On the First Day
April 5, 2000
My quest to fish in solitude ends down a long potholed road.  I’m standing on the northeastern-most tip of the peninsula where I grew up and as I look out over the flats I’m facing north toward Cuba and Key West beyond. To my right the beach gradually arcs around to the southeast. The white line of the reef break is clearly visable about a quarter-mile out, but it’s too distant to be heard.
It’s cool here, breezy; seems you can almost hear the silence, which is only accentuated by the incessant sighing of the waves and wind. In the open galleries beneath the casuarinas I can hear the distant sound of rain; the drowsiness is palpable. Of course it is only the song of the breeze whispering through the boughs. I can’t quite catch the words but they speak of sleep and the temptation to nap beneath them is nearly overpowering.I have not been here in years; maybe never. It’s a secluded area, without much to draw the casual visitor. (Even when you’re born and raised on an island, after a while all beaches start to look alike.) Theoretically I’ve driven all the way out here because of the fish, but really I want solitude as I practice my primitive fly casting. It’s going to be bad enough without the embarrassment of an audience.
When I first walk down to the beach I find a school of jacks feeding in a frenzy, probably on fries . The tiny fish are beaching themselves in an attempt to escape, trading a quick death for a slow. Of course, my rod isn’t strung, and by the time I frantically flail through the unfamiliar process (missing a guide or two on the way) the jacks are long gone and the flat is silent. Silent, that is, except for what I can only assume is the beginning of an unseasonably late nor’wester. I hope that’s not the typical weather around here; what a breeze.
Man, it’s hard to cast when you’re chest deep in water and your line is flowing away in a huge loop. I only hit myself with the fly once (square in the back of the head), and yes, it hurt, but I didn’t hook myself. For a first attempt at fly fishing I suppose things went as well as expected. Of course, I didn’t get even one strike — I see now it would have been nothing short of madness to think I would — but I’ve resolved to make up my mind on how that’s not the point, entirely. I get the sense that there is more to this game than merely catching fish, and though days will undoubtedly come when that will be deeply important, for the time being it is enough to revel in a wholly new experience. So, I focus on those present pleasures: the rhythm of the cast, the weight of the rod bending and straightening in my hand, and the entirely cerebral feeling of weightlessness as I watch the line aloft, floating like some ethereal extension of myself.
After today’s experience (and the fading bruise on my skull) I think perhaps dawn fishing would be smart addition to my morning regimen. Since the wind doesn’t usually freshen until eight o’clock or so, that’s probably the best time to cast a fly rod around here. If I remember aright, fish also tend to bite well on the morning tide…
1 I use the term in the strictest possible sense, i.e. attempting to catch fish, though at this point I have about as much chance of actually catching one as walking through walls. The comparison, I think, is apt. [back]
2 Local term for Silverside Minnows. [back]