Well, here we go with today’s installment in “The Home Waters in My Head.” They are brief descriptions of the type of water my friends and clients daydream about when they think about fly fishing. All of us have unique visions. When I asked Les Johnson about it, he named the Wynoochee and Quinault rivers, down in Grays Harbor County where he grew up. He remembered fishing them with his good friend, Leo, and by himself. He said they were never crowded back then, and that he would still fish them if he could. Les’ home waters are his actual geographical home waters, but other contributors have written about places they visit as often as possible, or dream of fishing, and still others describe imaginary waters.
The Night Shift on a Texas Jetty–by Nick Somogyi
I’m standing on a granite boulder the size of a small car and looking across a black, surging current. I remember once chasing a boat pulled from its anchor by the same tide, about to leave us stranded. A friend and I swam frantically after it and the bait tickled our chests and jumped over our heads. The presence of predators was as apparent as the current itself, something felt deep in the gut.
Tonight the outgoing tide is hissing as it rips past. The sound is different than the strange utterances one sometimes hears while alone on a river. In it I hear the frustration of a force unnaturally constrained, and impatient with its capture. The wind, as if in solidarity with the tide, increases. On it are the scents of the nearby marsh: mud, guano, and salt.
Venomous snakes live in a field of wildflowers and cacti at the jetty’s back. When we crossed it the channel markers were visible, as well as the moon’s reflection; silver like the tarpon swimming deep in the bore. Now the clouds had risen and the darkness had grown deeper.
My casts are made up-current to let the fly sink before it swings from the depths against that underwater mountain of rubble. Often a silvery body will crush a mullet against the rocks, or a gray dorsal fin will cleave a wave to my right. Have they seen my fly, I wonder? Am I standing too close to the edge?
My partner yells, but I can’t hear him over the din. Has he gotten a fish? No, in the light of his headlamp I see he’s offering another beer. Shut the light off, I think, wanting to save my night vision. The fish are close.
A pilot boat’s diesel throbs in the channel and I know its wake will soon wash over my feet. I’m casting in a rhythm now; throwing a steeple on the back cast and hauling on the forward cast. After hours of this my shoulders will ache from constantly throwing the 12-weight. The gear is fun, though; big, ugly flies work. It’s also a chance to experiment with sink tips and custom lines. In that way it’s like fishing for steelhead.
A fish finally takes and the line slips through my damp fingers. It doesn’t jump, but instead dives, shaking its head. It’s not a tarpon. After a short fight, I slide a middling jack crevalle to my feet. It grunts in anger, or fear. When I squat and hold it upright in the current a wave unexpectedly swells around my waist and the fish kicks free. Its caudal fin slices my hand, and my brain momentarily short-circuits; the joy of catching countered in an equal and opposite manner by the pain. Then I’m casting again.
When I finally quit, the tide has stopped. I tumble to the sand, reaching for sleep like a thirsty man for a drink. My dreams are fitful, a result of too little water and probably too much beer. The wind continues to blow. Before long someone yells, “They’re crashing bait! They’re here! Lets go!”