They just kept coming. Wave after wave. If a school spooked, or if a few fish kicked off and scattered, it was hardly concerning. Another pod was on its way, cruising and tailing through the shallows.
It was the bonefish day to beat all bonefish days. It was gluttony amidst a trip that was all about gluttony.
Case in point: after gorging on tortas and tostadas at the makeshift restaurant across the dusty little sidestreet from the modest house we’d rented for the week, the server, a teenage boy likely appointed by his mom to serve her cooking to the two gringos enjoying it, wandered over with the bill.
“Ciquenta,” he said. Fifty pesos. Maybe three bucks. I was Thanksgiving-full due to the graces of a Mayan family that crafted this meal just steps away from our shaded patio that collected the sea breeze just right, and all I was out was three dollars. I doubled it. Still a bargain. And the kid smiled a toothy grin. He was happy.
After the feast, we sat on the patio as the moon rose over the Caribbean and watched as thick, curvy Mayan women cruised by on scooters, usually two, sometimes three to a ride. Then they’d smile and light up the evening.
Not a raindrop in eight days. AC in the bedroom. A freezer. Ice. Rum. Beer so cold it hurt my teeth. Coke with real sugar. More tortas. More tostadas.
More, please. More.
And then there was this day, when it seemed every bonefish in Chetumal Bay was lined up for the Gotcha buffet. Schools in the dozens, they just kept coming. Occasionally, a miscast fly would scatter the fish like flock-shot quail, but they’d regroup and they’d come again, their own gluttonous appetite for shallow-water shrimp and crabs insatiable.
And we caught them. We caught so many of them. At the end of the day, as I stood there just steps from the mangroves and looked behind me at the miles we’d waded from where we started, our guide, Nato, sported a smile.
He pulled the Buff from his brown face and looked up at me—like most Mayans, he barely topped five feet.
“There are days,” he said in his accented English, “when there are no bonefish here.”
The sun was dipping lower over the bay, but there were still more fish coming our way. I counted three schools nosing over blonde sand moving deliberately toward us.
“Bullshit,” I said. “I don’t believe you.”
“It’s true,” he said. “This can be like a desert.”
At that moment, I couldn’t imagine it. If more than five minutes elapsed between the departure of one school and the arrival of the next, I began to wonder what was wrong. I was gorging on bonefish.
Of course, to truly appreciate the second deadly sin, there must be times of famine. I’ve experienced bonefish famine. It sucks. But this … this was … unbelievable. It was gluttony, and I was the fat guy at the casino smorgasbord, loading up on shrimp and crab legs and prime rib.
If my fishing this day had truly been about food, my hands would have been medievally greasy, and Nato would have had to roll my ass back into the panga.
Back to town. Back to our little shaded patio, and cold Havana Club over ice. More curvy girls drove by. More happy grins. The full moon crested the palms over the sea. The breeze was perfect.
It was time. I grabbed a 100 pesos and we walked across the street.
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