There are still a few boat ramps open in southwest Florida and thank goodness for that. Getting completely absorbed in fishing has been one of the best ways for me and others to escape the wild morass that has become our daily lives. The aftermath of an incident on a recent trip offered more than an escape from reality. It showed me a better approach for navigating our current challenges.

All of my charters in the near future have been canceled. That sucks, but things could be worse. Trips I take now, involve either fishing with my son, or a select few friends. Recently, a buddy and I planned a trip focused on sight fishing redfish and snook with a fly rod. The forecast called for an ideal day for sight fishing – plenty of sun and just enough wind to keep the fish honest.

The forecast was most certainly wrong. By 8:00 AM, we were covered in a blanket of fog. Visibility was worse than poor. We decided to bail on our location and make the short run to an area where the redfish had been stacked thicker than the fog. We proceeded cautiously in a channel with my buddy’s skiff on plane. Squinting through fog soup and rounding out our last turn, we noted a small grey shadow in the distance at 12 o’clock.

An idiot kayaker was anchored in the middle of the channel sitting in a cloud of fog. It’s not that I hate kayakers, it’s just that in the weeks preceding this event I’d had nothing but bad experiences with kayakers. I had been forced to take my boat off plane for no less than six clueless kayakers who were either anchored or drifting aimlessly in channels. I’d been high holed and low holed on the flats by another half dozen.  As far as I was concerned, the only thing kayakers had going for them right now was that they weren’t jet skiers.

And now this clown. Thankfully, we had enough depth to go outside the channel to get around the moron. We adjusted our course to swing around the kayaker whose profile was becoming clearer with every foot we advanced in his direction. In fact, we could now see that this was not a kayaker at all. Squinting through the fog we could clearly see the outline of an aluminum john boat, not a kayak. It wasn’t on anchor either; it was drifting haplessly across the channel.

We detoured even farther out of the channel to give this goofball some room. He was obviously experiencing motor problems and could not control his drift. When we closed the gap between us and the derelict boat to 20 yards, the fog wasn’t nearly as bad and we could clearly see a second person on the boat. He was hunched over the bow and trying to pull something onto the boat. Actually, trying to pull someONE aboard. How drunk were these fools? Well at least there would be some entertainment value in our detour. Here we were, two adult anglers, on our way to enjoy the finer things and these drunks couldn’t even stay in the boat or keep their boat running.

We were just about even with them now, but 20 yards off their portside. This wasn’t a jon boat, nor was it stalled. The fog remained thick, but we could see they were in a bass tracker and they were creeping slowly in reverse. Finally, we would get to see who the guy on the bow was trying to help back into the boat. Looking back as we edged past them we saw the man leaning over the bow was engaged in a two handed face grab of a giant silver fish.

The man grabbing the hundred pound fish peered up at us as we zipped by. He had the combination of “business as usual” and “I hope we didn’t just burn our spot” look on his face. “OHHHH Shit” fell out of my mouth involuntarily. That was the last thing either of us expected to see. A few minutes later as we arrived at redfish heaven, we cut the motor and tried to process what we had just seen.

“What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know but that was not their first time”

“They were there for that fish”

“Yeah, they were”

What we had just seen was reality, but not a reality that either of us knew existed just 5 minutes before. I know of a lot of ‘secret early season tarpon spots’, but this one is not on the list. I’d have to guess this spot isn’t on most people’s radar. I’ve motored past this spot hundreds of times and not once have I thought that it would make a good early season tarpon spot.

From the moment we first noticed the grey shadow in the channel, we completely misjudged what we were seeing. The reality of us zipping around a clumsy kayaker was gone. What I thought was real was not – I had misjudged reality. There was a different reality in front of us the entire time. Reality was obscured by fog and our assumptions. It took some time for us to make out the shape of that reality and to see what was there all along. Later, I acknowledged that my assumptions were just as guilty as the fog for obscuring the truth.

I’m now convinced that if I would have stared at that bass tracker a little while longer, it would have revealed itself to be a Haze Grey Maverick Mirage HPX.  I later went hunting for more information on this new reality with an intensive Google Search investigation. Down the rabbit hole I went until I finally stumbled upon half a paragraph by a Captain who many years ago mentioned this place, by a different name, as one of his favorite early season tarpon spots. Intriguing.

This week while doing some introspection on the tarpon incident, I thought about our current crisis. Our reality, or what we thought was reality, is gone. It’s been an ‘Oh Shit’ moment for everyone. The potential for sickness, death, and financial ruin is a troubling reality to embrace. Our future remains obscured by fog. What awaits us depends on who you ask and what time of the day you ask them. Most people are looking into the fog and seeing what they want to see, not what’s actually there. And so many of us understandably are struggling with simply seeing past fear.

It’s a tough time right now and I hurt for those currently taking the brunt of the pandemic. We know our time is coming. I’ve tossed aside my previous version of reality and accepted our new reality. I feel better. We live in a world with an unknown future that we have very little control over. That kind of sucks, but it is reality and it’s probably always been our reality. I’ll do my part to help with what little control we have left and I trust everyone will do the same. When the fog finally lifts, we’ll have a clear view of our future. Let’s just hope it’s a Haze Grey Maverick Mirage HPX dragging a tarpon and not a broken down jon boat drifting across a channel.