It’s May in the Keys, sunny and barely blowing. And they’re swimming.
We’re on the ocean side and getting shots all day. We can see them coming from two football fields away: black, human-sized torpedoes sliding over white sand bottoms. Strings of a half-dozen, two dozen, and more, keep coming at us, one after the other. We mark their course, make sure line isn’t snagged on anything, take a deep breath and let it fly. When they look, when one peels away from the string, we stop breathing, the boat goes silent—though there’s nothing to hear—and wait for a massive mouth to open and the fly to disappear.
By midafternoon everyone is hungry, but no one dares stop fishing, for fear the fish stop showing. I’ve just whiffed three shots so I’m out. I step down from the deck into the cockpit.
“Easy, sasquatch,” my buddy Paul whispers. He takes the rod from my hand and gingerly steps up to the casting platform.
I go for the Cuban mix sandwich from Sandy’s and a beer from the cooler, then sit on the cooler amidships—behind the casting deck, in front of the console. The sandwich wrapper crinkles as I spread it across my thighs. I clutch the beer can between my knees and chow down. We see another string coming.
Paul starts his cast. I stop chewing mid-bite, frozen, waiting for the mayhem. They’re coming in quick, 80 feet and closing. Two false casts and he’s at 50 feet.
“Now,” says our guide, Ray.
He lays it out. As the fly drops, I crane from my seat just slightly to see it go down, just enough for my legs to loosen around the beer can. Fly and line land on water, five feet in front of the lead fish. My beer can hits the deck. The string scatters and tarpon wakes bounce off the hull.
Paul turns and glares right through me.
“Why don’t you stay up there for an extra shot, Paul,” he says. “And eat that fucking sandwich, would ya?”