The one that got away.
In November, I made the bi-annual stumble across the lawn, ungracefully lugging fly rods, waders and tackle to the shed to make way for ski gear in our indoor gear closet.
Since catching the last fish on the fly of 2017 (a respectable leopard spotted rainbow trout from a small interior Alaska stream) I have been curious what the first fish on the end of my line in 2018 may be. With a honeymoon booked on an island in the Caribbean, I semi-assumed the first fish of 2018 would be a bonefish.
My wife and I were welcomed to our cabana and tiny island with the weather and beauty one immediately imagines for a tropical honeymoon. With a storm on the way, we savored those initial hours on the beach knowing they wouldn’t last and bumped up our first day of fishing in hopes of beating the wind. The fishing was good but the catching proved tough, then the storm came to remind us (or at least me) that this was a honeymoon, not a fishing trip.
We traveled to Nicaragua to experience something, and someplace, totally new while celebrating our marriage, a similarly new life experience and future, we felt would be most easily digested with the sand between our toes and salt on our lips. And an experience it was.
With more “down time” than anticipated, we savored not having an agenda to adhere to, combed the heck out of the beach and spent an inordinate amount of time admiring the native flora and searching for the reptilian fauna (while attempting to avoid the abundant arachnid population). We encountered unanticipated adventures like outdoor yoga in torrential downpours (complete with yoga mats blowing away in the wind) and routinely navigated what felt like the water saturated set of Jurassic Park by headlamp as we commuted the jungle-trail-turned-raging-river between our cabana and the village.
And of course, we found joy in each other’s company, enthusiastically pondered the future of the Bootons, uncovered simple truths about each other that a decade has yet to expose, and all that sappy jazz that I know you aren’t interested in.
Cutting to the chase… Turns out bonefish are called ghosts for good reason. They are gone faster than you can find them; I was pleased just to be able to spot some ghosts. I was surprised to discover my cast is (at least a bit) better than the hack I presumed it to be. My heart pounded as I enticed follows out of several goofy looking triggerfish and played an extended, but unsuccessful, game of “cat and mouse” with a large barracuda who I believe simply had commitment issues.
Things got particularly exciting when I witnessed the flash of a bonefish as it stole my shrimp pattern from the impending doom of a pursuing triggerfish, taking off like a childhood Estes Rocket… only to come unbuttoned due to user error and an over eager reaction. In the final hour I caught a Snubnose Pompano. For all of you keeping score take note: not skunked!
I don’t have fish mounts or an album of grip-and-grins. I do however have a collage of fish art above my fly tying desk featuring prints of the species I have caught so far that I find noteworthy. The colorful collection is growing and I specifically carved out a spot for where I hoped to hang the print of a bonefish (I even bought the frame for it).
I guess for the time being when I look up at my “brag board” and see the blank spot where the bonefish was supposed to be, I’ll think of our tropical honeymoon, the married couple we hope to be, and my wife, the one that didn’t get away, and that’s something to brag about.
Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska Program. He lives and works in Anchorage.