I will share a secret with you, my fellow Baymen, anglers and friends.
For all of you that think I am a top gun guide, angler extraordinaire, outdoorsman par none, et al, let me share a private moment with you when nobody was looking (well, except a nice man walking his dog, that offered me some tips on where the fish were at).
Now picture this if you will:
I was walking my own dog on the beach, in the rain, and I had my fly rod with me as I usually do, all in hopes, dreams and prayers that for once in my life, the Big Fish would throw themselves at my feet and I could catch one. And don’t you know it – a bunch of bass show up and come right up to shore, crashing through thousands of silversides and peanut bunker, sending showers of bait a foot into the air!!!
NOW is my time!!! I strip my customary 15 strips of fly line off my fly reel, back cast a perfect double haul and shoot line out into the massive boils of breaking fish! ZINGGGGGG….! NOOOOOOOOO…….! My fly line tangles like you would not believe. As I stand there trying to unravel the mess, bass are busting in 12″ inches of water thirty feet away! I get my line untangled, make another near perfect backcast and shoot my fly line and fly to the fish. ZINGGGGGGGG.,….!!!!! AHHHHHHHH….!!!! Another tangle – and this one is MASSIVE!!!! I know exactly what is wrong and I began to cuss under my breath and then out loud (quite loudly) calling myself every name under the sun – I am really ticked off – at myself!!! (Right away you can see I take this fly fishing business quite seriously). I get everything untangled and am determined to land at least one fish before this 30 second blitz is over. I back cast, double haul, and lay my fly down right into the bullseye of a massive boil… WHAM! Fish hits my fly like a freight train!!! Water explodes everywhere!!! And then – my line goes slack…………………..
I began a full out verbal barrage on myself for being so unprepared for this moment. I am a top guide, 30 years experience under my belt, have caught and released Ninety-Thousand (90,000) striped bass with my clients over the years, and here I am a total screw-up standing on the shoreline in a blitz and can’t even make a decent cast and hook-up on a fish!!!
Well, I run out of self-inflicted things to say and call myself, but if you know me, I can take quite a beating and still be standing and be ready for more. Just how the Lord up above made me. I can weather any storm, any situation, any time, and I can gather my wits, get focused on the chaos at hand, formulate a plan on the spot and put it into the action. If you were in immediate danger or trouble, I’m your man. But I digress.
The real problem this evening was not following my own advice that I try to follow religiously. You probably know what it is: PPPPP. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I have drilled this into my own life and the lives of my children and I have tried my best to live by it.
I could of landed at least a couple of fish today when that shoreline blitz blew up right in front of me. But Guide Season is almost over (8 trips left), and I have fallen way behind on keeping my personal gear in tip-top shape. My guide gear that my clients use is always in the best condition possible. But I have personal fly rods, etc. that I use when I have a few minutes or a half-hour to make a few casts.
The personal fly rod I had with me today needed a new, shorter leader to turn over the fly pattern; the fly line needed to be stretched; the fly line needed to be cleaned; the fly line needed to be greased! (I use ICE auto detailer); the fly pattern I tied on needed to be replaced with a new Baymen Universal (the one I tied in haste at my vice had materials that did not sit right and created separation when stripped through the water – If you tie, you know exactly what I mean); The best stripping basket that money can buy was sitting right where I left it in the back seat of my truck; my knee high boots and hip waders where sitting at home in the mudroom; I could go on and on, but you get the idea. I was completely unprepared to fly fish!
What to do? Stop, assess the situation, and make it right – immediately. I walked away from breaking fish and went back to my truck. I stripped off all my fly line and stretched every last inch of it. Then I sprayed down a piece of towel with ICE spray wax and cleaned and greased my line. I cut off my leader and made a new one (I use .024 for a four foot butt loop and then blood knot it to 20 lb. Berkley Big Game monofilament of about 6 feet for virtually all of my striped bass leaders; I cut off my fly, took out my knife and began to trim it until the materials sat perfectly on the hook shank. Then I tied it to my new leader. I took out my stripping basket and put it on my waist. I marched back down to the water, but you know what happened… All the bass had left and the blitz was long over…
I made several casts anyway. No more tangles. I could throw 70 feet of line or more at will, and it laid out perfectly. And the fly looked amazing in the water as I stripped it back. But the fish were gone and I walked back to my truck and drove home with my dog, and a well-learned lesson.
Now, I have to go repent of my sins and brush up on the Ten Commandments. I have no intentions of getting stuck by lightning or swallowed by a whale.
See you on the water.
Capt. David Bitters, BAYMEN, www.baymenlife.com