The Bones of Summer (Pt. I)
July 24, 2001
The days are long now, and the evenings still. Deep summer brings the time of the south winds, and on days around the young moon the water flows well. Fish can then be found cruising the ankle deep water near shore and I go to hunt them in the fading light.
Dusk is peaceful on the flats: conducive to stillness and reflection—in the water, mind and soul. Mornings are fine, but then things are gearing up for the day’s work. The breeze grows and sounds of a new day begin. Evenings are just the opposite. The breeze dies and the seas lie down. Boats can easily be heard wending their way home far across the sound. The night birds take flight and the luff of their wings is distinct as they ride the damp air over the mangroves. On the far edge of the flat mullet make telltale jumps and glitter dully in the fading light. Much nearer the tail and dorsal of a bonefish ghost through water barely feet from the pale shore. At whiles it arcs its back to nose through the soft sand, hunting crabs maybe.
I begin the now familiar motions of presenting my fly. Three false casts and I lead the fish by a meter or more. Slowly it approaches the fly’s resting place. I strip the line every so slightly and my quarry’s pace quickens. There! It tails on my offering, the dorsal taught as a sail and the tail quivering. I strike, but too soon and all I feel is a momentary weight as the fly pulls free. Instantly the water explodes as it is pushed aside by a bonefish heading north. My offering sits forsaken, rocking gently in its wake.
As I retrieve my line, it completely fails to occur to me how lovely the evening is. I can’t see how the sea to the westward glimmers like old gold and the reflected clouds ripple and crease as the V-shaped wake of the fleeing bonefish spreads across the glassy flat. Or, rather, I only notice those things after reminding myself that beauty and stillness are why I’m out here in the first place. Catching fish is only an excuse. Right?