A dispatch by friend and colleague Walt Baily.
Bubble trail; Reaching with my mind and not with my hands…slow motion. Happened so fast.
The sound of a pacific ground swell hitting the steep Mexican beach like artillery fire jerks me awake. Little sleep, too excited. I’m in Mexico with the Patagonia Sales Force on a trip we’ve been planning for some time. The sun has yet to rise and my board has no wax or fins. I’ll need coffee first.
12 of us step onto the Panga, each with a board, fewer still with rods. They call it multisport or multitasking? Not sure, think I typically qualify for both. First surf spot no, second no, the third is a go. Splash. OK now I’m smiling. Jet lag washes away. We jump off the panga into the clear pacific water and paddle to the reef break with ample waist to chest rights. Been waiting for the trip with baited breath, little did I know what the bait might be…
I’m first back to the boat. Tired, hungry and curious what lurks underneath. String up the 8 weight and make some casts. Nothing. Slowly, the remaining 11 paddle back to the boat with big smiles and limp arms. I ask the captain to give me a shot at any fish we see on the way back. Birds and the telltale sight of explosions in the water visible from over a mile away spark more than a little excitement. Go faster, go, faster. Tuna? No, Jacks and big ones too. 8 weight and 30-60lb fish. It’s all I’ve got, maybe it will work… Cast, stay upright in the swell that’s rocking the boat, fight the nerves, hurry, they’re everywhere, watch for tangled fly line on the bow cleat. It’s all part of the allure to saltwater flyfishing. Feel the eyes on me from within the water and without. Man, these are big fish. We’re downwind too far, run upwind….no cast over the shoulder to that group. Strip, strip…FISH ON! Matt helps me clear the fly line tangled on the bow cleat. Cheers from the peanut gallery. Dismay from the reel. He’s into the backing and it’s going fast. The drag on this reel is nowhere near enough…palm the side to slow him down. The backing instantly cuts nearly to the bone on my line finger. Point the rod at the fish, palm reel… pull line finger back
How it happened I’ll never quite know. The story will be forever be burned into my memory by the bubble trail leaving the reel as it, attached to the rod, screamed through the water with my hand no longer attached to it. Matters are only made worse by the witnesses. They call it an ate weight right?
I’m gonna need something for the pain. The jokes are getting old. Washing away sorrow in Mexico….