Maturing or aging?

Maturing or aging?

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 2 October 2018

It was nice to finally get out in a canoe again. It seemed like I spent most of the summer finding reasons not to fish instead of reasons to fish. Maybe I’m just starting to show my age?

It is not like it was hard to find the excuses though. Hurricane damage from a year ago is more obvious now than it was at first. There are devastated areas where the red mangrove trees simply have not recovered. Where there once was a green impenetrable forest is now a stark graveyard of barren grey tree trunks haphazardly angling skyward. The leaf fall and rotting wood have created large zones where the water is stained dark brown and sports streaks of suspended algae blooms. These areas seem to be completely devoid of life under the water.

The sights are so disturbing to me that I keep debating whether to take some photos or not. I probably will, if only to document the upcoming conversion of the landscape. In the midst of the stark dead red mangroves, there are scatted black mangrove trees that look completely different. Unlike the reds, which have the famous spider-leg roots, the black mangrove is a different species that has a different but still unique root system. The black mangrove sends pneumatophores skyward from underground roots that radiate out from the central main tree trunk. The ground around these trees looks much like a close-up photo of a bed of nails. These skyward breathing tubes have allowed the black mangroves to rebound. They may have lost most of their branches to the winds, but they now are sporting lush green regrowth leaves directly on their dark namesake trunks.


The dead red mangroves are beginning to be draped by climbing vines. Some of these vines sport famously impressive flowers like morning glory and moon flower. The blue and purple morning glories are quite pretty, while the moon flower is larger and white. Both are wide open in the mornings and wither as the sun gets higher. These vines will eventually smother and collapse their short-term host. Once the wood has all rotted away the entire area will most likely become an open prairie of lush green succulent shrubs like saltworts and glasswort. The resulting large open prairies will be dotted with the scattered surviving black mangrove trees.


The decay of the branches and trunks has a silver lining: it has begun to allow me to access some of the areas I once took for granted. Getting through the creeks is still a hard go in most places, especially in the heat and worse now without the benefit of shade. An unexpected second observation is the almost complete absence of mosquitoes! They seem to have been dealt a double whammy. According to a park ranger, the influx of saltwater from the storm surge was toxic to the eggs waiting in the mud. And now the lack of leaves allows nowhere for those lucky enough to hatch to hide from the sun. It is hard to explain that the absence of a pest can also be uncomfortable, but it is.


Earlier this summer it was very wet, meaning that it was raining almost every day. Now, since September, we have been uncharacteristically dry. The rains kept me away early and more recently the heat has been doing the same. So, what happened this weekend? The winds crept up.


It was a tough day on the water but I was glad I went, even though it seemed to take me days to recover. I spent a good portion of the day under my golf umbrella. My half-gallon insulated water thermos that I almost never completely empty was bone dry shortly after noon. The return trip was brutal. I was torn between a desire to get it over with and a need to take it easy. When I got back to my van I immediately sought out manmade shade and took a long uncomfortable nap with the 12V fan on high. I did not get home until the wee hours of the next day.


So, how was the fishing? Actually not bad for the limited time I  spent with a fly in the water. The area has always been a nursery area for juvenile snook and tarpon and it still is. I fished no larger than a 5wt and got my string stretched pretty good. I doubt any other sane human being would have found the juice worth the squeeze though.