I'm Not a Fish

Phil Simmons

Fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands area near Chokoloskee, Florida for the first time was an experience to say the least. Surrounded by mangrove islands as far as one can see in any direction, it looks like a fisherman’s heaven, and by all reports, it is.

When targeting snook, I like to find a mangrove shoreline with deep water underneath. The problem in Chokoloskee is that this very closely describes about 6 million acres of back country.

We started the first day of fishing by picking a mangrove shore and pounding every cut, branch, root, and point for a couple of hours. We didn’t even get a nibble. As we made our way around the island, seeing beautiful shorelines with much the same luck, I finally saw it: a nice cut, perhaps fifteen feet deeper into the island than the shoreline on either side, with low hanging branches and a perceptible “hole” of deeper water rushing back under the mangroves to the island’s interior.

Looks like fish would be there, doesn't it? They aren't.

“If I was a fish, that’s where I’d be,” I told my fishing partner as I skipped a plastic lure into the branches several feet to the right of my target. He agreed with my assessment, and skipped his shrimp lure right into the sweet spot in the back of the cut. We both waited with our breath held for the explosion that would be sure to follow such a flawless cast. The explosion never came. We skipped a couple more times into the general area, assuming that the fish had simply been sleeping before, or perhaps didn’t see the bright white lure in the tannin-stained waters. Still, nothing.

That’s when the real problem dawned on me: I’m not a fish.

See, if I were a fish, I would have been there. And I definitely would have eaten that lure.

This explains the problems I sometimes have with my fly selection as well. That red and gold shrimp imitation looks great to me when I see it in the water. If I were a fish, I’d swim halfway across the county just to eat that.

But again, I’m not a fish. That’s probably why I’ve never caught anything on it.

This past weekend I hauled out the old canoe and joined some local kayak fishermen in a 7+ mile drift trip down the Econ river. I was on the river roughly ten minutes when I started seeing some very fishy pockets.

“If I was a fish, that’s where I’d be. And I’d be looking to eat a fly that looks like this one,” I said as I cast my fly in vain. And so it went for the rest of the day.

There’s no question. I’m not a fish.

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