There’s nothing like waking up on a long range boat and being on the anchor, but not knowing where you are at. At least not at first.
“Oh shit, Chester’s. This is going to be fun.”
Looking back at where the eight months have gone since September, nothing before that day at Chesters comes to mind. But then again, it was that day that everything changed.
Jeff DeBuys had the Independence anchored up on a little hard bottom that is actually below Chesters, and there were big bass flying over the rail.
Paper cup with stiff sportboat coffee in hand it was obvious that the Seeker Ulua that had already caught, call it a limit of yellowtail, from the Ridge and Cedros would be the morning’s devise. Current’s going up and in? Okay. Coffee on port rail, cast, hook bass, shake bass off, slug of coffee. Rinse. Repeat.
The yellowtail fishing had been flat out wide-open earlier in the trip to the point that it wasn’t even really fishing — it was more like the long range yellowtail catching that’s been so standard the last few seasons. So when a little spot of big yellows popped up current off the starboard side, just on the edge of casting range, it made for an actual challenge with the mint Candy Bar, like one of those La Jolla skiff days where the first spot of the day could be the last. “You are going to have to wind a little faster to get the jig to swim with the current” was the only internalized thought while looking behind the right shoulder and dropping the jig between trash can and tackle rack.
“That was textbook,” skipper Jeff DeBuys said after watching the 30-plus-pound yellow to eat the Bar. His wing had him on the long rod injured list — still does almost nine months later — so it was easy to see that watching a cast land in front of three or four big yellows and then watching the jig get blown up on was a highlight for him. You know a guy loves fishing when he appreciated a yellow on the long rod that had some thought process behind it.
We chatted surface iron fishing for a little bit, then talked about big fish fishing and how there is (now was) an April 16-day trip in the boat’s schedule for 2012. The wheels were spinning in between asking, “Can I use the satellite phone?”
Talking to the wife while hundreds or thousands of miles from home has been one thing that has been constant. But when you meet someone on a plane flight from Germany to South Africa that’s just how it goes. Or so it’s been said….
That mid September call had a sense of relief to hear my voice on the other end to go with some apprehension that ended with a “There’s going to be a surprise for you when you get home.”
The male mind is programmed to think a certain way after hearing words like that, but this was going to be a moment beyond vivid.
Still, the words hadn't set in while walking out of the wheelhouse, feeling like I hadn’t caught yellowtail in what went from days to months to years with each stride.
“All done?” asked DeBuys.
“Yeah, thanks, 4 minutes and 25 seconds on the phone call.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re going to move.”
The upper deck was had all to myself for the first time on the seven-day trip. For what felt like minutes, but was probably just seconds, Punta Eugenia was kind of just soaked in, thinking about the end of the trip — and how all it takes is that soft voice and faint accent to have home sickness set in — as the cathead got fired up and rope went on the deck.
Then two gulls slowed down on their wingbeats and it was easy to tell they were on that little spot of big yellows. I went downstairs and splashed a little water on the 80-pound Kazen braid on the Trinidad 20. The half-full cup of coffee was cold now, the half-and-half kind of just coagulating on top, forming a Milky Way like picture floating on blackness. Maybe it was minutes that were spent reflecting and staring at sacred coast? It went down the hatch anyways. Something had to chase down the fuzzies from the two IPAs from the night before.
The birds had lost the fish, but they were still looking. Hard. Then they found them, right off the port bow, 90 degrees from the direction the big long ranger was headed towards rope to shackle.
The coffee sloshed around in the gut as the jig got fired out 20 feet past where I’d be if one of the yellows chasing the bait that got stirred up. Five or six grinds into it the braid came tight on the last fish I’d land before realizing what the surprise was.
Sometime come mid May the story that started that September morning at Chesters will come full circle.
I wanted to name him Chester, but Carin thought Noah would be a better choice.