- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Both Fred and I wore polarized sunglasses to help us see down into the water. Kent didn't. He squinted into the wind-chopped waves with his naked eyes, perceiving shapes and movements unseen by me. "Permit," he said, pointing. "Comin' for us. Beeg ones! See dem?"
We didn't. Fred, crouching on the bow, looked wildly about like a man under attack. Kent pointed in frustration. To him the slab-sided fish must have been as plain as a school of sea cows.
Fred let 'er go. The $5.50 Jewett blue crab fly catapulted through the air, thwacked into something and splashed into the water within my reach. Fred's hat floated beside it. It was a good looking hat, with a long khaki bill. I landed it. Kent said nothing, poling onward, scouring the flats.
"Good job, my friend," Fred told him, replacing the hat on his head. "That was my mistake."
We completed the drift, then Kent started the engine and moved to another flat. It was like the first, 60 or 70 yards out from one of the cays, within sight of the rich, dark blue of the deep water from which the permit come at high tide. We drifted and watched, trying to look through the water rather than at it. Trying to make out a moving shadow in a sea of shadows. Trying to see the ripple of nervous water caused by a school of moving fish, or a telltale fin showing above the surface.
"Two permit," said Kent, pointing.
We looked. Nothing. "I don't see them, my friend," Fred said earnestly, false-casting time and again over a great arc of water. "Is that them?" Fred cast in a completely different direction from where Kent was looking.
"Too late. Dey turn."
One of the reasons the permit were so difficult to spot was the camouflaging colors of the ocean floor. The mangrove flats are made up of turtle grass, sea coral, sponges and sand. Its hues are gradations of olives, browns, tans, greens and grays. With the movement of wind and tide, all of these colors and shapes seemed to shimmer and swim. The sunlight danced on the surface, the turtle grass flowed, the fish glided, the boat drifted. The ocean floor seemed alive. Unless you were lucky enough to have a permit stick its tail or dorsal fin above the surface—and we weren't—you had to be very good indeed to pick out the fish's gray from all the other shades of gray down there, its motion from all the other motion. Kent, without glasses, could distinguish the entire body of a permit from 30 or 40 yards. Did he look for movement? Yes. Did he look for color? Yes. So did we, but it didn't help. What was the secret? "All de years on de flats, I guess," was Kent's reply. It was as if he was working with a different set of tools.