Cast & Blast

Did you see that? Did ya? When the Gulf Stream, or the mountain stream, is like a dream

One of those sights out on the water you’ll never forget.
One of those sights out on the water you’ll never forget. Submitted

I rarely ever remember my dreams but last night was a different story. It’s not that I don’t dream, because I do, but my guess is I wake up way too fast to let dreams have the opportunity to find a niche in my memory. So, what was the dream that actually stayed around this time?

I was in my early twenties, fishing with my dad during one of the Sea Pines Billfish Tournaments that were held in the mid 1970s. I have had variations of this dream that are actually based on real experiences in one of these tournaments, but this one was particularly vivid.

We were trolling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, the ocean was flat calm and the water was such a bright shade of blue it hurt your eyes to look at it. My dad was relaxing in the fighting chair while I was sitting in a shady spot on top of a cabinet next to the door that led into the salon, watching our baits skipping across the surface.

Usually there at least eight or so lines set out but I was transfixed on one line in particular. It was a rigged Spanish mackerel set back about 30 yards from the stern. Being pulled through the water on its side, it had everything going for it that a marlin might want. The perfect distance from the boat, skipping and slapping the water, I just knew if a billfish came near it would prove irresistible.

Just when I thought my eyeballs might fall out, there was a flash of blue and purple 10 or so yards behind the mackerel. Not sure if I was imagining things, I kept quiet. There is was again! But this time a fin appeared and in the blink of my weary eye, it charged the mackerel and in a giant explosion of water, I saw a long black bill slam down on the helpless mackerel.

I wanted to scream an alarm to my dad and our captain but nothing came out. In the space of a few seconds, there was no need to scream because there was a loud “snap!” as that rod’s line pops out of a clip. Line screamed out against the drag on the reel with an equally loud buzzing sound, and where the mackerel had once been is now a 13-foot long, 400-pound blue marlin skittering across the ocean using only its tail.

And you wonder why I love fishing so much.

Unforgettable images

These scenes don’t repeat themselves on every fishing excursion I take, but to witness a “visual” like this guarantees this: I don’t care who you are or what your particular interests might be, you too will be hooked.

The best part is it can happen anywhere on the water. It can happen inshore, offshore, in a pond or even a cool mountain stream. I will say that having polarized sunglasses heightens the experience tenfold.

With as many hours as I have had on the water, I have lucked into hundreds of these unforgettable images.

Watching a redfish in shallow water turn his head to the side so he can pick up my bait, or fly fishing for trout in a mountain stream and seeing that single flash near the bottom as a big trout inhales a fly that has passed by him a dozen or so times already but something about this one particular cast inspired it to eat.

A truly incredible attribute that some fish have that gets me every time are those species that change colors depending on their mood. Some great examples are mahi-mahi, wahoo and most any of the billfish family.

Beginning with dolphin or mahi-mahi, these are by far the ocean’s clowns. A spectacular blue when they are relaxed but put a bait in front of one that excites their senses and they instantly change into a rainbow of pulsating colors. Green, yellow, neon blue, red and yellow dots … the changes are fast and continuous.

As for speedsters like wahoo, purple and blue stripes almost magically appear when they get excited. Because the water is so clear the further you get offshore, it is quite the show.

‘Light up’

A couple of years ago while drifting and bottom fishing, a big wahoo appeared boat side. It was a dull, dark bluish black, but the moment I pitched a live bait in front of it those bright stripes appeared in a second’s time. And when I saw purple and blue, those colors are so bright I can only describe it as if you are in a room with black lights.

Marlin and other billfish also “light up” when excited. Just this past summer one swam up behind our teaser that imitates a school of squid and small tuna and that marlin lit up like a Christmas tree. He got so excited he ate the entire 5-foot-long teaser, snapped the 300-pound line on it and then proceeded to eat another bait right behind the teaser before tail walking a hundred or more yards. And no, we didn’t catch him because he caught us all with our mouths wide open and our pants down.

Lastly, cobia are notorious for being the perfect “sight” fish. Curious by nature, I can’t tell you how many times I have glanced behind the boat only to see a huge cobia appear in the same spot I had looked at most five seconds before.

All this came to me in a dream, but you know what? If you keep your eyes open, and have a good pair of polarized glasses, you too will see these marvels of the sea and I promise you will replay each encounter over and over for the rest of your days.