"Dat's a lotta fish!" Kent yelled. "Hey! No! Come back dis way, mon. Dis way!" When the mutton snapper took off for the reef, so had Fred. The chase was on. Fred was in a full sprint, rod held high, cranking down the drag on his Fin-Nor reel. Far ahead, closing in on the rocks and coral that would surely cut it free, the mutton snapper tore through the shallows like a bull through wheat. "Dat's de first t'ing ever'body do," Kent muttered through his teeth. "Don' know why." He shouted at Fred and waved his arm. "Ho, mon! Back dis way. Dat's where de fish want to go!"
I don't know whether Fred heard Kent, or if he suddenly realized that by chasing after the fish he was simply decreasing its distance to the reef. But he stopped. He began to back up, still tightening the drag on the reel. "That much drag would have broken a bonefish's neck," he said later. We could see the wake of the mutton snapper slow, and then come to a stop less than 30 yards from the rocks. It began to thrash on the surface. Fred had turned it.
Kent ran back to the boat for a landing net. The mutton snapper made one more run, shorter than its first, and then played out and quit. By the time Kent returned, Fred had already landed it by hand, mangling his fingers on its teeth in the process. He held the fish up for inspection. While not as aggressively ugly as the octopus, the mutton snapper was as homely as a mud fence. It had the wall-eyed expression of, well, a sheep with a bad overbite. If ever a fish was made to drool, the mutton snapper was it. Its body was carplike in shape, with rust-red stripes on an olive background. But it had put up quite a fight. The fish weighed 14 pounds and, according to Kent, was the first mutton snapper to be landed on a fly at Turneffe. At 10:45 in the morning, with the first element of the Turneffe grand slam behind us, we sped off in search of the elusive pampas, brimming with hope.
Three hours later hope was a forgotten passenger. We had not seen a pampas. We had nearly swamped in the choppy channel. Our heads throbbed from staring into the reflection of the Caribbean sun. Priorities changed. Fred wanted to have a powwow. "I'll tell you what I think of pampas after four days of this nonsense," he mumbled as Kent silently poled us along. "This is a waste of talent. Any guy from Fifth Avenue in New York could do what I'm doing with the same results. I give up. They're too tough for me. Why are we going out here?"
"Sometimes big bonefish out by dese mangroves," Kent said, his eyes continually poring over the water. "Sometimes pampas, too."
"Forget the pampas," Fred said. "We've got to have a powwow."
Kent ignored him. It is a guide's prerogative to hear what he chooses. Then, a moment later, "Bonefish."
There were two of them, moving away from the skiff. On Fred's second cast, the bigger of the two grabbed his fly and took off. It zigzagged crazily, throwing rooster tails that crossed in midair. Then it made a beeline for the lone clump of mangroves, made a hairpin turn around them and headed back out to sea. Fred's line, ripping off the reel, now had a 180-degree bend in it. "We in trouble now," Kent said, accurately.
The only hope, of course, was to circle the mangroves ourselves. Unfortunately, the water there was shallow, and the skiff became mired on the bottom when we tried. Hopping out, Kent took Fred's rod and circled the mangroves on foot. When he passed the rod back, however, the line—still screaming off the reel—became tangled around a rod guide. This time Fred leaped. Like the fish before him, he headed out to sea. His hat flew off. Kent pushed the boat off the bottom. I grabbed Fred's hat. Fred, on the dead run, had somehow unwrapped the tangle before the leader snapped. The bonefish, devilish fellow, in the meantime had doubled back, so that Fred was left looking at yards and yards of slack. "He be gone now," Kent predicted. Amazingly, the fish wasn't, so that five minutes later, at precisely 2:40, a six-pound bonefish lay in the bottom of our skiff. Hope was renewed.
Which was why, some 2� hours later, Kent was hollering at Fred, "Bring dat li'l fella in, mon, we still got time for de Turneffe Island slam!"—even as the 30-pound tarpon, full of vigor, was leaping about the channel. The acrobatics soon came to an end, but there is no way to horse in a tarpon—even a small one—with a fly rod and a 12-pound-test leader. The tarpon dived, and the rest was brute toil. It took 10 minutes of hard sidearm pumping to get the fish up from the deep. Kent hauled it aboard. A minute later we were skimming back toward Cay Bokel.