This is a true and unvarnished tale of Jim Schuler’s quest for a photo of himself holding a large saltwater game fish. The need for this picture was the direct result of proving to his biking group that his journey to Florida had a purpose beyond beach time, beer, and general gluttony. Jim was on a sportsman’s pilgrimage to find the elusive Snook that cruise the Florida beaches to spawn in the spring and summer.
Jim figured that the photo was easily within his grasp. After all he was fishing with several experienced fly fishermen who knew the island, had a track record of taking pictures, carried cameras similar to the one he owned, and would probably not make him pay for any photos they took.
His confidence was further bolstered by two additional factors. First, there were a lot of big fish cruising the beaches. Second, he was fishing with a white and silver specked worm on a jig hook that the folks at Bass Pro told him was the ultimate answer. Just reading the marketing material on the package made him tingle with excitement. These lures were packaged in a secrete scented formula that screamed “EAT ME”. While the fly fishermen weren’t excited, what could you expect from a bunch of numb nuts that wasted time tying strange looking concoctions on expensive hooks. The guy from Front Range Anglers had minimized his wardrobe so that he could squeeze in all kids of strange looking materials
His first large fish (over 30-inches) escaped in the surf line just like the second and third the minute one of the fly fishermen reached for his camera. The forth fish was breached in front of some tourists. And Jim called out “Can someone take my picture. “ A volunteer stepped forward as Jim searched for his camera. Alas, he left it in his room.
Fish number five was brought in with the same fanfare as fish four. This time Jim had his camera. He turned it over to a intelligent looking gentlemen who had clearly never taken a digital picture and may have been a lad when tintypes were state of the art. Later in the day the photo didn’t look too bad on the 2-inch camera screen. Maybe it could be sharpened up a bit. When placed on a computer screen Jim appeared as a fuzzy blob with a white mustache (the only recognizable feature). One member of the group volunteered to sharpen the image with Photoshop. When Jim got it back he looked like a multicolored cartoon character but the white mustache was still visible.
Fish number 6 came to hand in a classic fight. It was a beauty. He selected a much younger person who had grown up in the digital age to take the picture. He was totally prepared – glasses off, buff removed, hat back, rod out of the way, perfect background, and big smile. Kneeling at the edge of the water Jim held the fish out to maximize its impressive size. At the critical moment a wave rolled over Jim and the fish was thrown forward into the receding wave. As Jim regained his feet, the fish swam back into the Gulf.
Fish 7 escaped while Jim adjusted the drag. It was set with sufficient force to keep a Mack Truck in check. “Why am I dealing with the complexities of managing the drag. Clearly, this should be the responsibility of the manufacturer.” Jim was approaching the breaking point.
Fish 8 was solidly hooked. Using extreme care Jim maneuvered huge fish into the shallows. “Victory at last” he sighed as a wave full of sand and broken shells rolled over his rod and reel he laid down on the shore. As his fishing bag filed with saltwater and was carried to the tide line by a wave I snapped the picture.
The bad luck streak was over. On the evening of the following day this was the result.