May 7, 2011

Greg Darling Recounts Recent Trip to The Keys

Gorge Fly Shop employee and Columbia River Bass Guide, Greg Darling, recently found himself standing above the turquoise waters off Cudjoe Key – about 20 miles short of Key West, Florida. Lucky bastard!!!

Seems that this time of year lends itself to an annual angler migration to points where the sun burns hot and the Margaritas flow unimpeded.

Why the Keys? Well there are lots of fish that swim the shallow flats and channels looking for lunch. These fish, when offered an adequate presentation coupled with an equally pressing determination, will inhale your fly and go go go to the horizon; taking your hot, uncoiling line and your heart beat with them into the blue abyss.

As Greg would find out, three days on the water would provide a roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions. The look in his eye as he recounted his trip revealed a film reel of highs and lows, frustration and elation and at times, an introspective, overwhelming peace…

What could Greg tell me about the trip?

-Our guide was a crusty, salty old fella. You know, he’d been at it a long time and his patience level was about bottomed out. He was, however, exceptionally talented in locating fish and positioning the skiff.

-It was truly amazing to see the variety of life out there in the flats. From little fish, to sharks, the birds… everything hinged upon the existence of the other. At one point we had hooked and battled a nice Permit.

Oh Boy.
But we became concerned about the presence of an over-sized bull shark eyeing our catch. At that point, before we released her back into the sea, the guide caught a smaller bait fish, hooked it to a buoy and tossed it out towards the shark to keep it occupied. In seconds, the buoy was pulled under and the shark met snack and hook. With the shark out of the picture for a while, the Permit was revived and she jettisoned back out into the channel. Afterwards, we motored over to the buoy where we were surprised to find not a Bull, but a Lemmon Shark attached to the line. We removed the hook and she too, swam off into the blue.

We definitely had our chances with the Tarpon, some of which were true giants. We were able to hook a handful, but setting the hook into such a boney jaw can be a true chore and it is always a gamble. They are extremely powerful animals and trying to harness their ambition is really exhausting! Here we hooked an astounding Silver King and the jump can be seen right around second 13 on the film reel. Yea we were pretty excited about this fish for sure. Guess you can probably tell from the commentary!

-I would have to say that between the two fish that we mainly targeted, the Permit are the ones that best get up under the folds of my skin. They are the perfect mixture of power and agility. And there is something so mesmerizing about their eyes . You definitely work for them, but the reward is life altering.

-There was one day out there where I had landed a nice Tarpon, a beautiful Permit and we figured that we would go chase down some bonefish to top off the Grand Slam. We came up empty handed on that front, but we had some fine opportunities. A couple of times I had a fish pinned and she was screaming out line and then just slack. But that’s fishing, you know. Supposedly, the Bonefish population grows as you draw closer to the mainland, but that said, we found a few out there but none of them would ever come to hand...

No Hopping in the water for photo ops around here.  Too many sharks!!

It was written all over Greg’s face. He had found a place where his dreams became a reality. He would go back. Somewhere in the tropical blue he would again find a connection with the ocean’s vast menagerie. “There’s just something about those fish, man. They just tear you up, you know.”

“Yea, that’s what I keep hearing,” I reply

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