Going Solo

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Going Solo

I know, I know, it’s always prudent to have someone along when you’re trekking into a wilderness, or traveling abroad in search of that magic moment when a fish gulps a fly. 


I’ve been told that my whole life by parents, loved ones and even friends that I should always find someone to take along. But whether it’s a 12-plus hour round trip to local waters, backpacking to a high-country lake in grizzly country, or even jumping on a plane to a foreign land with my fly gear and a few google maps, I’ve been breaking the "always go with someone” rule most of my life (and so far lived to tell the tale). 


Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fishing with friends and family, and I cherish those moments, but they’re put in a different box. There’s  a certain feeling when I go solo that sparks my senses and emotions, the ones you can only get by yourself. 


Your success or failure is yours alone. The true do-it-yourself experience is just that, and some of what a lone angler experiences is so personal and has such reverence that he or she may never share it with others, out of fear it may tarnish the memory. 


The surreal memories of discovering new environments, new fish, and a few  grizzly bears and crocodiles along the way, help get me through the long days when I am not on the water.


I learned some valuable life lessons while fishing and traveling alone. One of the most important is that there are fine lines between cocky and arrogant, confident and capable.  


I will share one and hope I don’t anger or frighten the shit out of my family and loved ones. Several years back, I boarded a plane  to Cancun with fly boxes and gear in hand. I rented a car and drove several hours down the Yucatan to a tiny Mexican town. 


I remember the feeling when I walked into the town’s lone cantina, and every eye in the place was on me. It felt like I was Clint Eastwood in one of those great spaghetti westerns, but without his Colt revolver. Confidently, I sat down and ordered a cerveza. My quest for permit was stronger than the fear and caution a more prudent traveler would have, so I used my best Anglo/Spanish (with way too much Anglo) to strike up a conversation about the flats fish in the area. 


A couple guys were local lobster fisherman, and they actually engaged in my pained, broken, bilingual conversation. The local police chief joined as well. After buying a few rounds for my new best friends, a meeting was set the next morning with one of my new amigo's father, who was also a lobster fisherman.

 

As planned, my nuevo amigo and his padre the lobster fisherman met me at the dock at 7 a.m. I should back up and say I had set a $2,000 budget for this trip that included airfare and car rental, so hiring a real flats guide was a financial nonstarter. I was looking for someone to haul me to an island chain known as the Tres Maries and drop me off for the day, then pick me up for the return boat ride to town in the late afternoon. 


The father technically spoke Spanish, but the Mayan dialect left me clueless. Between his son’s broken English and my gibberish Spanish we managed to negotiate a deal for $120. 


After a 45-minute boat ride, I hopped out of the panga armed with three fly rods and reels, flies, two oranges, three bottles of water, and said adios to my new pal until he returned at 4 p.m.

 

After a long day of fishing on the remote flats surrounding the Tres Maries, I waded to the point where Pablo was supposed to pick me up. It was about 3 p.m., and as I waded, I tried to calculate how many bonefish I had landed. I figured about 15, and even without connecting with the half dozen permit I had shots at, I concluded the120 bucks was worth it, and I would ask Pablo for a second day. 


I saw no other anglers or boats the entire day and felt truly alone, which I was. I sat on a log on a sandy point to drink half of the last bottle of water and decided to save the other half for the 45 minute boat ride. 


About 3:50 p.m., my lone wolf imagination kicked in. Had I been scammed? Where is he? Why did I do this? How long can I live in this tropical heat on half a bottle of water? Where will I sleep? Are there caimans around here? Are there still pirates around here? Will any other boats ever come by? Will I die here and nobody will ever know what happened? 


On the bright side, I could tell everyone I know what it feels like to be stranded on a deserted Island. 


Pablo showed up about an hour (and a lifetime) past our meeting time with a big grin on his face. We still could not carry on a rational conversation about what occurred, but I know he knew exactly how I felt, I bet he’s still laughing about it. 


And so am I.