It was summer and he had brought his new bride, Patsy down to Florida to meet her new kin. She was a trooper as we fished together for a week. Staying at Flamingo in the Everglades National Park was not the most comfortable of vacations. The cabins had everything a fisherman needed and very little of what a new country wife needed or even wanted for that matter. But Patsy hung in there.
Every year for as far back as I could remember, we made a one or two week stay at Flamingo while friends and relatives took turns coming down to visit and fish. Some would stay the whole time; others would spend a day or two and leave. This year, Jim brought Patsy for what would be her initiation to saltwater fishing.
Summer is mosquito time in Florida, and Flamingo must hold every record there is for the meanest, most persistent mosquitoes around. During the day, if you walked fast and stayed away from any shade, you could generally avoid being bit. At night, you took your life in your hands if you ventured out. Going in and out of the cabin door became an exercise in seeing how fast the task could be accomplished. Speed meant that only a few mosquitoes would get inside the cabin. Lack of speed meant many mosquitoes and lots of rather loud commentary from those inside!
We mainly fished for snapper on these trips - mangrove snapper. A big one would be three pounds; a braggin fish would go five. Most ran between one and two pounds. All of the fish went to good use.
We fished with cut mullet strips drifting the flats in Florida Bay. Off of Blue Bank and back west to Marker 8 we drifted in water from six to ten feet deep. Occasionally we would catch some pinfish on small hooks and use them for bait, but fresh mullet was really the mainstay.
Jim, Patsy and I were fishing one morning and catching quite a few fish. Patsy loved to fish, but as with most novice anglers needed a bit of help. I baited hooks and Jim took fish off, as we took turns sharing the Patsy duty.
As the morning progressed, the fish seemed to get bigger. As an approaching thunderstorm neared, they also became more aggressive.
The cool wind from the storm meant only one thing to me. We either had to run or anchor up and sit it out. Running the fourteen miles back to the ramp was out of the question, because that is exactly where the storm was sitting. So anchor the boat we did.
It was my fathers boat, one made by Brothers Boat Company. They were one of the myriad boat builders who seemed to spring up, build boats for few years and then disappear. To save some money, my father did not purchase a Bimini top. Instead he found a deal on a big patio umbrella, the kind that fits in the hole in the middle of a glass table.
The umbrella had served pretty well in the past during a light shower. It had a tilting option and you could actually stay fairly dry underneath it. It was blue and pink, with lots of flowers, and it had two-inch ball fringe all the way around the edge. Needless to say, I never put it up when another boat was around!
So, there we sat. The anchor rope was all the way out, the umbrella was up and tilted to shield us from the wind, the black clouds were approaching, and we were awaiting the rain.
Jim decided to do something other than sit, so he picked up a rod and cast out the back of the boat. It didnt take long until he had a very nice snapper hooked up. It began to sprinkle as I netted what would be a five-pound snapper.