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So I was supposed to be down there this week fishing my yearly dates, but if you've seen the weather I would have been rained/blown out. Good thing I risked the jail time/fine, losing my job, catching the virus, etc.

After a month working at home on lockdown, visiting the grocery store 3 times a week, and doing 4th grade homework, I began thinking about my annual trip to Key West. I had my flights booked before everything went to hell and the plan was to drive to Cheyenne and fly American to DFW then directly into Key West. Around May 1st they changed my flights to flying from DFW to Charlotte and then directly to KW. Apparently because they shut down the Cheyenne airport indefinitely. Now how the fuck am I going to get to DFW? So I scrapped that plan and looked for other options. Turns out I could fly from Denver to Charlotte to KW.

Alright, but do I keep my same dates? I had been following the roadblock situation at US1 (illegal as hell, BTW) and the closing of the Keys to visitors for a while and at the beginning of May I decided to call Don for some on-the-ground local assessment of the situation. He says he's lost 30 some trips already (not days, but anglers cancelling trips), and that he's got a guy coming in the following week from Texas. To get around the ordinances, the guy is staying on Don's newly acquired houseboat, the "Basura Blanco". I say great, what have you got after him? Nothing he says, so we make plans to move my trip up and fish a few extra days, even if it means staying on a houseboat. I mean how can I resist fishing during a time when the fish are still there and are not getting run over by a bunch of maniacs, so they should be super chill right? (come to find out the fish still play their same fishy games...Tarpon being Tarpon, Permit being Permit, Bonefish being Bonefish).

I discuss the situation with my boss and get his blessing, even though our company had travel restrictions about traveling out of state, but it's nice to have a boss that's as huge of a flyfisherman as me. We were to keep my absence on the down low (just the beginning of the sketchy dealings I was about to embark upon).

Friday May 15th: I work a half day, go home and gather my shit into Mr. Sparkles (my 1990 Land Cruiser), say my goodbyes and drive to Denver for the night as I have a 7 am flight to Charlotte. Hit a little rain on the way down, but get to the hotel fine. Denver had just lifted some restrictions, but still no sit down dining or bars open or anything. I order some dinner to be delivered, chow down and go to bed.

Woke up the next morning, hardly sleeping the night before, and go to the airport. Find some covered parking (it’s that time of the year where the chances for hail over a 10 day period are pretty high and I was not going to take any chances with Mr. Sparkles).
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I went to the check in counter, with my buff over my face (fuck those fucking facemasks!) It was busy, but not too bad. I was the only one going through security and then proceeded to my gate. So there were two flights leaving out of the whole A Terminal, one to Charlotte and one to DFW, and wouldn’t you know it the gates were right across from each other thus congregating about 250 people together in a small area. So much for social distancing. But I had my buff and my handi wipes, so I’m as safe as a janitor in a peep show.

Of course the flight to Charlotte was packed, but I’m a fancy boi and splurged on First Class tickets, so I had enough room from all the infected peasants. I put on my headphones and took a little nap. Woke up somewhere over Tennessee and took a few pictures of the mountains going into North Cackalacky (did you fell a disturbance in the force Transylwader?)
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Landed in Charlotte and was greeted to a wholly different world than when I left Denver. The place was busy, to say the least. Fucking motherfuckers EVERYWHERE! Some with masks, most without. Most with obvious underlying conditions, but fuck it, let’s fly. Got myself something to eat, and boarded a half full flight to KW. So on this flight were a couple of party guys sitting across from me 1st class. Younger guys obviously going down to partay. They immediately ask for vodka and tonics when they get on the plane. I told the flight attendant that sounds good, but make mine a vodka and cranberry juice. After about 4 of them I was feeling pretty good about my situation and my impending interview with the Monroe county health department when we land.
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So as we land I turn on my phone and get a lengthy text from Don about “my story”. I am there to look at buying a house and I am staying on a boat “on the hook” (not in the marina). I don’t have any real fishing stuff with me (I prefer to use Don’s), other than my Patagonia dry bag, so I don’t really look like a fisherman. We get off the plane and I’m the second one in line, all the while I’m rehearsing my story. Suddenly I realize what “Basura Blanco” means and chuckle to myself. Anyway, we were led past a health department official and his job was to ask everyone if they are a resident or if they were on essential business. I couldn’t quite hear him the first time he asked (we were outside on the tarmac still) so I asked him to repeat his question. Then I replied that I was on essential business.
“What essential business are you on?”, he says.
“I’m buying a house.” I say.
“You’re buying a house?” he says.
“Yes.”, I say.
“Ok, go over there and fill out the questionnaire.” He says.
I go sit at this table with everyone else and proceed to fill in my name and address, why I’m there, where I’ll be staying, my phone number, have I been ill, yadda yadda yadda. I fill it out with my story and hand it to another official and he says ok, have a nice day, you may go. No checking of my ID or my temperature or anything. See ya Suckers! I go have a smoke and wait for my bag and for my ride Kevin. Kevin comes and says he’s got a house for me to stay in. Hallelujah! But that the neighbors might be a little nosey so I have to use the side/back entrance sandwiched between the house I was there to look at buying and the Cuban sandwich shop nextdoor. And I do mean sandwiched. My shoulders were touching the fence of the shop and the house as you walk toward the back gate of where I would be staying. But it was all worth it once inside the property. It had a pool, AC, cable TV. I was stylin’. Kevin knows what I like. I get settled in, make plans for the marina in the morning and go have some dinner and then go for a walk.

Saw a couple local Land Cruisers:
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And a sunset:
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Some feral cats that were very friendly. Then some hippy chick on a bike stops and hands me a can of cat food to feed them. I guess the hippy chicks are known for doing this?
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It was a little unsettling and eerie seeing all the places I usually frequent locked up and boarded up:
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But I found solace, and a live band (Caffeine Karl and friends) at the Smokin' Tuna:
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On with the fishing!
Day one:
Woke up a little tired after two days of travelling, but ready to roll. First up was tarpon in the Seaplane. Found some rolling that I cast too, but no takers. They didn't seem to like the purple this year for some reason. Oh well, the sun was up high now and we were seeing fish, so we changed out the fly. After a few minutes, I saw a big girl about 30 feet in front of the boat moving left to right. I put a cast in front of her, she sees the fly and starts to track it back to the boat. About 20 feet out I can see here dip down under the fly, sneaking up on it. At about 10 feet out I see her slowly come up and open her big bucket mouth and cross her eyes. I give the fly one last little jiggle and she sucks it in. I wait for her mouth to close and then set that fucking hook! She goes apeshit and gives us about four big jumps before she goes on a run. I clear the line and get her on the reel. She's zinging out backing on her first run, when at about a hundred yards out I feel the line go super tight and then hear a pop! and see nothing but backing fall to the water. Apparently she had run right through a wad of other tarpon and the backing got cut on one of them. So there we were with no 11 weight fly line and decided to go see some permit and bonefish. Manged to get lucky on a single bonefish all by his lonesome (man those fuckers are hard to see when they are by themselves). We called it a day and went back to the marina to have a few beers and watch the offshore guides clean fish and the little mangrove critters parade around in their bikinis.
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Day two:
Back at the marina early. I don't remember a whole lot. Spent some time looking for tarpon, had a couple eats, but tarpon being tarpon, were lost for one reason or another. Decided to split the day, so I went for some El Siboney for lunch:
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Went back to the marina at like 4 to go out for an evening sesh. As we were leaving, there was a skiff in the channel hooked up with a big tarpon. We went out our usual way, but before we got to the bridge there was a big bust to our right in the other channel. Don makes a hard right and we saw the whole channel filled with rolling/feeding tarpon. I get out the 12 weight (because we still have no 11 weight line, remember?) and we get set up and I make two casts and come tight with a big girl. She jumps and jumps and then proceeds to bulldog my ass all over the channel. At some point I cracked a knuckle, so I'm also bleeding all over my pants and the boat.
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Day 3:
More of the same with some weather moving in. Saw some permit. Had some permit eats but blew the sets. Had a couple bonefish eats but popped one off and one came off when he made a run toward the boat. Another sunset:
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Day 4:
Was a shit show. Don't know what my problem was. Fucked up everything you can imagine.

Day 5:
Had my shit together and fished well, just fish being fish.

Day 6:
Made a looong ass run east to permit flats. Saw a few moving through but no eats. Finally had one cruising right at us, and he was moving. Put a long cast on him anyway and he was immediately on it. Apparently he needed a road crab to tide him over to wherever he was going. So this fucker eats and does this little twirl around in a circle to get me to pop him off, but I keep my cool and just let him do his thing. Finally he makes a run and I clear the line and he's on. Reel that fucker in, high five, take pics, release. Now try to do it all over again. Which is easier said than done. Just when you think you have it together and your game is on and have them figured out, they put you back in your place. Which is exactly what happened and my place seems to be in the water because for the first time ever, I fell out of the boat trying to get my shit together after about 3 packs of permit rolled through. The wind was fucking with my line and it got tangled, and as I was trying to untangle it I lost my balance and there you go. I'm wet. I jumped out about as fast as I fell in. Smokes and lighter still dry so we reel up and go look for tarpon.
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Went to Loggerhead for a while but nothing was moving, so we went to Don's spot on the ocean. Wind wasn't bad and had some fish moving. Had another big fish eat at the boat and then she just went to the bottom and sat there. I reefed on the line three times setting the hook while Don splashed the water with his push pole to get her to move. She finally did and made one jump and spit the fly. What the fuck did I do wrong? The wind came up more and had another shot on fish. This time it was a gift of a 50 pounder that ate, I set the hook (or so I thought), he jumped and the fly came out again. WTF!!!! After that the wind and tide were fighting. Water was coming over the bow getting my feet and socks wet. I was getting tired and had shots at fish but just couldn't get it done. I slumped on the bow seat in defeat, reeled up and we headed home.
I decided to go out that night and blow off some steam. Luckily, Irish Kevin's was open and had a couple of their one man shows playing music. I got good and liquored up and stayed out entirely too late. There was a group of gals there celebrating one of them's birthday, so I bought them a round. (Come to find out at the end of the night, I had bought all their drinks!) Anyway, the youngest and prettiest one of them decided to sit across from me at the table. We began to chat as much as we could with the music. I guess she was a nurse in Indiana and had come down on vacation with her kids back in March. When the shit hit the fan, and they started closing everything down, she sent the kids back home and she stayed there, ultimately finding a sailboat to live on in some marina and these gals she was with, she met at the marina. Anyway she has like one drink then orders a shot of fireball. I don't know what's in fireball, but whatever it is changed this gal's personality completely! She starts talking the weirdest shit about how her family has people watching her and following her and shit. Just plain fucking crazy stuff. I decided to finish my drink and pay the bar tab and stumble home.

Day 7:
Woke up the next morning to the forecast of a lot of wind and rain. Texted Don that I wasn't up to fighting that shit after yesterday and went back to bed for day 7.

The next day I flew home with no problems. Charlotte was still a shit show, probably even bigger than a week before.

All in all, I'm glad I made the change in my schedule, took the risks and grateful to everyone that helped make it happen. I'm fine and my family is fine. Covid19 can suck my hairy balls.
Oustanding :cool

However, "little mangrove critters parade around in their bikinis. " :needs_pics
fly-chucker wrote: Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:42 am Oustanding :cool

However, "little mangrove critters parade around in their bikinis. " :needs_pics
yeah, i know. I took entirely too few pics.
stillsteamin wrote: Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:16 pm good shit. I miss the salt.

Did you buy that house?
no. no, i did not buy that house. I'd love to buy the house i stayed in, but it's not for sale and I'm not that big of a baller yet.
BigTimber wrote: Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:29 am I don't know what's in fireball, but whatever it is changed this gal's personality completely! She starts talking the weirdest shit about how her family has people watching her and following her and shit. Just plain fucking crazy stuff.

Covid19 can suck my hairy balls.
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