Tropical downpour

Tropical downpour

Gary Meyer | Tuesday, 26 May 2020

When I grew up here in South Florida as a child, among other reasons, the end of May was always on my radar. For one reason, it was the time of year when school was concluded and summer vacation began. The exasperating thing was that it is also the time of year when South Florida commonly experienced a miniature version of a monsoon. Summer, the “wet” season as it became to be called, always seemed to start out with a bang. A few weeks of continuous rain was almost guaranteed.

While some other kids found it frustrating, I always found things to keep me interested. As a child, it was a great time to catch frogs and tadpoles. Later on, the ubiquitous puddles became great places for skim boarding… a sort of waveless inland form of surfing. Even as a highschool student, I found the incessant rains produced the largest annual crop of mushrooms!


As for fly fishing, over the years I have found that despite the rains, this time of year can produce some of the wildest small tarpon fishing of the year. Granted, you were going to get wet, essentially soaked, but a dry set of clothes back in the van was a simple remedy. Otherwise, even though wet, the air temperature is usually in the low 80s, so it is not a cold uncomfortable wetness, in fact, it is a nice alternative to the usually increasing heat of summer.


I laugh at the more recent inhabitants of South Florida when they complain during the seasonal rains. When the downpours end, and the sun comes back out with a vengeance, all of the saturated ground will respond and the heat and humidity will almost become unbearable. They should enjoy things while they can.


I had great plans to fish this past weekend, even though as of now, it has rained for 48 hours straight. Granted, it had not been a continuous downpour, but continuous rain never the less. I was ready to go anyway, but this year’s monsoon looks to be like a rabid animal in comparison to those of my youth. Squalls, hail, and possible tornados were being predicted. I was not game for that kind of stuff, at least not out in a canoe.


So, instead of fishing, I simply went on a recon mission. I had a strong curiosity about Everglades National Park. It had been closed to the public for weeks due to COVID. The last time I was down there, it was at the end of the dry season, which this year was severe. Now, after the beginning of the monsoon, and the downpours of late, the park ecosystem would be going through a complete reversal. Besides, there is a strangely enjoyable experience of “camping” in a van down there this time of year.


The different forms of swamp life that has evolved in the ‘glades absolutely rejoice at the end of their dry season misery. Sleeping in a van, with the rain drumming on the roof, while all the indigenous critters party is an experience few others have had an opportunity to enjoy.


So I drove down late Saturday night and slept in my van. I had to “stealth” camp as the park’s campgrounds and bathrooms are still closed. It was a glorious night! In the morning I woke and found that I had the park almost all to myself. Apparently the weather predictions had all other anglers staying home. The only other human I found was actually a park employee who was enjoying the absence of other folks almost as much as I was.


I drove around and did a bit of hiking to locations I could access either by foot or tires. I found what I was looking for, and I anticipate a good fishing season is ahead. In one location I found small tarpon cavorting like I haven’t seen in years. Imagine that scene from nature film where a school of baitfish is balled up and circling near the surface somewhere in the open ocean. Now imagine those baitfish are 5 – 10 pound tarpon. Yeah, it looks like it will be a fun summer.


On the other hand, I found some things that were not all that great. Although, I anticipated them. The hurricane a few years back had a devastating effect on massive expanses of mangroves. The trees were completely denuded of leaves and afterwards they did not fill back out. Now they are continuing to decompose. Vast swaths that were once impenetrable green forests are now stark landscapes. Eventually, these areas that were once thick forest will evolve into vast swaths of open glades of knee high saltwort. And the cycle continues.


The photo I included above is a simple snapshot out the side window of my van. It is hard to describe the vast acreage in a similar situation. But, it is all part of nature’s course.