Just getting out of bed wasn’t going to be easy. Every last joint in his aged body ached with the first rays of the October sun. Butter colored shafts of light were sliding through his eastern facing window and across his age spotted face, now covered with three days of whitish face-hair. Each uncombed wisp of his silver hair seemed to value its independence and had sought its own direction, making him look a little like Einstein, he thought, as his countenance reflected blurrily into his as yet un-spectacled eyes.
“You might as well stay home and watch the History Channel,” remarked his wife, now gathering herself over the old gas stove to cook up some coffee for them both. The Old Man raised the thick ceramic mug to his dry lips. The liquid it contained was the color of coal- and tasted just like he imagined coal powder dissolved in water might. “Good brew today, dear,” he slyly said, the tiny curl of a smile forming at one corner of his mouth as he thought that “brew” had been a clever word selection. “You know you’ll catch nothing except maybe a cold out there today,” his wife said. “Well, I need to be in The Maker’s world today. I’m not getting any younger sitting in front of the tube.” “Oh, all right then. Just be sure you have your cell phone with you- and don’t forget to put it in a plastic baggie!” she commanded.
He sat very still. His father’s ancestral baitcaster rested firmly in the Old Man’s right hand. Somewhere on the bottom of the creek lay a chunk of cut mullet, its aromas, like the coffee his wife had prepared earlier, spreading silently across the tide. He surveyed his surroundings. Deep green spartina grass stood in thick array in every direction, save the unruffled surface of the creek. He noticed the periwinkle snails that had scaled the slender stalks of spartina to escape the hungry blue crabs scurrying around on the mud flats below them. “Don’t worry, Mr. Snail, “he whispered to the hordes of white shelled invertebrates, “Mr. Redfish will be along soon to make a dandy snack of those pesky crustaceans.” He observed legions of fiddlers their one oddly disproportionate claw raised to a defensive position rush to and fro between piles of perfectly round previously sifted mud. They displayed their daytime colors now- dark in sunlight but light at night. It seemed counterintuitive to the Old Man. Nature remained an unending source of fascination for him and made the long periods of waiting for his line to move entirely enjoyable.
The ancient rod tip quivered, then made a series of bounces. The Old Man redirected his gaze from the marsh’s inhabitants to the now rapidly disappearing line. “See, Old Woman! The magic still works!” He raised the rod to the cloudless azure sky now. Feeling the increased resistance, the redfish hit his turbocharger and accelerated rapidly down the narrow creek towards the bay. “I better slow this big boy down a little before he spools me,” the Old Man thought to himself. He lowered the rod tip, then, as if turning a tarpon, pulled it to his right. Just then, the fish surged, forcing the rod to strike the gunwale of his battered aluminum boat. POW! The rod snapped, and as it did, the spool overran, creating a monstrous knot of twenty pound monofilament. The fish pressed on, now switching on full afterburners. The Old Man watched in horror, helpless to prevent the knot from its inevitable collision with the tip top of the rod. Suddenly, the top section of the rod parted company with the lower section as the knot snapped the line and ripped the upper rod half into the water. The Old Man watched as the rod tip trailed along the surface of the muddy water, now in tow by the redfish, or whatever it was. “Could have been a shark.” He thought as he fired up the tired Johnson outboard. It took five pulls, but at last it came to life, sputtering in protest. He put all five horsepower to work as he followed the rod tip. He hoped to retrieve both rod tip and fish once he caught up.
The tip section, along with the fish, slowed now and finally came to a halt. The fish rested as the Old Man contemplated an appropriate course of action. The rod, with its bird nested line and missing section, was essentially useless. He looked quickly around the johnboat and his eyes came to rest on a spool of fifty pound mono. It was wound around one of those larger spools that has a large central opening. An idea materialized from the ether. He rummaged around and located a box of weights. With one eye on the still floating, and still stationary rod tip, he tied four of these in a non slip mono knots. Now he had a new fishing rig- what Cubans call a Yo-Yo. The theory was simple- toss the Yo-Yo line around the rod tip, then pul it to him, and bring the fish to his hand.
The practice was not so simple however. By now whatever creature was fast to the other end began to make slow movement to and fro, as though it might have returned to seeking its next meal. The Old Man was worried that misses might spook the fish into bolting, but he hoisted the weights, swinging them vertically, like a South American cowboy might throw a bolas. After three or four misses, he found this was not so. Finally, after multiple attempts, the line fell across the rod and even managed to encircle it twice. A wide grin now filled his face and he slowly pulled the line towards himself and his boat.
Inch by inch, the Old Man worked the fish back. The redfish , realizing it was restrained once more, began to resist harder. It bulldogged and even shook its head in an unredfish-like manner. This made the Old Man think maybe it really was something other than the redfish he sought. The water was fairly clear in late October, most of the algae killed off by the recent cold snap. As he forced the fish to his will, the Old Man could now see that it was indeed a redfish. And what a redfish. He was treated to a closeup inspection when he had the fish boat side and was astounded by the size of this specimen. He estimated it to be over thirty five inches- a giant of unusual mass this far up a creek. With the heavyweight at the gunwale, the Old Man reached for a tape measure. He thought he would measure it alongside the boat since this one was significantly over the slot limit. He suddenly recalled that he had left his phone, and its camera, in his pickup at the ramp, neatly enclosed in a double plastic baggie. “That all right. At least I can measure it.” He comforted himself.
Someone else had noticed all the commotion caused by the fight. It was the Man in the Brown Suit- a bull shark of about six feet. His sensitive nares tracked the distress pheromones released by the redfish and the shark was now coming, torpedo-like straight at the redfish lying alongside the boat. The Old Man saw only a huge splash of water and blood as the hungry shark devoured the redfish in a single great flash of teeth and fury. The Old Man was grateful he had not yet put his hands and the tape measure in the water.
“I told you wouldn’t catch anything,” said the Old Woman as she stirred the pots containing dinner for the couple. “You could have saved yourself all that trouble, not mention the gas, and stayed here. Maybe made yourself useful by cutting the grass today!”
“Wonder what’s on the history channel tonight?” asked the Old Man. A small smile formed at one corner of his mouth.