It’s amazing how far apparel has come over the last 20 years. That thought really stuck me this past week during a Columbia Sportswear media outing held at the Westin Sunset Key Cottages in Key West, Florida.
In the days of old, we flats anglers typically wore shirts and shorts that — while vented and loose-fitting — were constructed of fairly heavy fabrics, with not much thought given to things like UV-ray protection. But today, Columbia and other companies continue to produce incredibly lightweight clothing that not only keeps you cooler while on the water but also is much more protective of the damaging tropical sun.
Key West was a perfect place to try out some of Columbia’s new wares. Translation: It was damn hot!
In fact, there was not a trace of wind circulating the islands, and the temps pushed well into the 90s.
The highlight of the trip for me came at perhaps the hottest point of one of the days. It was mid-afternoon and the water was absolutely dead flat. The only movement on the surface was the rippling of the incoming tide as it swept clean, blue water onto the sandy flat I was moving across with Capt. Mike Cyr (305-294-0412). We were looking for permit around Marvin Key. And we found one.
Actually, there were two fish. They wavered stationary facing into the current right next to a mangrove-laced shoreline. As we approached them, even my Columbia threads couldn’t keep the sweat from building! These fish were sitting in less than two feet of water; they would be really tough.
When my first cast landed woefully short and behind the fish, I thought it was game over. I’d blown it. But wait! Somehow, the fish didn’t spook! Mike was cool on the platform and inched me a bit closer. My next cast with the live crab was much better, the bait touching down softly, just up-current of the fish.
Then came the coolest bite I’ve ever seen! The crab drifted between the two fish, and the closer permit wheeled around, chased it and woofed it down not 20 feet in front of me. Facing me! Somehow, I managed to come tight with three short, jabbing pops. The hook set and I enjoyed a great fight over the next 5 minutes on the 10-pound outfit.
It wasn’t a giant fish — maybe 12 to 14 pounds — but it was without question the coolest shallow-water fish I’ve ever caught. Extremely shallow, crystal-clear water; no wind; and a bit of luck on my side. Yep, it was a great Key West moment.
Speaking of Key West, I’ll be fishing this coming week with another of the Keys’ top captains, Robert Trosset. “RT” and I will be traveling north to join some friends in Cape Cod in search of bluefin tuna. The fishery has reportedly been tough this fall, but some colder weather is scheduled to move into the Cape, which hopefully will stir things up a bit. Will report back in the next few days as to how we did…
Till then, good fishing to you,
Senior editor, Sport Fishing magazine