Fish to live. This may seem a little extreme at first. It did to me in the beginning. I didn’t understand why my ex-husband would obsess over a creature he would catch only to let go. All I knew in the beginning was that I had to at least go to have some sort of connection with him. So I went. It was fun to ride around on the boat and drink. Then came sobriety. Now what do I do? Learn what all the fuss is about I guess. When I first started I wouldn’t even touch the slimy thing and I couldn’t cast my own line. He was patient and helpful. 4 and half years later it is all I want to do. I want to know more. I want to know everything. I want to catch everything. I want to go every day. Why? Because I fish to live. I live to fish.
I spent 4 years learning how to cast, why and where to cast and what the whole purpose was behind what I was doing. You don’t just put your line in the water and pray, well sometimes, but there is a reason behind every movement. It is a game, a hunt. Fishing satisfies that urge to seek and capture that seems to brew inside of me. I am a huntress, but I don’t want anything to do, most of the time. Sometimes I want to eat what I catch and only then do I keep it. I mainly go for sport.
So for my 33rd birthday, all I wanted to do was fish. I am blessed to have a friend that will put up with me on the boat. So we loaded up the boat and headed down to Cedar Key. I know many fishermen that don’t catch the way my friend does. There is so much skill to it that isn’t always apparent to people who don’t fish, like I used to be. I know now how much talent goes into it. I know how much planning and thought goes into every fish. It is not all me behind those big reds I catch. It is my determination and persistence that I take most pride in. There are so many trips I go on that I catch nothing. I have slumps where I go months from catching anything worth taking a picture of. You can’t give up. That is what I am most proud of.
Fishing keeps me from getting stagnant in life. You are truly only as good as your last catch and each trip is another chance. There will always be another fish, possibly bigger or better with more fight. I live for that next chance. As a recovering alcoholic, I need that. I need that fight. I need that feeling you get when it all finally pays off and your line flies off into the water. I need that thrill of not knowing what has your lure. I need that tightness in my chest as I hold my breath working on getting that fish in the boat. I need to touch it, hold that slimy scaly body and feel that life. Sound crazy? Maybe it is. I love it. There is nothing more wonderful than the anticipation of that on the way to the water. There is nothing more freeing than riding across the flats with the salt air in my hair on the way to our spot.
Back to the trip, I know I get so distracted. If you live in Florida, or really anywhere, you need to visit this town. They have some of the best seafood I have ever had. We had a great time off the water, too. We sipped drinks during the most stunning sunset, ate award-winning clam chowder and had some other delicious seafood. You can walk around this little town or ride a golf cart all over the island. The feel of this place is pure relaxation and just a comfortable fun. Do not go here if you are looking for a crazy night life, but I did get asked to a party by some very interesting characters handing out tiny liquor bottles from a golf cart, so I am sure you could get into some interesting situations if you really wanted to.
The first day of fishing we went to Yankeetown that was about an hour away. This place is so beautiful, it would have been worth the trip just to see the sunrise over the water, but we all know that wasn’t why I was there. We fished up in the creeks first thing. I so skillfully got my new lure stuck in a tree and had to have it removed. I can admit I have not mastered top water just yet. My ‘walk the dog’ looks more like my dog only has 3 legs or is maybe paralyzed. Y’all, it is not easy. I watch people do in just pure envy. One day, because I am not giving up. Watching a red bust a top water lure is one of the most awesome things I have ever seen. I will make it happen. So by about 10am when neither of us had anything to the boat, I was a little discouraged. We decided to mix it up and go towards the flats. I started to use this neon Chartreuse Zman soft plastic. Nothing. Then about another hour later we saw a shark swim by. My line ran. I was sure it was that shark until we saw the golden flash. Redfish. It fought hard. It was the fight I live for. My whole body tenses in the most glorious way as I reel in closer and closer. I feel like I can’t breathe until I get it in the boat. I was good. I could have caught nothing else that whole trip and been a happy girl. On the way back to the landing we saw a huge school of black drum. They are big fish and it is a site to see. We went to a little island to catch some crabs. Watching someone net these sneaky little things is impressive, too. By the time we got back to where we saw them, they were gone. It was still a memorable moment. I love seeing the ocean come to life. We also got to see some baby dolphins catching their dinner. (No I do not know what baby dolphins are called, but I still adore them.)
The next day we went to Steinhatchee. This was my first time fishing out here. It is now probably my favorite place to fish. The morning was a bust. We saw so much activity, but hooked nothing. We mixed it up again and things started to come alive. I hooked 3 decent reds that afternoon. I used the Chartreuse lure again, because well, hello, giant red the other day. The flats here are just so perfect and fishy. There is grass and oyster beds perfectly spaced with sandy spots. Redfish heaven. We also fished along the grassy islands and I used one of my other favorite lures, the gold spoon. I love this lure because it doesn’t get hung or caught on grass. I did make a fatal mistake when I hooked a big red in the grass. I got too excited and didn’t give it enough time. I also had my drag too tight. My line snapped. My heart broke. I learned a valuable lesson that moment about taking my time and not rushing it. I think I needed to learn that way, how to set my drag because that devastation is something I will never forget. I saw the dream fish and I lost the dream fish. Do not miss Fiddler’s when you get off the water. They have pet redfish all under the restaurant and the crab legs are awesome!
It was hot. We fish all day. This type of fishing is casting after casting. Gone are the days I put a cajun thunder in the water and wait for the fish to come to me. Sure, I do it for fun to catch a trout or two, but it isn’t the same as casting for your fish. I love learning more and gaining more ownership over my fish. That was the best birthday I have ever had. I think that the way I am doing life on my own know is reflected in my fishing. This is my life, my fish, my way. I feel almost like my 3-year-old when I say this, but I want to do it myself.
I also got a kayak for my birthday. To me, this is a big step in owning my fishing. I am a lady angler. I will go on a trip by myself, tie my own lures, pick my own spots. I will fish my way. I will do life my way. Sure, I want help, but on my time and in my way. Independence. That is what this is all about. Once one trip is over, I want to start planning the next. New goals. New levels. Growth. Find your fishing. Find that thing that gives you life and pushes you to fight to be better every time. Find your adventure and don’t let it die.