The Flying Christmas Tree

Several years ago, at the suggestion of Seth and Julie, our family started a new Christmas tradition. Each year, one of us is to write a memorable family story to share. Seth wrote chapter one which recited the tale of a Mason jar filled with a very special gaseous gift given by Pete to Andy. The details are not PG rated but as the story was read by Seth to the family, tears of laughter rolled down our cheeks.

I have not received permission from Seth to post his story. As he now teaches English to high school students in Asheville, NC, he has a reputation to protect. However, I have rewritten chapter 2 of our Christmas Family Journal as an early Christmas gift to my family and friends. With great love and affection, I present,

The Flying Christmas Tree

Ordinarily, the Rowe household at Christmas was full of cheer, fun, gift giving, churchgoing, and Santa. However, there was a year when Santa was cranky.

Santa Can Be Cranky

Santa Can Be Cranky

At the time of this misadventure, four of our five children had been born. Nate, Andy, Pete, and Ginny were at an age when Santa’s presents under the tree were sleeplessly anticipated. Lauri was also often sleepless at Christmas time for reasons only mothers can fully appreciate.

No matter the season or circumstance, when Lauri was home alone with the kids, I was completely confident they would be safe and loved. And when Lauri and I were both home with the family, an energetic but safe order existed. When she was not there, the ever present possibility of chaos breaking into uncontrollable disaster became a near certainty.

Our first family home was on Hayhurst Avenue in Worthington. As our family grew, the house shrunk. Lauri and I agreed that more space to raise our family was essential. The remodeling doubled the size of the family room and kitchen and added a pantry to hold the food for our large clan. We also built a mud room with lockers and a shower. We convinced ourselves that the kids needed a downstairs shower when coming inside from a muddy or snowy outdoors adventure. As often happens, the mud room idea had more promise than benefit.

The potential for chaos when the kids were “in charge” of me most often turned into a harsh reality when their mom was at the grocery. I often wondered why her “milk runs” took so long, until I realized years later that Kroger represented Lauri’s only opportunity for peace and quiet and possible adult conversation.

On this December evening, supper had been completed and I was happily doing dishes in our brand new kitchen. Christmas carols played in the background. Lauri had a tired look of relief on her pretty face as she headed out the door of the mud room to “pick up some groceries”. “Hurry back, honey!” I encouraged her as a sense of dread drifted into my gut.

The kids were in charge! And they were excited!! The Christmas tree had been decorated and stood tall and proud on the brand new carpet of our remodeled family room.

As was the tradition of my parents, once the tree had been precariously placed in the stand, I had added pancake syrup to the Christmas tree holder. Without hesitation or doubt, I insisted that my family would put into practice my parents’ heart felt understanding that a freshly cut Christmas tree would absorb pancake syrup thereby replacing leaking pine sap.

Syrup Can be Sticky

Syrup Can be Sticky

The goal – keeping the tree fresh longer. I am still unclear where the pine sap went but I needed no scientific evidence to affirm the unassailable validity of the Rowe reality that syrup was better than water.

As Lauri headed out the door, I was in the kitchen finishing the last of the dishes. The kids were playing loudly and cheerfully in the family room. The sounds seemed to be coming from an area near our beautiful Christmas tree.

By that time, our kids had provided Lauri and I enough on-the-job-training for us to know that when the kids became deathly silent there was only one thing to do – WORRY!!!

I Am Not Here

I Am Not Here

Suddenly the silence was deafening. I yelled out from the kitchen “Kids where are you?”

No answer.

“Kids, I mean it where are you – what’s going on?”

No answer.

With great dread, I walked into the newly carpeted family room. Glancing to my right, I was shocked to see the 7 foot Christmas tree on its side. Ornaments were everywhere. The Christmas lights still twinkled as the maple syrup slowly dripped into a 2 foot circle of sticky mess on the brand new carpet.

Tree Down

Tree Down

I am not typically a man who loses his temper or yells. When upset, my actions demonstrate the degree of my anger. Saying nothing as my face began to feel white hot, I surveyed the room. No children. The culprits had escaped.

I slowly walked into the kitchen and opened the newly constructed French doors leading to the deck. Returning quickly to the family room, I called upon my adrenaline assisted strength and grabbed the stricken tree. As I lifted, light cords ripped out of the wall socket. With tree overhead and ornaments jingling, I briskly walked past the pantry and towards the open French doors. Upon arrival, I launched the Yule tide treasure onto the empty snow covered deck.

Take That

Take That

I firmly closed the doors and returned to the kitchen. The kids were silent and hidden. I sat alone, also silent. Until Lauri returned, that part of the evening was truly a Silent, Unholy Night.

Shortly, she entered through the back kitchen door with grocery bags under her arms. She anxiously asked: “How did things go?” She was wise enough to know that “things” did not always go well.

“Fine”, I replied with an edge.

She then walked into the family room. In a remarkably calm voice she asked, “What happened to the Christmas tree?”

“It is on the back deck”.

She walked to the back porch and observed the sad sight of a fallen tree. She said nothing. I mean what could a wife say to make that mess any better?

The next morning, nothing was said about the tree. The kids and I avoided direct eye contact. I went off to work as if nothing had happened. When I returned home that evening, the tree was standing tall and proud in the family room. The syrup stain had miraculously disappeared. Lauri had wrestled the tree from the back porch, redecorated it, and like a guardian angel replaced the tense air in our home with a spirit of the joyful expectancy of Christmas.

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!

As she has always has and continues to do, Lauri created the secure sense that her family would be ok.

Mimi Caring

Mimi Caring

Since that night, maple syrup has been replaced by water in our Christmas tree stand.

As often happens with memorable tales, the flying Christmas tree story added a chapter that spring. As Lauri began to prepare the garden around the deck for spring planting, she discovered several Christmas ornaments -some broken -some not- under the deck.

My children are now raising children of their own. In fact, this Christmas of 2014 will see 4 grandchildren gathering round our solidly standing tree. And so I offer them this parenting advice learned from the flying Christmas tree: Never wish your kids would be quiet when their joyful or not so joyful childish banter or screaming is driving you up the wall. For if silence greets you as a parent and it happens around Christmas, you may discover a cranky Santa in you!

Christmas Dad

Christmas Dad

Family, Friends, Fish and The Fourth

Good Morning

Good morning on this July 4th. On this day we reflect upon the great freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States. The simplest and best is the freedom to enjoy family and friends.

My family has been the greatest blessing in my life. Anyone who knows the Rowe family is aware of what a unique cast of characters we are! I am sure my loving wife Lauri and my wonderful children would tell you they have many interests beyond fishing. However, many of my fondest memories are of times spent together fishing! I love you all so much!

My Mom started fishing at a young age!

A Sunday catch Mom and Grandpa Hessey!

A Sunday catch Mom and Grandpa Hessey!

My Dad helped carry on the fishing fun.

Frank Rowe

Dad and I Dressed To Catch…Not Sure What

Lauri and I have fished together since our honeymoon.

Fishing On Our Honeymoon!

Fishing On Our Honeymoon!

Nate Hands Dirty (00043426@xC4F0B)

Nate Avoids Fish Slime

Andy and I primed and ready in the Keys!

Andy and I primed and ready in the Keys!

Ginny Rowe

Ginny at Indian Lake

Pete Rowe

Pete Catches The Dreaded Rock Fish!

Seth Rowe

Seth Loves Batman and the Cane Pole

 

I confess to having great adventures planned for my future fishing buddies!

Izzie and Oompah have started already!

Izzie and Oompah have started already!

Ezra Rowe

Seth and Ezra looking for fish

 

Hudson Rowe

Huddy Is Always Up For An Adventure

Fishing is an activity which provides a foundation of adventure, success, and failure upon which family and friends can build a lifetime of memories. This picture of Capt. Steve Huff and Lee Mitchell was taken this spring in the Everglades.

Lee and Steve salute a great day on the water!

Lee and Steve salute a great day on the water!

Their friendship is indicative of how time on the water with a fishing rod in hand can lead to a lifetime of memories and a phenomenal friendship. Lee first fished with Captain Huff as Steve’s career was beginning in the Florida Keys over 40 years ago. They have fished together for at least 500 days. Oh the stories they share!

As you reflect upon your freedom, remember that nurturing family and friends is free of charge. The investment necessary is your time. A phone call to friend and family today would be a great way to show your appreciation for your freedom to love your family and friends!

Have a great Fourth of July.

The photo tribute below is my way of saying thank you to all of my fishing friends for a lifetime of memories!

Ralph the golfer (00048013@xC4F0B)

Ralph Walls Could Play Golf

Frank Catchpole - What a name for an angler. We miss you Frank!

Frank Catchpole – What a name for an angler. We miss you Frank!

Chuck Sheley You are one of the best guys I know! You also are a great dresser!

Chuck Sheley
You are one of the best guys I know! You also are a great dresser!

Friends getting ready to fish!

Friends getting ready to fish!

My first fishing friend- Grandpa Hessey

My first fishing friend- Grandpa Hessey

Bob Hamilton and I double on Permit

Bob Hamilton and I double on Permit

Junior, let's go fishing!

Junior, let’s go fishing!

Pedro! That wahoo hides the fact that you forgot your shirt!

Pedro! That wahoo hides the fact that you forgot your shirt!

Larry LaFleur and Guide Dustin Huff with a gorgeous permit

Larry LaFleur and Guide Dustin Huff with a gorgeous permit

Dane McCarthy and I ready to bonefish in Roatan

Dane McCarthy and I ready to bonefish in Roatan

Doc Wight,  I will catch you with a fishing rod in hand sometime in this lifetime

Doc Wight, I will catch you with a fishing rod in hand sometime in this lifetime

Tom Blake

Tom Blake Still Wet After Lure Retrieval

 

Of course, celebrating a great day on the water is essential!

Dinner at Key Colony Inn with Frank Catchpole, Steve Huff, Ron Souder, Lee Mitchell, Sherry Walls, Rich Mealy, and Ralph Walls!

Dinner at Key Colony Inn with Frank Catchpole, Steve Huff, Ron Souder, Lee Mitchell, Sherry Walls, Rich Mealy, and Ralph Walls!

 

Agitation Factor

Sunset Off Seven Mile Bridge

Sunset Off Seven Mile Bridge

This post is a sequel to “Dustin Huff Swims Seven Mile Bridge”. That adventure occurred on the morning of June 18, 1995. As all anglers know, a great catch early in the day does not quench an anglers’ thirst for another shot at a great fish. So the miracle permit caught after Dustin went swimming did not cause us to head for the dock. After Dustin dried off and released the permit unharmed, we ate lunch.

Lunch on a flats skiff is more like an eating contest than a meal. Experience has taught me that sought after fish just love swimming right up to the boat when it is tied off to the push pole, the rods are racked, and the anglers are eating. It is as if the fish know we are not prepared. Our solution is wolfing down the sandwiches and hopping back on the bow of the boat locked and loaded with rod in hand ready for the next shot at a bonefish or permit.

As we ate, Dustin pointed to the water just off the edge of Boot Key as the land curved into a point marking the beginning of the channel ocean side of Seven Mile Bridge. “See that strip of white sand off the point?” Dustin pointed out a football field shaped area of brilliant white sand with lush turtle grass forming the sidelines. “Baby tarpon lay up on that bank on an incoming tide which is just starting now. I’m going to tie on shock leaders and we’ll see if we can jump a baby tarpon.” Dustin whipped out some 80 lb test line, tied the shock leaders on both our lines, and baited the hooks with fresh shrimp. He jumped up on the poling platform after dislodging the tied off push pole from the mucky bottom of the flat. The rods he rigged for the baby tarpon were the seven foot spinning rods we had been using earlier in the day for permit. Our reels were spooled with 10 lb. test Ande clear monofilament.

Tarpon Daisy Chain Off Seven Mile Bridge

Tarpon Daisy Chain Off Seven Mile Bridge

Dustin spun the boat into the current and poled with the noontime sun directly overhead. Visibility was terrific. As we slowly moved towards the leading edge of the sandy bank, a couple of green missile shaped streaks were swimming slowly towards us. “Andy, cast as soon as you think you can reach the first fish. Drop the shrimp ten feet in front of the cruiser and let it sink.” Andy can really cast and did as instructed. The leading green shadow surged toward the sinking bait, opened its large maw and the shrimp simply disappeared. “Hit em, hit em, hit em!” Dustin screamed. Andy reeled down until he felt the weight of a hooked fish and did a terrific job setting the hook. We were in business. One problem. The tarpon was no baby and Andy was using 10 lb test line. The drag screamed as the fish made its first spirited run away from the skiff. Zzzzzzzzz. There is no better sound. Suddenly the water began to bulge in front of the huge tarpon as it launched into its first and only jump. Andy bowed to the fish and somehow the rig held. The fish was hooked!

Tarpon anglers can attest that each fight of a hooked tarpon is unique. Just as we humans have distinct personalities, so do tarpon. This fish acted as if it was a cranky middle child with a chip on its shoulder. After the first jump, this nasty tempered tarpon headed for the bottom and stayed there. The tarpon had an apparent first destination of the Gulf Stream which runs North off the Florida coast. The Gulf Stream was first reported by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513 when he discovered Florida. In the area where we were fishing, the stream is known as the Florida Current. The speed of the Gulf Stream varies. In areas where it happens be narrower it is faster than in wider areas. The speed is up to 2 meters per second. Interestingly, the Gulf Stream meanders. It is like a river which has no banks. It can be experienced as close to a quarter-mile from the Florida coast in spots. Our tarpon must have sensed this because the fish swim directly towards the fast current offshore.

Dustin fired up the boat as the tarpon began to tow the boat towards the ocean and into a depth of water where the push pole could not touch bottom. He also wanted to head off the fish before the bulldogging fish stripped Andy of the 300 yards of mono spooled on his Stradic 4000 reel. The fish cooperated and wheeled back towards shore.

For years I had heard my buddy, Mitchie tell stories of tarpon fights. “Never let the fish rest. Better to lose him early than late. Their rasp like mouth will eventually wear through even an 100 lb leader.” Unfortunately, Andy knew none of this as this was his first tarpon. After about twenty minutes, the fish began to tow the boat. The fish had settled down and was swimming, the tide was slack, the drag was not slipping and Andy could not gain on the fish. Still the skiff moved forward. Dustin coached, ” Reel down to the fish and then lift, reel down lift, reel down lift.” We edged close enough to see the fish in the water. “How big?”, I whispered as I stood on the stern next to Dustin who had jumped down from the poling platform when he fired up the engine. He had not begun to pole again as he hoped Andy could keep just enough pressure on the tarpon so the drag would not slip resulting in the tarpon’s effort in towing the boat wearing the fish out. “Well over 100 lbs., so much for baby tarpon.” Dustin responded.

Andy put very little pressure on the fish as he was inexperienced and I am sure could not imagine how much the 10 lb. mono would stretch if he tightened down the drag and pulled hard on the face of the giant. “We have no chance unless you put more pressure on the fish, Andy,” Dustin shouted. “Let me get the cooler up on the bow and you can sit down and use your hips to fight him.” After a few seconds, the cooler was on the bow and Andy settled down. He said nothing. We were two hours into the fight at that point. The fish swam and towed and Andy held on while we hoped for a miracle. With each passing minute, Andy’s shoulders slumped a little bit more as the fish fought on relentlessly. “The agitation factor is setting in,” whispered Dustin. For the tarpon, it was a life or death struggle. For Andy, it was a first time adventure with a very steep learning curve.

About a mile away from the hookup point, Andy’s fish was joined by another tarpon which began swimming beside the hooked fish. It was as if the confused or perhaps mildly amused tarpon had reached out for reinforcements. We had just concluded the fourth hour of the fight. During the first couple of hours I tried to offer the occasional light hearted remark to break the tension. “When am I going to get to fish, Andy?” No reply. “Great job, Andy!” No reply. “Hang in there, Andy!” No reply.

Slowly the fish pulled the skiff towards Marathon. Just as the shoreline begins to turn in towards Highway 1 and the High School flat, there is a small island about a quarter of a mile off the tip of Boot Key. The island contained a gorgeous home with sunrise views in the morning and sunset vistas in the evening. Just off shore were a couple of boats were moored. As we approached the island, we noticed several small children happily swimming. The tarpon swam straight towards the splashing children. We followed. When the fish was twenty feet from the kids and their cheerful spirited commotion, the tarpon spooked from the water vibrations and bolted in the opposite direction. The companion free swimming tarpon spooked a moment later and as it spun sideways in a mirror image move of the other fish, its tail hit the taut line and the hooked tarpon was free. Over! The struggle was over.

Andy was in a state of shock. As each hour passed, I had begun to think our chances of catching the giant improved. Dustin knew better. And now, Andy and I knew better.
Andy spun on the cooler and faced us. He was drenched in sweat and I sensed a hint of exhausted relief on his face. This struggle with a great strong fish was like life’s moments of uncertainty where we are trapped in the quick sand of the unknown unable to move forward. With resolution of the uncertainty, we can begin to live again. Once the giant tarpon was free, Andy could absorb the lessons of the fight preparing him to handle the next tarpon he encountered. An intense fish fight such as Andy’s also offers all of us a clear demonstration of how hard a wild creature will fight for life. With lessons learned, the next morning Dustin guided Andy to his first tarpon.

June 19, 1995 Andy Rowe's First Tarpon

June 19, 1995 Andy Rowe’s First Tarpon

Although Andy appears elated in the photo, I am confident that the memories of fighting a 100 plus lb tarpon on a bonefish rod and 10 lb test line are more vivid than the fish caught.

Andy's Tarpon Released

Andy’s Tarpon Released

Top Ten Reasons To Take Your Family Fishing

Fishing Gave A Father Like Me Something To Give Baby Nate To Do Inside When Mom Is At The Grocery

Fishing Gives A Kid Something To Do Inside When Mom Is At The Grocery

Provides Early Childhood Exposure To The Outdoors

Provides Early Childhood Exposure To The Outdoors

You Can Ask The Kids To Stand Still And They  Will If One Of Them Is Showing Off  A Fish And The Others Want To Share The Limelight

You Can Ask The Kids To Stand Still And They Will If One Of Them Is Showing Off A Fish And The Others Want To Share The Limelight

Your Wife Always Outfishes  You Thereby Introducing You To The Concept Of Humility

Your Wife Always Outfishes You Thereby Introducing You To The Concept Of Humility

Your Dad Can Make A Fashion Statement

Your Dad Can Make A Fashion Statement

They Learn To Ignore A Little Rain In Their Life

They Learn To Ignore A Little Rain In Their Life

And Learn That When They Are Able To Ignore A Little Rain In Their Life The Rewards Can Be Great

And Learn That When They Are Able To Ignore A Little Rain In Their Life The Rewards Can Be Great

They Eventually Learn To Tie On Their Own Lures

They Eventually Learn To Tie On Their Own Lures

Your Kid Gets To Show Off The Sweatshirt You Will Not Let Him Wear Anywhere Else

Your Kid Gets To Show Off The Sweatshirt You Will Not Let Him Wear Anywhere Else

Fishing Gives A Guy Something To Think About Other Than You Know What On His Honeymoon

Fishing Gives A Guy Something To Think About Other Than You Know What On His Honeymoon

Dustin Huff Swims The Seven Mile Bridge

One of the Rowe family traditions was to let our children take a trip with a parent in celebration of their graduation from high school. Our son, Andy, had listened to me speak of fishing the Florida Keys for bonefish, permit and tarpon for many years. I am sure that all my children could sense their Father’s excited anticipation as the first Monday in November rolled around each year. I have been blessed to fish in Florida for a week each year since 1988 with a group of close friends and guides who became close friends as we shared caught fish, lost fish, stories, adventures, misadventures, and icy cold adult beverages.

Of course, I was thrilled when Andy decided that a trip to the Keys would be his graduation adventure. On our first morning, our guide, Dustin Huff, launched the bonefish skiff from the ramp of the Marathon Yacht Club. He raced to a bridge abutment on the old portion of the Seven Mile Bridge which runs from Knight’s Key (part of the city of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Among the longest bridges in existence when it was built, it is one of the many bridges on US 1 in the Keys where the road is called the Overseas Highway.

There are two bridges in this location. The older bridge was constructed from 1909 to 1912 under the direction of Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Railways Key West Extension, also known as the Overseas Railroad. After the railroad sustained considerable damage due to the effects of the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the line was sold to the United States Federal Government, which subsequently refurbished Seven Mile Bridge for automobile use. Dismantled trackage was recycled, painted white, and used as guard rails.

The current road bridge was constructed from 1978 to 1982. The vast majority of the original bridge still exists, used as fishing piers and access to Pigeon Key but the original swing span over the Moser Channel has been removed. The old bridge is an idyllic place for walkers to exercise and gaze at the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. If you ever get a chance to walk Seven Mile Bridge at sunset take it. You will be awestruck.

Sunset Seven Mile Bridge

We were blessed that morning with gorgeous weather. The sun was bright, the sky was a crushing blue, visibility on the flats was excellent. Dustin shut down the skiff near a bridge abutment on the old portion of the bridge. We were using 7 foot spinning rods and Shimano Stradic 4000 reels loaded with 10 pound test Ande monofilament. Dollar sized blue crabs were the bait. Dustin staked the boat off about 80 feet from the bridge abutment and instructed Andy and I to stand on the bow. Andy was to cast to the right and I to the left. We both loaded the rods and launched the crabs. As the baits landed we left the bails of our spinning reels open permitting the drift of the racing current to take the crabs towards opposite sides of the bridge abutment. Two permit were waiting. Each of us got strikes and set the hooks. Chaos erupted.

Andy’s fish went to the Gulf and my fish went to the Atlantic. Dustin screamed at me to back off my drag. “Rowe, you’ve caught permit before! Let’s get Andy’s fish and then we’ll see if yours is still on.” So here was Andy, taking his first cast at any saltwater fish and hooking up with the determined and wily permit. He fought the fish very well. Dustin, as always, gave great instructions. The permit made several bulldog like runs. After spending substantial energy, the fish began to circle the boat. Since the skiff was staked off, Andy began to walk along the gunnel, across the stern and back up the other gunnel to the bow. The fish continued to circle pulling as if it was a sidways frisbee straining into the current. Dustin was directing traffic from the poling platform. Each time Andy passed around the stern, he had to pass the tip of the spinning rod underneath Dustin’s legs and out the other side. On the third trip around, the taut monofilament brushed the screwhead which fixed the poling platform to the brace. “BING” It was over.

The disappointment settled on Andy’s face, but Dustin and I still had a permit out there somewhere free swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Dustin got down off the platform, stored the push pole, and fired up the engine. I jumped up on the bow of the boat and tightened down my drag slightly, just enough to be able to slowly gather line as Dustin guided the bonefish skiff in the angle made by my line entering the water. We safely passed close to the old bridge abutment and slowly edgeed across the 300 to 400 yards between the old and new bridges. As we approached the new bridge, it became apparent that our permit, as most do when hooked, had swum at the nearest obstacle in the water. In this fight, our fish had somehow found its way through the H frame bridge abutment supporting the new portion of the Seven Mile Bridge deck. Unfortunately, the skiff would not fit through the uprights of the H.

Dustin slowed the skiff and seemed to be thinking. Silence hung over the boat. He said after a moment, “Rowe, you mind if I touch your rod?” The G. Loomis rod was brand-new. The reel was brand-new. I asked, “Why, what are you going to do?” Dustin’s question was directed to the notion that if a guide assists an angler in any way by touching the rod or reel while a fish is being fought, the fish could not qualify if it happened to be a world record. I wasn’t worried about that. Although a very lucky man, I am not that lucky. Dustin replied, “I’m going to tie your rod and reel to a life jacket, throw all of it overboard and drift it through the other side of the H.” I looked at the water. The tide was ripping from the Gulf to the Atlantic and the current was streaking right through the opening of the H. “Sure, why not?”

Overboard went my rod, reel and the life jacket. The splash left a sinking feeling in my gut. I was out of touch with the fish and my gear. Somehow, the odd misshapen raft drifted just as Dustin predicted under the uprights and out the other side. We picked the floating equipment off the surface of the water and unstrapped the life jacket. Relief shook my wet hands as I grasped the recovered rod and reel.

At this point, no one was certain we had a fish on the the hook. I had never gotten tight on the still unseen permit. But we had been able to follow the line from the old bridge to the new bridge and through the H frame. Unfortunately, as the fish swam through the H, the line had snagged somewhere below the waterline. It was impossible to see where.

“Rowe, can you handle the boat?” “Why, what are you going to do,” I asked. Dustin shouted,”I’m going to dive in, get the line in my hands and follow it down till I find where it is snagged! If I can free it, we’re gonna catch this fish!” I have never owned a boat but regardless of my inexperience, I said, “Of course I can handle the boat!”

I took the steering wheel and put my hand on the throttle as Dustin dove off the bow. By now, the tide was absolutely ripping through the bridge abutment. Nonetheless, Dustin found the line in the water, followed it hand over hand and then suddenly extended his arms towards the bottom and dove out of sight. Moments later he came up with the line in hand. He let go as the ocean bound current swept the line away from more trouble. He quickly swam to the skiff, gripped the bow edge rail with both hands and literally launched himself on board.

Dustin Huff Swims Seven Mile

Andy had been holding my rod and reel as I was controlling the boat and Dustin swam. Andy handed me the rod and reel. Once again I tightened the drag. This time there were no obstructions and soon I could feel the pulsing shake of the no doubt utterly confused permit at the end of the line. As the fish felt the pressure, he streaked off suddenly recalling the original hookset some thirty minutes earlier. Five uneventful minutes later, we had a 20 pound permit.

Miracle Seven Mile Bridge  Permit

Miracle Seven Mile Bridge Permit

I suppose there may be other guides who would jump overboard to provide his angler with an opportunity of having a fish story to tell for the rest of his life. If so I hope you are fortunate enough to fish with such a guide. I have enjoyed such a privilege. Thanks, Dustin!