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).
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?)
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.
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: And a sunset: 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? It was a little unsettling and eerie seeing all the places I usually frequent locked up and boarded up: But I found solace, and a live band (Caffeine Karl and friends) at the Smokin' Tuna: On with the fishing!
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.
Pussy, much like freedom, ain't free.
America has become a dildo that has turned berserkly on its owner. ~McGuane 1971