I love it when a plan comes together.
This doesn't happen all that often in the fishing world. I can't tell you how many times I've planned a trip well in advance, only to wake up that day to find the wind blowing things horizontal or the rain falling so hard the frogs are choking.
It can be frustrating trying to come up with a "Plan B" when this stuff happens. You're rigged and ready for someplace like the Gulf Stream and, in a matter of an hour or so, you have to switch out all the tackle and bait for some sort of inshore fish, and it ain't easy at all.
Personally, I get discombobulated because not only do I have to switch out tackle, I have to flip another switch in my mind. I am a huge believer that being mentally prepared when fishing is vital for success.
It might sound silly, but I usually can tell when the vibes are right -- and when the vibes are right, we are going to catch some fish. Many times I get a tingling feeling and, almost on cue, a reel screams. Y'all know I am a tad off, but I swear this happens to me all the time.
The fishing excursion that was planned for a recent weekend didn't need any "Plan B" because from the get-go, it was as if the fishing gods had read my mind and decided they would give me a break this time around.
Dan Cornell, a good friend of mine from Atlanta whom I have fished with for years now, had planned to come down for what is becoming an annual fishing trip for him and two of his employees.
Last year about the same time, the same two guys came down and we had a great day, so the pressure was on to make it happen again. My memory is pretty much mush, but I think last year we did well cobia fishing.
The plan this time around was to hit the Gulf Stream, weather permitting.
Fishing the Gulf Stream is something I truly love, even though it requires tons of preparation.
Because it is big-game fishing, everything needs to be perfect -- from rigging lures that are able to handle fish that could exceed 500 pounds, to making sure there isn't a single nick on 500 yards of line on each and every reel. It is a lot of work. All it takes is one little overlooked item, and you can lose a trophy fish in the blink of an eye.
Preparing for a trip offshore takes a good two days, and since the trip was planned for this past Sunday -- Dan's only window of opportunity -- I just had to pray that the ocean would let us make the 75-mile run in comfort.
We arrived at Dan's boat at 4 a.m., and the flags at Wexford hung limp. There wasn't so much as a puff of wind, and the ocean was so calm, we were able to run around 40 mph the whole way out.
I knew this was going to be the day to find some sort of rip where two currents meet, or better yet a Sargasso weed line that pretty much guarantees fish. It was about 10 a.m. that we found the weed line. From that instant on, it was mayhem.
The water was like a giant blue sheet of glass, with huge mats of orange-yellow Sargasso weed that stretched for miles. Trolling along the edge of the weed, dolphins (mahi-mahi) charged out from under the weed patches and streaked toward the bait with their dorsal fins cutting through the water.
It was so visual. Normally a vibrant blue, an excited dolphin changes to a kaleidoscope of greens, blues and yellows.
No sooner would we land one fish then another would hit. To say Dan's friends had their hands full is an understatement.
Had we wanted to, we could have filled the boat with dolphins, but enough was enough, and though the younger guys on board probably wouldn't admit it, I think they were glad when I suggested we do some bottom fishing. Thick-bodied dolphins put their entire side to work, making the fight to catch them backbreaking. It's like pulling in a board sideways.
Just when the guys thought life would get easier, I went to some bottom-fishing spots in 200 feet of water. Dan and his buddies, Matt Brom and Tommy Parrott, dropped live baits, and talk about grunting and groaning. Big snapper, beeliners, grouper and amberjack kicked their butts.
Reeling big fish up from that deep is not for old guys like me. If ever there was a perfect day, though, this was it.
I'll probably have to wait quite a while before the next one rolls around, but that's OK. The memories of this one will tide me over until Mother Nature thinks I deserve another go at the "perfect day."
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.