I struck out across the Halifax in my kayak right at dawn on a calm but chilly morning.
I had a particular destination in mind and was concentrating on my paddling when I noticed that a breeze was kicking up. Before I left home that morning I had checked with several expert meteorologists on the tube and they were all predicting a light wind. By the time I had put two miles under the Green Peanut, the wind was howling at about 15 miles per. So much for T V weathermen.
Now understand on a morning that cold I would not have taken the kayak out in such a wind. Normally, I can stay pretty dry in the Peanut, but when the wind starts to howl it will take on water. As some of you have mentioned, I am asking a lot from a 10-foot hunk of plastic considering my ample tonnage now days tipping the Fairbanks-Morse at around 225 pounds. Still I had made the journey and I was determined to fish.
The Tomoka Basin area has a pretty clean bottom and seldom do you get a serious snag so when I hooked bottom on the first cast I was not too worried. As you would do, I paddled past the jig to get leverage in the opposite direction but the darned thing would not come up. I had the seven-foot medium light rod in a tight arch when the wind pushed the kayak right over the pole and I heard the sickening sound of a "pop." The rod had broken off the top two and a half feet. Awww man! After all that paddling now I was done before I started. To make matters worse the wind was still rising and I would have to paddle back to my truck looking right into it. Thinking about that made my old muscles hurt.
Taking a look at the broken rod, I was thankful it was only a cheap model. A little over a year ago I had lost an expensive one in the river after being tipped by a manatee. After that, I had vowed never to take an expensive rod in the kayak. Well, I said to no one, nuttin' from nuttin' leaves nuttin'. I re-rigged the broken rod to fish. Now it more resembled a boat pole of the type you might use off shore.
I tossed the Apple Cider jig out and before too long I had landed an undersized trout. Hey, I thought, that went pretty well. Maybe I can fish. I couldn't throw it very far, but when I could hit the water I was getting a few nibbles. Soon another little trout came in and pretty easily, too. I was fishing, but not all that comfortably. Also in the back of my mind I knew I had a tough paddle home in all that wind. That sent me stroking toward the truck with the plan of stopping about halfway for a breather.
After a while, I allowed the Peanut to be blown to a stop along a sand bar and I began to fish once more with my four and a half foot stick of a rod. Wouldn't you know it, my first hookup was with a big redfish. My initial instinct was too loosen the drag and hold on. Unfortunately the red came right toward me. Now I was in a position where I really needed the playing power of a limber rod but what I had was more like a broom handle. The red tried to get under the kayak but there was no room and when I saw it for just an instant I considered trying to spear it with the broken rod.
That seemed a better alternative than trying to play it down. Maybe I could even turn the rod around and use the reel end for a club? Didn't matter, right about then a wind gust caught me and was in the process of turning me over into the cold water. I dropped the rod and held onto both sides of the kayak. At the same time the loose line became fouled on something and I heard another sickening "pop." The line broke and there went my red. Right about then I felt like that was a gift from the fish gods. I was losing the battle and looking to get wet and not having any fun at all. Was it Yogi Berra who said "I shoulda stood in bed?"
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.