All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown
The moon rolls through the nighttime, 'till the daybreak comes around
All my life's a circle and I can't tell you why
The seasons spinning 'round again, the years keep rolling by
The older I get, the more I realize that the above opening lines from a great old Harry Chapin song – “Circle” – couldn’t be any more true. Every significant development or theme in my life seems to recur over and over again. Someone or something reminds me immediately of some memory from the past. Fortunately the vast majority of those events and memories have been the good kind.
It just happened again to me recently. We ran a full-day trip on June 18 with a couple of many-time repeat customers/friends – Marc Levine and his really cool 13 year-old son Tyler. Tyler LOVES fishing and is like a sponge, soaking in all the information he can, especially from our fishing mate. Our current regular mate, Jerry Pope, has developed a special relationship with Tyler now and tries to teach him some new skills on each trip. This time, it was how to run a downrigger.
Marc, a pain management doctor from the Stuart area, has his own plane, as well as a second home and small boat here, so he is a frequent visitor. He fishes his own boat a lot, but also charters us several times a year. He and Tyler had been on his boat the day before they fished with us and found small mahis, something that was par for the course at the time unless you got lucky and found a good piece of debris or some solid Sargasso weed patches. Because they had caught small mahis themselves already, I suggested that we throw caution to the wind and go for the “home run” by fishing “outside-in,” running for a least an hour to deeper water to see if we could find that perfect current rip, weed line, debris, or working frigate bird to bring us fish before somebody else found them first. In that regard, I tell people that there are two ways local charter boats tend to fish the offshore waters – “inside-out” or “outside-in.”
The first is potentially the least expensive for the operator. You start trolling just beyond the reef, as close as 5-6 miles out, i.e. “inside,” and then troll deeper to the south if you have to do so to find fish. That burns a lot less fuel than fishing “outside-in,” where you run to deeper water first and work your way back in if you don’t find anything. The latter is a gamble, because you could be “running by” closer fish on the way, so you need customers willing to take that chance and be patient. While a lot more costly fuel-wise, the reward can be spectacular, because you will usually have any great find all to yourself. My mate and I prefer that style and, fortunately, so did Marc and Tyler.
That brings me to the “circle” theme noted above. The mention of the “outside-in” technique to Marc and Tyler suddenly reminded me of one of the cooler periods of my past life. Back in the 70’s, I was single guy in the DC area, sharing a suburban-type house in Annandale, VA, with a couple of roommates. Our landlord, a military guy, was unexpectedly relocating back to the area ahead of schedule and asked if we could accommodate him by finding another house before the end of our lease term. He had been a great landlord for several years, so we agreed to try to do so. I checked the Washington Post for listings and one caught my eye right away in Great Falls, VA, a then-rural area about 20 miles west of DC. 5 acres, 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, sauna, on a semi-private 12 acre lake and with a private tennis court in the backyard.
On a lark, I decided to check it out. UNBELIEVABLE!! It was owned by a career diplomat, Warren Zimmermann. He had been dispatched on a long-term overseas assignment and wanted to get tenants on short notice. The house had won an architectural design award when it was built and was unique, to say the least – a white, wood-frame house totally surrounded by a redwood lattice-work structure covered by a translucent roof, so all areas of the house itself, even the multiple outdoor porches and balconies, were protected from the rain. While the rent was expensive by 70’s DC standards, I convinced my roomies that we could swing it if we got another roommate and persuaded them to go take a look. They made up their minds even before they actually got to the house itself. There was a narrow wooden bridge over the lake you had to cross to get to the house. As they were driving over it, a group of local girls were swimming in the lake – skinny-dippin’ – and one of them “mooned” my roomies. That did it!
They were “all in!” We quickly found a fourth roommate and, for the next two years, had a blast. Even had a female friend of ours donate a “kegerator” she got as part of her divorce property settlement, so we had ‘round-the-clock cold beer on tap. At night the house lit up like Disneyland, but it was located on a hill at the end of a two-mile gravel road that ran through a deep woods until just before you got to the house. The first time you took a girl out there at night, turned down that gravel road, and entered the woods, she would instantly get that uncomfortable “Oh sh*t, what is he doing?” look on her face. Then, as you emerged from the woods and “Disneyland” came into view, the look instantly changed to “Holy sh*t!! WOW!!” Game over!! Four twenty-something guys with good jobs in a house with a kegerator, sauna, tennis court, lake and view of the Potomac. And we survived!
That’s all nice background info about me, but what the heck does it have to do with our trip with Marc and Tyler. Well, when I told them that we were fishing “outside-in,” the phrase suddenly triggered a deep memory in my mind about that old place. After it was first built, the New York Times Sunday Magazine ran a large article about the place titled – you guessed it – “Outside In” - because the house allowed you to be outside in the fresh air while still being covered and protected by the outer roof. Hadn’t thought of that for many, many years, even though I’ve used that term several times since I’ve been fishing here.
That’s the “life is a circle” part of the story. I’ve gone from living “outside-in” to fishing that way 40-some years later.
Another interesting tidbit on that house. During the first few months I lived there, I flew to Columbus, OH, to see an old school friend and use his firm’s tickets to see an OSU football game. On the United Airlines flight there, I glanced through their in-flight magazine and it had an article on progressive architecture in the US. Guess what was there? Bingo! A big photo of the house in which we were living!
Tried to use that to pick up a cute flight attendant on the plane but I struck out – again. (There’s that “circle” theme one more time!)
To finally get back to fishing before I close, Tyler and his dad got rewarded for taking the gamble I suggested. They caught a bunch of big mahis on some scattered weed lines out as far as 23 miles offshore, where Tyler got the big prize – a 62.5 inch, 48.5 pounder, that he artfully brought in by himself (Jerry and dad taught him well!) and it stood almost as tall as he did. The ”wall-to-wall” smile on his face was another “circle” moment. Just about one year ago, we caught a 42.5 pound mahi for an 11 year old boy, Chase Mullen, who has the same love of fishing as Tyler does. I can’t describe the feeling it gives you to see a kid smile like that. Maybe even better, on both occasions, the smile on Jerry’s face when he saw their smiles was as big as theirs. That is one “life is a circle” moment that I hope keeps repeating itself over, and over and over again. Sure makes this job a whole lot of fun!
The main point here is probably that, the next time you are thinking about a fishing charter in Key West, decide what kind of trip you want. Do you want to just start fishing quickly and get as many bites as you can, or do you want to gamble for the big score? Then talk with your captain or potential captains about how he/they intend to run the trip and see if his/their fishing philosophy and yours mesh. It’s your trip and your money, so get the kind of experience you want!
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