips, and I was up to my waist casting at a shark. When did I get so smart….? I cast a long cast with the Spey, slamming the obnoxious fly in front of his snout and stripped vigorously.  He turned and charged my fly, excited by my fast, jerky strips. “Keep stripping!”  My guide shouted.
Ok, pause the story.
You know in the movies when you see the dorsal fin coming at the stupid blonde chick who’s half naked and everyone knows the water’s about to explode in a nauseating scarlet color?  Yeah, I was thinking I was that girl.
Thank God, at the last minute he turned (probably had something to do with my increasingly weak and unsure strips), leaving my heart pounding and my “fear no fish” attitude somewhere amidst the piss I’m sure I released in my seal-like pants. That was enough shark fishing the flats for one day.  I crawled back into the boat.
Not all was lost; I did end up getting this little guy the next day....
Small but toothy nonetheless.
That evening when the guides headed back to the dock, one of the guys in our group, Anthony ‘A-Train’ Reiss was standing on the shore unusually quiet. Anthony is one of the rare people I know who can actually make me look well-behaved.  Needless to say, when he’s not cracking jokes or exercising his wit, it’s obvious that something isn’t right.
I looked at him inquisitively.  His eyes sparkled and he mouthed “Tarpon!” Poor guy, I thought.  Resident tarpon were unheard of….he must be mistaken.
“What!”  I said. “Tarpon!”  He said, only this time louder.  Several of the guides overheard him and laughed. “No tarpon here mon…”  They chuckled and shook their heads.
It wasn’t until I looked over at Anthony’s guide Perry Demeritte ( and saw a perplexed, yet excited look cross his face. Maybe the A-Train was actually being serious. If his seriousness didn’t prove it, his point and shoot camera sure did.  There it was, proof for all, a fair-sized tarpon thrashing the surface before breaking free and leaving poor Anthony shaking.
Holy hell, why was I chasing bones again?
The next morning, Anthony’s fishing partner was the victim of a late night celebration inclusive of booze and a smoking’ hot wife.  He was in no position to be going anywhere. Perhaps it was fate, perhaps it was wishful thinking... Either way it left a spot open in Anthony’s boat and I was praying that he would need a fishing buddy.  Preferably, one with long hair and an unbearable itch to see a tarpon. “Ape, wanna come in my boat?” Hmmm, let me think about that…..
Captain Perry knew exactly where he was going.  He had discovered these fish less than 24 hours earlier and was just as excited as we were to get back to them. He waited for the rest of the guys to push off and then floored it to the spot.
There they were. Clear as day, hugging beneath overhanging bushes; Tarpon!!
Anthony cast, strip, strip, strip, set!  He had one on and it was not impressed. He bowed when it jumped and played the crazed fish text-book perfect.  All too soon, it was over and the fish had succumbed to the side of the boat.  It was small, but it was beautiful! The romance of it all was soon ruined when Captain Perry pulled it into the boat and the two men were immediately covered with tarpon feces. Yup, that beautiful tarpon left it’s mark on Anthony’s heart and on his crisp salt-water shirt.
Go A-Train, it's your birthday.......
Our trip to the Bahamas was one to be remembered. Great company, fishing, weather, entertainment…..what wasn’t there to love? It may not be a trip that I can take regularly, but it sure is one that I will think of often.