Sunday, May 13, 2018

Day 19 - Et tu, Brute? Et tu?

Today was a whirlwind from start to finish - and one of the best days in my life that I can recall!  Wow - how's that for an intro?

I'm going to skip right to the best part and then fill in the rest of the day later in the post.  Today, for about three hours, I was 12 years old again.  I literally (well, maybe not literally) re-lived an entire afternoon that I had experienced over 34 years ago.  You see, there's this barracuda that lives under a dock in Islamorada that I have been trying to catch for as long as I can remember (since like 1978ish - no joke).  His name is Brutus and he's big.  I mean really BIG - even by barracuda standards.  As a kid, for years I would try to catch him and he would somehow figure out a way to not get caught.  Vacation after family vacation I would go visit him.  Each year I would bring something new to the table to try to out smart him but each new thing I tried had ultimately failed.  Once, just once, I had Brutus on my line but after several jumps and long runs he managed to get free.  This time would be different (or so I thought).

Gentlemen we can rebuild it.  Better than it was before.  Better, stronger, fatter.
It has been many years since we first met and I have gained almost a lifetime of fishing knowledge and experience over that time-frame.  Of course I know that this is 'probably' not the same Brutus from my childhood - but let me just have this one little embellishment.  New fishing equipment and technology that was not available to me back when I was a kid should help me to land my "white whale" on this particular day.  I put together a game plan, the weather was perfect, the conditions were ideal and I was ready for my trophy.  I was going to catch this fish, take a few photos and release - that was the plan anyway.

Brutus had a different plan.  He was just as determined (if not more so) to not take a photo with me and not be captured.  After all, he wasn't that large by mistake.  "He was a smart, big fish." to quote Quint from JAWS.

Have you ever re-lived an entire afternoon that you had as a kid?  It was really special - something out of a storybook.  With my dad watching over me, I tried everything I could think of to land this fish.  Brutus saw me coming and going every step of the way.  In the end, he won.  But ultimately it was the entire experience that gave me joy beyond words.  It wasn't just the fish.  It was the magical place, the weather and the company with my dad.  Losing Brutus (once again) only adds to the allure and the fascination of this story that now continues. . .

This was only a small excerpt from what was a very, very, very long day.  Backing up to the beginning, I had to wake up at 3:30 am in order to catch my flight to Florida.  Dad was up by 2.  Air travel is certainly not the most comfortable mode of transportation but if it gets us to the Keys in a few hours then I'm happy to sacrifice a bit of comfort.

The plane was not full... I got to stretch my legs a bit
My dad and I landed in Ft Lauderdale around 10 and we were eating Cracked Conch from Ballyhoos in Key Largo by noon.  Tough to beat.  We split a snapper sandwich for a small after-lunch snack at the Cheeca Lodge and fished for Brutus for a few hours after that.

Always the first meal in the Keys - Conch
This is my Zihuatanejo, Andy.
Enjoying the Cheeca's outdoor grill in PERFECT Keys weather.
After a tiring start, we checked into our room and just relaxed while planning the events of the upcoming days.  Our next adventure will be a guided fishing trip with Captain Tony (the Lyin' Hawaiian) bright and early tomorrow morning.  Hoping to catch some delicious fish that we can take to a local restaurant for dinner - and maybe some that I can take home in a few days.

Shadows of the past
While fishing for Brutus earlier I managed to catch a few smaller snapper, a couple of nurse sharks and a lobster!  I used some for bait and threw the rest back but as far as the rules of the Survivor Diet Challenge go, I believe it's not too much of a stretch to put the "Small Animal Clause" into effect and substitute the fish that I released for some similar fish that I can purchase in a restaurant.  I know I said that I will be doing a semi-Survivor Diet while I'm in Florida but I am happy to report that I'm certainly not straying too far.  I plan on only having local Florida Keys seafood while I'm here and I can certainly justify that with some of the fish that I have already released.

Nurse shark off the dock - released
Tonight for dinner we found a great little local seafood restaurant called The Fish House, in Key Largo.
Excellent, local, rustic - the Rut's Hut of Key Largo
I enjoyed (immensely) stone crab claws as an appetizer and a nice piece of mutton snapper for dinner while my dad had a piece of fresh grouper.  Everything was prepared perfectly and in my humble opinion, food just doesn't get much better than this - ever.  The seafood in the Keys is just that good - especially when you find a place that can cook it just as good, if not better than you could at home.

Tis the season for Stone Crab Claws

$42 but hey, you gotta live a little on vacation!

Grouper galore!

Nuttin' beats a nice piece of Mutton... (snapper that is)
Today was a complete break from my normal life and it was jam packed with emotion, excitement, discomfort (plane ride), deliciousness (so much), adventure, some highs and some lows (like almost losing a wallet and dizzy spells in the airport) .  It started in the dreary cold and rain of New Jersey and ended in the clean, clear warmth of the Florida Keys.  Days like these just don't come along very often.  (what about tomorrow?)

Oh - I almost forgot. . . This day would probably never have happened if it wasn't for the Survivor Diet Challenge.  I've said this before but the SDC makes me go outside my comfort zone and forces me to seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where I've never been before (or revisit special places I have been before).

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