Thanks for breathing new life into this thread, Ben.
One winter many years back, my girlfriend and I were going to do some camping on the Chiki huts supplied by Everglades National Park along the wilderness water way. You need a permit to stay on them and are only supposed to stay one night at each but I’d got it in my head that I was going to commandeer the one in Hell’s bay for a few nights. (Think big Snook and miles of quiet, remote shorelines.) Anyway, Mike, a friend of mine caught wind and invited himself. We didn’t want him in our tent and he didn’t have his own so he stopped at a local K-mart and purchased one on the way to meeting us in the park. He really had no idea regarding the whole “minimal camping/canoe thing.” All he was interested in was catching a big Snook…just one would do, because he’d never done it before.
My girl and I drove to Flamingo at the end of the road, got the required permit and met him at the put-in place, 10 miles or so north. He’s there when I pull up and I’m looking at this box containing his new tent. It’s huge! I mention it’s prob a bit overkill and he says he was excited, in a hurry, the price was right, blah blah blah.
So we load up our two canoes and begin winding down that snaking little creek that takes forever but eventually dumps you into a body of open water called the “Lard can.” A couple of bays later and in early afternoon, we hit Hell’s bay.
The Chiki’s are structures built a few feet off the water on stilts and are comprised of 2 separate platforms. A group typically takes up both spaces and a couple or three people typically use one side for tents and the other for a lounging/cooking area.
I set up my tent quickly while my friend unrolls the “Base camp 2000” he’s just purchased and starts reading instructions on setting it up. The thing is massive and has only slightly less windows and doors than your typical elementary school. It takes up his entire platform we are left to “lounge” on what’s left of my girlfriend and mine’s side.
In any event, we spend the rest of the aft trying to get my friend a Snook but fail. After dinner that night, (while watching the sunset and drinking heavily,) I catch a Ladyfish from our platform, rig a medium spinning rod with a 3/0 hook, cut the fish in half, hook it on and pitch off to one side where the water is a little deeper than what surrounds us. I tell my friend I’m going to set the drag loose so IF a fish takes it, it’ll be able to move off slowly without feeling resistance and we’ll be able to hear the clicker of the drag as a warning. The evening winds down, the rod is forgotten and we turn in for the night. At some point, not too long after we retired I hear Zzz…Zzzzzz…ZZZZ…It’s the rod and is apparent something has picked up the Ladyfish and is slowly swimming off with it. I quickly unzip the fly, step outside and see the rod has a bend in it as the drags slips out. Now at this point, I should’ve simply picked it up, set the hook and handed it off…but, if I did, I wouldn’t have a good story here.
I start calling to my friend: “Mike, Mike, there’s a fish on…Mike, c’mon man, hurry!” It’s obvious that he was dead to the world, probably still drunk and possibly already beginning to feel the effects of a good old fashioned Hell’s bay hangover.
Ok I’m going to need a little help from you all here…visualize what I’m about to tell you:
Mike is making lots of shuffling noises in his tent and is becoming a little frantic as the reel’s drag begins to get louder and more constant. I keep saying “Mike, C’mon man, HURRY!” He can’t find a single one of his exits and his hands are pushing and sliding top to bottom and side to side, all over the inside of the tent’s walls but it’s no use; The “Himalaya-nator” is just too massive and unfamiliar in his present state. It gets quiet for a sec and all I here is the methodical ZZZZZ of the reel as the fish moves steadily off. Then…then, (and I’ll never forget this) I see his pocket knife slice through the fabric at the very top of the tent and in one fell swoop, he eviscerates it right to the floor. Mike’s arms part the gash he’s created in his brand new tent and in one fluid motion steps right through the side, off the edge of the platform and into the water!! Big splash, some noisy wallowing/sputtering and more than a little cursing until he regains his balance and stands up. The water is only waist deep so I grab the rod and hand it to him. He gives it a heroic, exaggerated and extremely angry hook set but comes up empty. The fish is not there and he reels in, in disbelief. There is nothing but an empty hook.
My girl has been watching all this from the open fly of our tent, can see the best is over and says: “Mike, use the steps.” She then closed the flap and went back to bed.