I grew up a city kid. Concrete sidewalks, asphalt streets, a few ball fields around, but mostly houses, apartments, cars and buses. We did have a big field next to the house where they eventually built apartments. I made a lot of mischief there, all kid stuff.
There was a stream running through my neighborhood. Or maybe you’d call it a brook, or a trickle, because that’s what it did. Tadpoles were the staple of the trickle.
I never saw a fish.
Some kids grow up with a cane pole and a cork in their hands. My hands were full of baseball bats, my afternoon newspaper route and Nancy Alvarez’s phone number (who lived five houses away and occupied my mind until I was 13).
My parents grew up city kids as well. My dad took me fishing a couple of times. We lived in Florida for a year and went to the Indian River. Once on vacation at my Aunt Linda’s in Houston, my Uncle Tony took us on a charter boat in the Gulf. (Actually my Uncle Tony went to the second deck of the boat, climbed under a bench and fell asleep while the deck was pitching three feet. Something about his Greek heritage.) We caught a bunch of fish off the oil rigs, I remember.
Fishing was not part of my life. I’ve tried to make up for that over the years. I love to bass fish, flounder fish, fish in the intracoastal. fish off –shore, it’s all appealing to me. Occasionally I’ll take what sounds like an exotic trip, just to fish. Sometimes out of state, sometimes, out of the country. Which brings me to the last five days in Guatemala.
My long time friend Denny, who is the best fisherman I know, invited me on this trip last fall. It certainly sounded exotic, and a little scary.
Yes, Guatemala, where perhaps the best big game fishing in the world is now located. A two hour flight from Miami to Guatemala City and an hour and half van ride to the Pacific Coast put us at the Fins ‘n Feathers fishing lodge. If you’re wondering what Guatemala is like, my friend Chester said as we turned down another dirt road in the dark, “if I hadn’t been here before, this is when I’d start to get scared.”
Armed guards opening the gates gave me a perplexing feeling: I think I’m glad they’re here, but why? Inside those gates was a self-contained oasis of fishing nirvana.
Two bedroom cottages (with great AC) surrounding a common open air eating area, bar, swimming pool, and recreation area, all 50 feet from the boats moored in the marina. Up at six, on the water by seven, and heading out into the Pacific looking for sailfish and marlin.
Last year on this trip, Denny and three friends set the world record for catch and release of sailfish , capturing 76 in one day! I know guys who have fished their whole lives and haven’t seen 76 sailfish.
There were sixteen guys on this trip, all friends of Denny’s, so the compatibility factor was high. Even guys you didn’t know, you figured if they were friends of Denny’s they knew the drill. (no jerks allowed) My roommate Rick and I laughed so hard so many times about things we didn’t know we had in common I can’t even begin to count them.
Drawing for teams, with a small wager involved each day made it a little more sporting, but just being there was a hoot. I probably ate too much, drank too much and was too loud more than once, which means I was probably enjoying myself.
Between the four boats and the sixteen “anglers” (using the term loosely) we brought in about 90 sailfish and untold numbers of Dorado (dolphin). The Dorado is one of the most beautiful fish in the ocean. Brilliant gold, blue and green, fast and aggressive, a Dorado flashing underwater, the sun glinting off its sides brings a gasp of “wow” from most fishermen. The sails were all released, no worse for wear, and a few of the Dorado ended up as lunch or dinner or snacks, or all three.
I kept saying in my mind, “what am I doing in Guatemala?” I found the answer when I hooked a 100+ lb. sailfish Monday morning. Straining to hold onto the rod, feeling the power on the other end and seeing the line out 50 yards or more with a fish dancing on the water isn’t something a city kid dreams about.
But he will now.