Farewell again – for good this time…?

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As I sit here under the Tiki hut at 11:30 at night watching the still water and listening to the distant rumble of thunder, I am filled with emotions.  Is this really it?  Will we be back again?  I have feared each of the last couple years would be the last but, each time, the kids have honestly asked to return.  This year, as we embarked on the trip – two days later than planned so that Michael could see his girlfriend through a surgery – I actually had a bit of trepidation, fearing that Michael wouldn’t be fully invested in what we do here and, instead, wish he were back home.

While he did keep in pretty much constant contact via text, my fears were largely unfounded as it was business as usual for us down here.  Just the three of us together 24 hours a day for two weeks doing things we really love to do together.  Yes, I love to fish but that togetherness is what this trip is really all about for me.  It is total immersion in being with each other and we are together here like we are no other place we’ve been.

It is different now because the kids have grown so much.  There is definitely a part of me that yearns for the time when Allison was 8 or 9 and wanted to do nothing but go to the snapper hole and catch as many fish as possible, never wanting to leave this place.  The time when Michael would put her to sleep by telling ad-lib stories into the night after I put them to bed – in the same small bedroom that they are still sharing now at nearly 17 and 13 because they didn’t want to go to a different house – it just wouldn’t be the same.

The time when Michael would beg to drive the boat and feel so huge and empowered when I let him.  When chasing iguanas around this yard and pretending to snorkel in the hot tub (which the kids turned off to make a tolerable temperature) would pass a lazy afternoon at the house.

Yes, a part of me yearns for that to have never ended and it is different now – but it is still wonderful and I cherish this and every other moment we have here for however long that lasts.

I’m not ashamed to say there are tears in my eyes as I write this.  That is because there is a sense of loss associated with this trip coming to an end but, there can only be that sense because of so much that has been gained over the past several years in this place.

I will always cherish these times we’ve had here and I am confident the kids will too.  I think these trips have helped to form the incredible bond I feel with both of them.  My biggest fear five years ago as my marriage came to an end was the impact that would have on my relationship with my kids.  I started this trip with them as a means to spend intense quality time with them in a place I knew we all enjoyed in order to keep my failure as a husband from becoming a failure as a father. 

Of course, these two weeks of the year cannot define my role as a father – that must be something built every day and in normal life.  But, I am convinced these two weeks each year have had a defining impact on our relationships with one another and that they have helped to provide a foundation upon which those relationships have developed.

Well, now it is after midnight and I must go to bed so we can get up and start our drive north tomorrow.   So, I’ll stop my blubbering and leave you with some images from across the years in this magical place.

One final note to the Powells – the owners of this house we have come to know as our summer respite – THANK YOU for providing the home base for some of the most cherished moments of my life.

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Mahi!

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We got into a giant school of Dolphin fish (Mahi-Mahi) yesterday afternoon and caught them until we thought our arms would fall off.

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They weren’t huge but these fish are very aggressive and when you get into a school of them like this they can be a real blast on light tackle.  They hit hard, run fast and are aerial acrobats – sometimes jumping seven or eight times on their initial run.  As you can see, they get some pretty good air too.

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Most of them were just under legal keeper size but a few were larger and we did keep one and had him for dinner.  In addition to being fun to catch, they are one of the best eating fish as well.  They are also very colorful, especially when in the water.  They light up like neon blue, turquoise, green and yellow lanterns streaking through the clear water.

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Before hitting the Dolphin school, we went to the reef for a snorkel and then did the Hungry Tarpon one more time for lunch.  We only have one more day here and then it is farewell again.

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Just another few days in paradise

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The past few days we’ve been taking it easy, catching more fish and even doing some sight-seeing (well, sights we’re pretty familiar with).

We’ve caught some more eating sized snapper and will add to those and have another fish dinner at some point.  The wind has been a bit too much for us to get out on the ocean and go after dolphin again or go to the reef for snorkeling but we’ve had fun with some barracudas.

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On one of the windier days, we took a trip down to Key West to eat at the original Margaritaville and also visit the Ripley’s “Believe it or not” museum.  This is the first one that Michael ever went through so it is a bit of a repeat tradition.

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We’ve done more tarpon fishing and had a few near misses but the tides are not moving as well with the current moon phase so the action is not really very good.  Allison did find some friendly tarpon to feed off the back of the boat though while we were filling up with gas.

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And we have finished out one more day in paradise at my favorite spot – Lorelei on the beach.  Our time here is winding down with just a few more days left.  Always with mixed feelings for me because I cherish this time with the kids so much but I also know things move on in life.  I am satisfied though that these past several years have built memories for both the kids and I that we will take with us forever.

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Celebration Weekend

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Saturday was Allison’s 13th birthday so we had a custom-designed day by her.

The first item was to try and catch dinner which means either Snapper or Dolphin (mahi).  Since the wind was pretty calm, we decided to give the ocean a try for the Dolphin.

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We caught lots of little Amberjack and hit one school of small Dolphin but nothing big enough to eat so we had to shift to plan “B” but first, it was lunch at one of our favorite spots we can drive to in the boat – Lazy Dayz.

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After lunch, we ran inshore to one of our sure-fire Snapper spots and got at least a few eating sized fish.  With that accomplished, we headed off to part 3 of the day Allison planned – beaching up the boat in an area where a lot of people raft up and hang out in the shallow water.  They bring chairs, umbrellas, coolers etc.  We even saw a huge inflatable cabana attached to one boat.

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After a couple hours of play in the water, we headed home where we finished off the day with fresh cooked fish and a Reese’s ice cream cake (yum).

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Sunday was Father’s day so I got to design that day.  We started off by chasing sharks on the flats.  This is actually some of the most fun fishing we do out here as you sight fish for them in very shallow water and have to entice them to take your bait.

We caught several before heading off to another lunch place we can get to on the boat – The Islamorada Fish Company.

The day was capped of by another attempt to hook Michael up to a tarpon and the action was very good.  We jumped off two and had another one grab and spit the bait but, alas, still no Silver Kings to the boat.

We’re not giving up though…

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Backcountry Slam

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On our second day we did something different.  We hired a backcountry guide to take us to the far inshore waters to try and catch a fish we’ve never caught – Snook.  It was slow getting started but our guide finally hit the mark and not only found us some of the target species but I also completed what is known as the Backcountry Slam – catching a Snook, Redfish and Speckled Trout all in the same day.

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So, not only did we learn a few new tricks and spots for fishing down here, I accomplished a kind of fishing milestone along with catching my first Snook.

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The next report will be on Allison’s custom designed 13th Birthday.  Until then, happy sunsets.

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Wow…

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What a first day.  We got here yesterday afternoon, un-packed and got re-familiarized with all the “stuff” at the house – then headed out for a sunset dinner at Lorelei.  Hard to describe how great that felt.  Being here again with my kids and watching them fall back into the “groove” of this place.

Today the neighbor at the house next door came over to say “hi” while we were cleaning off the boat from fishing in the morning and she said “you guys are here early this year”.  That was kinda neat that even the next door neighbor remembers us.  We’ve rented this same house for six years running now and what she said next really blew me away.  She said “its been really neat watching your kids grow up.”  Yeah, I know what you mean…

 

Then today, wow, we really started out with a bang.  First we went to our “snapper hole” where we found the fish and proceeded to catch more than we could count.  Well, actually, Michael and I caught more than we cared to count.  Allison, who brought a little notebook with her, has decided she is going to log every fish she catches each day so she did count.  She got 25 snapper, six grunts, six pinfish… I dunno, now I’ve lost count but she has them documented in the notebook.  She caught a lot of fish.

Since we’re hear earlier this year we actually get a chance to catch the tail end of tarpon season and boy did we.  We decided to give it a try this evening even though the tide wasn’t exactly right and it worked out.  Michael hooked into his first ever tarpon and it was, honestly, one of the largest I’ve ever been a part of hooking up.  I’ve seen a lot of them over the past twenty years here and this was an absolute MONSTER.

 

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He fought it for two and a half hours through the sunset and into the night but, in the end, it was just too big for our tackle (20lb test boat rods).  We cranked down the drag as much as we could but we just couldn’t stop the fish even after that long of a fight and he broke off right at the boat.  I was heartbroken at the time for Michael but, now that a bit of time has passed (a couple hours) we all actually feel really good about it.  I think Michael did a fantastic job working the fish and there was just nothing else we could have done.   If we get another shot at one of these beauties, we’ll both be happy if it is only about an 80lber Smile.

All in all, an extremely successful first day here in paradise.

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Prom Night 2015

Michael and Kayla on their way to Jr./Sr. Prom

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Dog days

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The rain quit on the third day and the calm conditions returned.  In fact – really calm conditions.  It is hot but I’ll take this over the wind keeping us from being able to go anyplace.

We’ve been back  on the ocean and in the bay, caught a bunch more fish and staked out on some sand flats and just played in the water.  Plus we’ve visited all our usual haunts on land including a return trip to Lorelei.

Only a couple more days left and we’re going to try and soak the most out of them.

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Landlocked

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Well, day 2 of being stuck on land due to massive thunderstorms moving through constantly.  We actually got run off the water on Saturday by a thunderstorm and haven’t been able to get back out yet.  Looks like today is a wash out as well.  I can’t recall us experiencing an extended period of rain like this before.  We’ve had wind problems but not usually this much rain.

The good news is the weather is supposed to clear tonight and be pretty good for the next few days.  Maybe we’ll drive through the rain down to Key West just for something to do…

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We’re Back….

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Arrived in Islamorada Tuesday afternoon got settled and made a bee line for my favorite dinner/sunset spot at Lorelei.

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Since then we have spent three great days fishing.  The wind has been down allowing us to go just about anywhere from the back bay all the way out to 400’ deep water in the ocean.  We’ve caught snapper, barracuda, jacks, sharks, dolphin (mahi), and bonita until we were just tired of catching them.

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We’ve also been to the reef for a snorkel and spotted another sawfish that we reported to the sawfish tracking folks again.   So far, so good…

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