Saturday, July 12, 2014

Flash...Thunder...Fried Computer

Florida ranks number one in the US for lightning strikes. And this summer hasn't been lacking any storms. Thanks to some severe weather, I'm currently blogging this on my phone while sitting on the couch. I came home last weekend to discover my computer, modem, and router had been absolutely fried by lightning. It was all on a surge protector, but Lord know what exactly happened. I can only hope that my files are recoverable (the computer turns on at least). So for the time being, I'm mildly incapacitated for my writing.

But there's good news...

I just went ahead and purchased a new computer that should be about 5 times better than my old one. This means more pictures, videos, and hopefully stories. It gets here next week, and with any luck I can get the ball rolling again on posting stories.

Lesson learned Mother Nature. I'll unplug my things while I'm away. Lightning is nothing to mess with. Niether outside nor inside.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

To Kill a Gnat

The muddy brown water of the Flint River lapped silently against the shore as I took a seat in the damp sand. Recent rains had caused the water to be slightly higher than usual, and farther out into the middle of the river water raced by in the strong current. Thanks to the weather, it was getting dark, and quickly. The approaching storm brought with it high winds and flecks of rain. Occasionally, a strong gust would roll through, sending the long arcing branches of the nearby Live Oaks into violent sways. Bits and pieces of leaves and branches silently found their way into the muddy waters and were quickly swept away by the current. 

”We’ve got about 10 minutes I suppose”, I quietly muttered to Iceman. “Then shit’s probably gonna hit the fan”. 

He nodded in agreement as I quickly tossed my chicken gizzard baited hand line into the river. Maybe some unfortunate catfish would stumble across my bait before the storm hit. 

But time passed and nothing touched either of our baits. The storm was practically on top of us now, and the not-so-distant crack of thunder told us it was time to leave. No catfish is worth getting nearly struck by lightning…again. 

“We’ll come back after dinner once this has blown through!”, I nearly shouted over the winds as we scurried up the bank to the truck. With any luck, we’d have another chance to fish, and it would be slightly longer than 10 minutes worth. 

This is my job. Well…part of it. Sorta. 

It’s more like a perk. 

My writing has taken an obvious hit recently because I’ve been…well…working my ass off. The rare occasions that I have off, I don’t find myself behind the computer typing away. Rather, I try to get out and fish as to actually GIVE myself something to write about. 

I’m currently working for an ecological monitoring company and am focused on small mammal trapping. And by small mammals, I mean these guys…

Mice and rats. Lots and lots of mice and rats. And given my luck, that immediately translates into lots and lots of mouse and rat bites. 

We take various samples from the poor little guys including hair, whiskers, ear punches, blood, and yes…even doo-doo. I simply cannot express how much fun it is to fish a nasty rat turd from a metal trap. I’m pretty sure it takes all five years of my college experience. 

Joking aside, I actually enjoy my current job. I find myself outside plenty and of all the things in the world I –could- be doing outside for my job, I feel pretty blessed to be doing something I enjoy. I have, however, recently discovered something I despise: Insects. And no, it’s not your average, every day biting insects. I’m talking about gnats. 

Yep. Just your ordinary, non-biting, stupid little gnat. Now, I’m no stranger to swarms of gnats. I did, after all, work on quail plantations for a couple of years where the gnat swarms were absurd. There’s really nothing you can do to keep them from flying into your ears, eyes, nose, or mouth. You kinda just have to suck it up and deal with it. And deal with it I did just as I’ve always done... 

At least until I’d gone 6 solid days of constant gnat bombardment. Try to work up a mouse? Gnat in the ears tickling the hell out of you. Need to write something down? Instant gnat in the eye; You’re not seeing the data sheet. Need to say something? Well you’re gonna eat fifteen of them while your mouth is open. 

They were incessant, and after 6 days of trapping, they’d broken me. Resistance was futile. Even though I attempted to slap my face from time to time, sending hundreds of gnats to their death, my face would be immediately enveloped by the next legion of eye poking, ear tickling demons. 

I soon developed a twitch and an acute form of tourettes. Every so often I’d break into a series of bizarre spasms and terrifying cuss-filled shrieks as I involuntarily resisted the swarm that was determined to bother me to no end. 
Slayed gnats from my face that fell onto the data sheet

It was an ugly scene, and by the sixth day I noticed I was not alone. Our entire team was broken. Tensions ran high as everyone felt the unrelenting onslaught of the gnat. Work was next to impossible and even with a dedicated “fanner” for the person working up a rodent, the gnats eventually broke through and sent someone into a fit of rage. 

But aside from those little guys, work goes smoothly. 

Back on the damp shore of the Flint River, I watched the night sky as the passed storm lit up the heavens. Lightning filled the sky, outlining the dark squall line and the far shore of the river with every strike. But a cool, refreshing breeze occasionally wound its way down the twists and bends of the river to meet us, and a subtle yet obvious tug on my line told me a fish had found my chicken gizzard. 

“I think I’ve…ACK!” I was quickly interrupted midsentence by a fit of coughing. My eyes watered as I struggled to catch my breath. 

“You alright?” asked Iceman. 

I tugged on my line to discover it was hung on some submerged rock and turned to look at him through watery eyes. 

“Yeah…I just inhaled a gnat”.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cedar Key Kayak Fishing

It had been a while. A long while, in fact, since I'd taken the kayak out in the saltwater. My Everglades adventure was the last time the big yellow yak had seen action and as I loaded up the trailer and dragged the boat out of my apartment, signs from the Glades were still very much present. The kayak still had mud all over it. Inside, my spare paddle banged around. And the snapped cable to my rudder was still broken, held together only by the piece of dock line I'd found washed up on the beach.

I honestly haven't had much time for...well...anything really. Especially not fishing or repairing gear. I just recently quit my second job because I was so busy. Now that I'm down to just one, my weekends are free. But rather than spend them fishing, the past few weeks I've found myself spending time with friends who were about to graduate and leave this college town.

But I finally got a free weekend with good weather (a miracle...I know), and I took advantage of it. So early one Saturday morning, my friend Ian and I loaded up the kayak trailer, and drove over to Cedar Key to look for Reds.

We arrived just a few minutes after sunrise and quickly began loading up the kayaks. I realized that it'd been nearly two years since I last fished this area near the Shell Mound and the last time I was here, my dad and I tore into the tailing Redfish. I could tell we were both excited with how quickly the yaks were loaded and the paddling started. But I was quickly reminded of an extremely important act of nature that practically drives Cedar Key: The tides.

Considering how strapped I've been for free time, I decided to just go. Just go to Cedar Key and not worry about what tide it is. There's no other opportunity for me to go. So go I did, and I did so during a time that the tides were polar opposite of what I wanted. Outgoing tide all morning, low tide at 10:15.

Needless to say, the water was skinny, and getting skinnier by the minute. To add to my frustration, the wind decided to kick up to about 15-20mph out of the east. Paddling was by no means easy, but we managed to make our way around the oysters and cuts and work out toward the gulf.

I'm still not exactly sure why I decided to switch up lures, but I did, and I tried something I've never done before. A few days prior, I bought a $1 spinner bait at Walmart. I think I may have done it just to help begin filling up my new tackle box, but I remembered that I read something once about using spinners for Reds. So...why not give it a try?

Three casts later I hooked what I thought was an oyster least until line started screaming off my drag. I set the hook and immediately began getting drug around. I shouted over to Ian that I had an -actual- fish on. Not just something small. Round and round we went; the fish peeling off drag and pulling the kayak in wide circles against the wind. Repeatedly the fish circled the boat and thanks to the high wind, the kayak stayed pointed one direction as I was being pulled the opposite. This made me play the fun game of fighting the fish backwards and switching the rod back and forth over my head. By this time Ian had made the paddle over from where he'd been and was getting the camera ready.

It was then that I saw it. The massive Redfish rose up from the muddy waters and thrashed on the surface. It was a big fish. 30+ inches and it still had quite a bit of fight left in it. It rolled on the surface for a moment longer, then peeled out more drag. Soon it was back on the surface, and it made a quick turn, running straight toward the boat. I quickly reeled to keep the line tension up, but to my dismay, I literally WATCHED the lure fall out of the fish's mouth.

Not break, or bend, or rip out. It just sorta fell out. I was shocked to be honest. It's rare for me to lose a fish after fighting it for so long. Usually when I lose one, it happens in the first few seconds of the fight. Not several minutes in.

I'm not one to really ever let losing a fish get to me, but this one hurt. It'd been a while since I'd been in the saltwater, and it was an awesome fish. What really bugged me was just how surprised I was that I lost it. I certainly know that's why they call it fishing and not catching, but I beat myself up for the rest of the day over that fish, and that's something I never do.

Unfortunately the tide continued to race out, and fishing soon became almost impossible in the extremely shallow water. Ian and I stood on a mud flat and waited out the tide switch. When it finally started coming back in, we got about another hour of fishing in before we gave up. It was nearly noon, and neither of us had eaten anything all day. Plus, aside from that one nice Red, we'd had zero luck.

I honestly can't wait to go back. Now that I've settled into my work schedule, I should be fishing every weekend that I can. Next time I'll be sure to time the tides a little better and actually hit it on a high tide. And with any luck, I can get round two with mister Redfish. I've got a score to settle.