A train of loose cabooses

But for the vegetation, you’d swear you were in the Bahamas
beaver island fly fishing
Photo: Mike Sepelak

We drift quietly to the lee side, set the anchors, and slip over the aluminum gunnels into the cool turquoise water. Crystal clear. Rocky bottom. Surface slick as glass. Smallie haunts. But being a day short of the smallmouth season opener, we wade instead to shore and dive into the dense, hardy cover that keeps this thin spit of island from blowing away in the Lake Michigan winds.

But for the vegetation, you’d swear you were in the Bahamas. Emerald-edged coastlines fall to Indigo blue depths. Water so clear you could read the mint date off a dime at six feet. But the spray isn’t salty and the sun shines until ten and it’s Oberon, not Kalik, that waits at the takeout. South Andros, Beaver Island. Two sides of the dime, heads and tails, both shiny and bright.

We bushwhack over the spit, trading glances between our rod tips and our feet, avoiding tangles in the scrub with the former and snakes with the latter. Steve hates Mr. No Shoulders, but we see only the occasional garter or northern so there’s no worries there, though Steve might disagree. Cam leads the way, pushing through the brush, the whisper of slick waders passing through undergrowth adds hushed compliment to the rising wind. Another Bahamian anomaly, waders. That and the snakes.

Along the windward north shore they flow, dark shadows that slide east to west along the edge, following contours that we can’t comprehend. Thermals. Geology. Perhaps the pheromones of preceding passages. Ten feet from shore, then sixty and back, in long graceful arcs, seeming random until you realize that each single, each pair, each pod of three that pass, follow the same line, as if on rails. A train of loose cabooses, they’re that big.

beaver island fly fishing
Photo: Mike Sepelak

We pick our spots, our stations, where the invisible tracks bring the carp close enough to reach in this facefull of breeze, tucking in tight to shoreline weeds to break up our profile, finding seams in the brambles through which to thread our backcasts. Following contours of our own.

But today the fish aren’t interested and ignore our invitations to derail, spurning faux crayfish and gobies and other enticements, even on the occasional proper presentation. They just ride along on their tracks as we curse them and the wind and our casting inadequacies.

But we don’t really mean it. Or maybe we do. Either way, we just wait for the next string of cabooses and then we try again.