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In today’s world, anglers are inundated with fishing propaganda. Big fish photos suggest profound success on nearly every cast. Glossy brochures and slick websites raise expectations and promise results.
 But it is all just fishing and fishing destinations are what they are. Most destinations, despite claims to the contrary, are somewhat fickle and unpredictable... and therefore intriguing. Fishing is a skill sport and fish don’t always conform to business projections or marketing plans or even sloppy casts. Fishing is not a product. It cannot be quantified nor marketed like a anti-itch cream. There are and should not be any "money back if not satisfied" guarantees. 
Fishing is after all, a sport! Luckily, most anglers understand this and they understand that having the outcome unknown is the essence of any adventure... and the life blood of any sport. Ultimately, anglers do not remember numbers or size... they remember great moments, classic moments and conveniently, forget the bad. 
At the end of our fishing careers, we all hope to have collected enough of these wonderful moments to make the journey worthwhile. What we all chase is that perfect moment... that perfect fish.


It is very still this morning with only carpet-sized windscuffs sullying the flat here and there.  The air is humid from last night’s rain, but not yet sticky. At this early hour, my shirt is still dry enough to clean a smudge off my sunglasses.  In the midst of all this calm, the fish are nervous and wary and able to detect the slightest change. 
As I wade to the big mangrove bush that marks the beginning of my creek’s “trophy” flats, I pick up a few fish. At the bush, three small bays fan out like the lobes of a cloverleaf.  It’s here that I hope to find the perfect bonefish.  All anglers play games... biggest, most, but since this is my game, I get to set the rules. I want perfection.


By my criteria, the perfect bonefish must be big... at least 7 lbs. Ten lbs. would be better!  It must be tailing and it must be found in impossibly shallow water, either pushing the limits of a newly rising tide or tempting fate by foraging on the last of a falling tide. My perfect fish must be found on a beautiful flat, but since bonefish are rarely seen in ugly areas, this is usually not a hard criteria to fill.  
Now here’s where I enter the equation. After I find this perfect fish, I must stalk him and deliver a quiet, precise cast. A long cast into the wind with only a few false casts would be great. My fish would eat my fly (which I tied, of course), fight hard, and most importantly, he must be caught. 
Since the tide is falling this morning, my fish will have to be a gambler at heart. He will be betting he can find a meal of crab or shrimp before the tide abandons him to die on this fine white sand. The fish I caught on the outside of the big mangrove bush were great fun.  They confidently picked up my bunny gotchas. They ripped out of the shallows blowing up other bonefish that were hidden from my prying eyes beneath the glassy smooth surface of the flat.  But these fish that I caught weren’t perfect… My perfect fish would be found up ahead, further inland in one of the little bays beyond the bush. 
As I reach the bright green man-o-war  bush with its muted red roots, needle fish erupt. They flee across the water like tossed flat stones.  Some nervous water catches my peripheral vision, but the wake is too small and jittery to be bonefish – probably just a school of mullet or snapper. I search one bay, then the next, then the last… nothing.  Maybe the tide’s too low and I’m too late.  Perhaps my perfect fish will just have to wait and I’ll have to be content with stalking the "less than perfect" bones in the calf-deep water on the outside of the bush.


Suddenly, almost imperceptibly, just as I am turning to leave, I see a glint at the far end of the bay off to my left.  The glint becomes a tail and the tail becomes a back… a big back!  This big bone is all the way at the end of the bay where it boldly can be seen as it challenges the falling tide.  I could wait here in this deeper water by the bush for him to come out.  He will have to come out soon… very soon!  But I am not a patient man. I am not wired to wait and if I stay here in deeper water, he will not be the perfect fish by the time he reaches me.  He will still be big and wary and smart, but he won’t be tailing in impossibly shallow water. 
So I began my stalk by climbing up and over a sandy hummock.  An unseen crusty limestone vein snaps under my weight and makes me wince at the sound.  I instinctively seek the smaller channels between the hummocks to lower my profile. These channels get softer as I get deeper into the bay.  Once, I almost lose my balance.  A fall or splashy mistake and I’ll be done. 
As my fish inspects every nook and cranny at the most shallow end of the bay, his dark green back is now out of the water.  Suddenly, my fish turns. As if heeding the silent call of the falling tide, he begins to slowly, yet methodically,  tail out of the bay. His broad triangular snout is pointed directly at me. 
I throw my fly well ahead of him knowing he must swim over it… and he does.  I strip once and full of confidence, he pounces.  I strip strike and he explodes.  He careens into a hummock and pauses to nose into the sand in an effort to dislodge this stinging shrimp.  He blows up again and I hold on to the line a touch too long. In a nanosecond he’s gone.  My fault... my reactions were too slow. I’m left with mouth agape and without that delicious tension at the end of my rod.  My perfect fish races past me. He is no more than five feet away.  His big black eye watches me until he disappears into the dark reflection cast by  the big bush. I’m left perched atop both a sandy hummock and a proverbial goose egg. I feel like my pocket was just picked.  



In earlier days, I would have been peeing in my pants angry and hurling insults at myself, but now I chuckle (somewhat ingenuously, I admit), tie on a new fly and climb out of the bay to wade the shoreline back to where I last saw my friends.  With any luck, I’ll get another shot tomorrow.