Mornings and evenings at Hermit’s Lakes are natural wonders.
The lake, this evening, is without ripples. Fish rise with a splash to the water’s surface for flies, an eagle lazily circles above us, watching the lake’s surface for the same fish we are trying to catch. Richard and Maria share a bench, all of us fishing hard as the sun drops and you hunker in your jacket to keep warm.
It will be dark soon.
Ninety nine out of a hundred people would say this is a good definition of paradise and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Whether all this natural wonder is by design or the result of chaotic chance is a question I ponder with the same intensity of a kid playing with a rubric cube.
None of us three say anything to upset the balance this evening, our planet a colorful top spinning on a sidewalk, a perpetual motion machine set in motion with one flip of God’s wrist.
The fish this evening must be enjoying the sunset as much as we are.
The Rio Grande river runs through New Mexico and most of the state’s population and bigger cities hug the river’s edges all the way through the state, from north to south. The river is sustained by snow pack in Colorado and this is a good year with the river running fast and high. Along the entire river, Indian, state, county officials, and even individuals dip their straws into the river and draw off water they need for their uses.
By the time the Rio Grande gets to Texas and Mexico, it is shallow enough in places to walk across, and it’s color is muddy brown. There are packed legal folders full of legal challenges about who owns the water, who gets to use it, and in what quantities. Our Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico and, in older times, was the lifeblood of farmers, ranchers, outlaws, Indians, miners and immigrants all living inside our state borders.
This afternoon, rafts carry fishermen downstream with paid guides maneuvering clients to some of the best fishing spots.
I don’t know what it cost these fishermen for their guide and raft, but it all adds up to an expensive trout dinner.
The guide will give this sportsman a better than average chance to catch something worth catching.
When you come this far to catch fish you want good pictures to show your buddies back home.
A few extra bucks for a trophy fish,you can brag on for twenty or thirty years, even if it seems way too high, is money well spent.
Before seven in the morning, a kid passes me on his bicycle, carrying a five gallon plastic bucket, with bait and tackle inside, on his bicycle handlebars. His fishing pole sticks out of an empty milk container strapped to his bike fender with a bungee cord.
When the kid, who whizzes past me, makes a left turn towards the water, a block further down, I know he is going fishing and joining another fisherman where the water meets the land.
There are fishermen on this jetty every morning, just at sunrise, and sometimes in the evening, at sunset. While you can catch fish other times of day, fisherman tell you when the time is best to bait a hook, cast out, and wait for the fish to bite.
This Santo Domingo park, by the Napolitano Casino, will soon have its walkers and exercise people. City crews are putting down new sod and walkers, taking fresh air on a cool morning, can use a new swing set installed the other day by the parks and recreation department work crew. I watched some of the workers test the swing out, laughing, happy because it was almost quitting time.
At the end of the concrete jetty I am heading for, these two compadres already have their lines in the surf and are watching the sun come up over a not too distant shipyard.
Fishermen are eternally hopeful.
If you don’t try to catch anything, you won’t catch anything.
The kid’s bicycle is laid down on the rocks close to him, and, if he is lucky and is using the right temptation, he will take some fish home for breakfast this morning, in his five gallon bucket.
Their bodies create little friction between them and the water that supports them. Light filters down from the water’s surface where we watch them take graceful turns around their aquarium tank’s curves.
In another aquarium, jelly fish who aren’t moving like the fish, have their dangling tentacles shown off with back lighting.
The jelly fish are almost transparent, catching food in their tentacles and letting themselves be propelled by currents or by ingesting water and spitting it out to move in the direction of their prey.
They are other worldly.
Floating with ocean currents is smarter than fighting them.
Personally, I watch for tentacles, both in the water, and out, all the time.
Jellyfish aren’t the only organisms on this planet that have a sting.
The creek is in better shape today than fifty years ago.
Then, creek banks were crowded with brush. Now, you can stand on the bank and easily cast your tackle. There are still cat tails in the creek but they are controlled by a local wildlife biologist for a monthly stipend.
Fifty years ago there were perch in the water, small fish that strike impulsively, put up a fight, and have lots of bones to work around at the dinner table. We ate them fried in a blanket of corn meal along with cornbread, black eyed peas and Texas toast fixed by Grandma. In the creek, we kids waded in undershorts seining for minnows to use as bait. For city kids, the creek and the ranch were a place to look forward to visiting when school shut down for the summer.
The water today is dark, opaque, ten foot deep in the middle. It’s surface is a mirror reflecting trees on the other side of the bank. Like so much of nature, you can feel a lot more beneath the surface than you can see.
Growing up, I had no idea I would be fishing the creek when I got old.
He circles his target, turns himself into a projectile by tucking his wings to his body,and disappears head first into the surf. When he comes back to the water’s surface, he shakes his wings and recomposes, a fish struggling in his enormous beak.
Not long after, a fisherman wades into the pelican’s same fishing hole, net in hand, and the pelican takes off like a seaplane from an Alaskan lake.
The fisherman moves slowly, studies the waves, the light, the wind.
Positioning himself, he casts his handheld net with both hands,lets his net fall to the bottom, then draws it back towards him with a rope line, hand over hand. When he drags his net onto the beach it holds silvery fish twisting in the bright sunlight.
He and his friend transfer fish from the net into a plastic bag, then lift up and climb back on their bicycles and pedal home, the net draped over a bike’s handle bars to drip dry.
If you live simply, how much of the day needs to be used up working?
What is so important to us that we work sixty hours a week?
There is the Hotel Zone which is a strip of bars, restaurants, hotels, retail shops along the main road running along the beach all the way south to a biosphere nature preserve called Sian Kian. Then there is the Mexican town of Tulum where locals live. You can find tourists in the town of Tulum and locals in the Hotel Zone, but each is a different slice of Mexican pie.
This restaurant,Matteo’s, is in the Hotel Zone, towards the north end, and features, according to the sign, ” The Best Fish Tacos on Earth. ”
When questioned, these two kids maintain that the tacos are really the best in the Universe, but agree this would be difficult to prove since Mexico doesn’t send up space ships to verify.
In mid day, the restaurant is doing good business and fish tacos are swimming out of the kitchen.The kids give a thumbs up and let their picture be taken. I’ll be back for the best tacos on Earth.
This Lagoon was formed 23,000 years ago after an explosion on one on Mombacho’s bad hair days.
It is fed by a number of surface and underground water sources and is one of the first Nature Preserves created in Nicaragua to preserve the country’s natural landscape.
In tourist season there are kayaks in the water, swimmers, picnic’s and family outings, hiking, diving and other recreation. The Preserve has public areas that give access to the water for free or private businesses that let you use their facilities for six to seven dollars U.S. a day. A round trip shuttle to the Lagoon is $15.00 from Granada, if you go with a group tour, and you can spend most of the day at the Park working on your tan..
This morning locals are washing clothes,bathing, swimming, wetting a hook, and kayaking . The water is unusually clear and the bottom of the lagoon is covered with scattered lava rocks, small and large, reflections of clouds floating on the water’s surface.
In the old days, Hollywood came out with a movie called ” Creature from the Black Lagoon. ”
Believing in things we can’t see is difficult, but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
One good thing about being human is most really bad stuff we aren’t going to live long enough to see.
When Mombacho throws a big fit, again, it will shake out this entire country.
” Some days you do better in the boat and some days better on the beach, ” the fisherman in coveralls tells us as he opens his cooler and shows us his Pompanos and Whiteys, game fish in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.
The bottom of his cooler has five or six small fish and a small plastic container filled with fresh cut shrimp that baits his hooks.
He and his wife have been here since before sunset.
When surf fishing, you cast your weighted and baited hooks out as far as you can, plant the handle of your pole into the sand and watch till its tip starts to bend like a scoliosis patient. When you see that peculiar bend, you reach for your pole, set your hook, and fight your catch out of the sea.
This fishing spot is towards the north end of South Padre, past tall condos and hotels. The angler’s big white pickup is pulled off the beach thoroughfare made by tire tracks. Its tailgate is down and a tackle box is close at hand.
” How much is a daily license? ”
” Fifteen bucks…. ”
” What’s the limit? ”
” No limit…. ”
We don’t have fishing poles but next time they will be stowed in RV cargo holds with golf clubs, lawn chairs, firewood, and tarps.
Next year, seeing how things are going, we will probably have to have a license to pick up shells. For governments, every day is tax day. I’m having trouble this morning seeing why we need a license to fish in the first place? Last time I looked, the government didn’t stock the ocean. we already paid a fee to drive onto this county property and are renting rv spots for our rigs?
We are, bottom line, squatters on this planet.
If we aren’t fishing, we are biting, and there are costs to do everything, or nothing.