This post is an entry to the Freak Friday writing contest by Pete. It is not intended to be a serious post and poetic license was used heavily during it's construction. Please read accordingly.
I remember it like it was ten years ago because it was. I trip to Guana Lake, a friend, a fish, an unusual man in a kayak made for an epic adventure in an ordinary life.
Stu and I started fishing after striking up a friendship at work. Stu was an avid outdoorsman and was glad to have someone to mentor on the finer points of nature, especially fishing. Guana Lake was his favorite place. And so we went.
Guana is a nature preserve located in St Johns County Florida. An old farm just a few hundred yards from the beach that has been flooded and damned to provide some of the best fishing in north Florida. The preserve doesn't allow a motor larger than 10 hp so we used a canoe with a 5 hp Evinrude. But that was just to get us where we were going; while we were fishing we always used paddles. Didn't want to scare the fish or attract the gators. The water is brackish and only about 4 feet deep throughout most of the 8-mile long lake. The salinity changes through the seasons based on tides, winds and temperatures. It's a good place for reds and trout but when the stars align its a great place for black drum. And so they did.
Stu and I headed out one afternoon to try our luck. The last couple of weeks had been perfect for drum but we had been just catching trouts and reds. No complaints. Those are some crazy fighting fish. Stu refused to use pole holders because it made fishing more exciting if you had to stay awake and alert 100% of the time. If a red hit your bait and you weren't paying attention you would have to spend the next 30 minutes fishing your pole out of the lake. And so we did on several occasions.
We had been out for a couple of hours when an old man in a kayak came up beside us.
Man in a kayak: How's the fishun.
Stu: Not bad but we haven't caught much other than some Miller Lite.
Man in a kayak: Yeah, you really have to know how to fish this lake. What you using?
Stu: Old dead Skrimp.
Man in a kayak: That's the problem. The fish are picky in here. You need fresh bait. You need to be using minners.
Stu: Yeah, I heard some people do but I like skrimp because we got something to eat even if we don't catch anything. (that's a joke because we always catch and release.)
Man in a kayak: You also need to invest in some pole holders if you want to keep those poles. The reds will take those poles home and use them for firewood. A red would have to pull me around this lake cause he ain't pullin' my pole into the water.
Stu: We watch em pretty close.
Man in a kayak: Alrighty then. Careful with that canoe. You start lunging for poles you are libel to get a bath.
Me: (busted out laughing) No kidding?
What the man in the kayak didn't know was I had already taken a bath in Guana. One morning after a few 7am beers I had to relieve myself. So I stood up and got in position at the front of the canoe...and this is where we have a difference of opinion about what happened. Stu says I had already had a couple too many and my legs got wobbly and I lost my balance. I was there and I know what happened. As I positioned myself at the front of the boat with my zipper down, I reached down to "pull the rabbit out of the hat" and the canoe listed to the left because we suddenly had too much weight on that side. Either that or Stu rocked the boat. He swears he didn't and I believe him. Next thing I know I was head over heels into Guana. I can testify the water is about four feet deep because when I stood up it was just below my shoulders and I am 6 foot tall. That's sounds like 5 feet deep but I was also a foot deep in the slimiest siltiest mud you can imagine. Yuck! Then I spent ten minutes fishing around for my glasses.
Anywho, I didn't explain all that to the man in the kayak. I just laughed and we just let him go.
After a few minutes we could hear him on the other side of the grass casting his bait net. We went on fishing and didn't think any more of it until about 45 minutes later he came paddling back.
Man in a kayak: Whoo! I about had enough. Y'all caught anything yet?
Stu: Naw, best luck is with the Miller Lite.
Man in a kayak: I am telling you it's all in the bait. Didn't take me no time and I got 5 trout and 2 reds. They wore me out. I about had enough.
Stu looked at me and just smiled. He didn't say anything. Apparently, the man in the kayak wasn't smart enough to know we could hear him from where we were.
Stu: Well, if you are leaving we might move over there and try your spot in a few minutes. We could use a change of luck.
Man in a kayak: Luck ain't got nothin to do with it. It's all in the bait.
About that time my pole hit the water. I reached down and saved it by the skin of my teeth, gently but firmly pulling back. Stu let out a yell, "Hold 'em! It's a big one! Stu could tell how much a fish weighed and what kind of fish it was by the action of the rod.
Stu: You got big one!
Me: I hope it's not a gator. I'll take a turtle but I don't want to meet a gator today.
Stu: No sir, that's a fish. A biiiiigggggg fish! You got a drum!
About that time it made a pass by the surface and we could see it. A black drum that through the waterlooked like a whale as rolled passed. I almost fell out of the boat again. The man it the kayak could see him too. "Oh my Gawd!"
I looked over at him and his eyes were as big as saucers. He was pulling himself over closer to us to get a better look. I thought he was getting ready to jump in he was so excited. About that time Stu grabbed the net and got the fish in the boat. Later he told me he should have let me fight him more but he was afraid I would lose him. And so he did. Stu was a smart man.
Man in a kayak: Holy $%@! I didn't know they got that big in here! What'd y'all say y'all's using?!!!
Stu: Just a little frozen skrimp from the market. It's a little easier to hook than a minner and it's already dead.
Man in a kayak: I reckon I am going to have to give that I try. I ain't never seen a fish come out of here that big.
We gabbed a little more. Stu measured and weighed the drum to be 28 inches and 22 pounds caught on 10-pound test. Before I through him back Stu took this picture.
We talked a little while longer and the man said good-bye. As he was leaving Stu took a picture of him against the sunset. You see, this ain't a fish story. It's fishun story. And it just wouldn't have been that same if that man - in his fancy kayak, with his dual fishing poles sticking out of his pole holders, bragging about fish he didn't catch - wasn't there to see it. He made our day. And the fish was pretty cool too.
As my wise old Uncle Morgan used to say, "The fish ain't interested in how big your pole is. She wants to know what kind of bait you got."
Disclaimer: This is a significantly true story. The two teenagers who actually witnessed the catch have been turned into an old man in a kayak out of poetic license to make the story fit the picture.