Written by: Garrett Sill
In January, I traveled to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, for business (seriously, it was business). My wife was lucky enough to tag along with me… at least that’s what I kept telling her, but she insisted that it was the other way around. It was a last minute trip, so we didn’t have much time to plan any activities, and we were content just to hang on the beach and soak in the sun.
As a fly fishing guide (and a fly fishing addict), it’s tough to be near water and not fish. I tried like crazy to figure out a way to sneak in a little fishing while there. I had never been to St. Thomas, so I hit the internet pretty hard to find a boat to take me out for some inshore fly fishing. I didn’t have much luck; from what I could tell, there was not a lot of fly fishing on the island and most of the flats were around St. Croix, where we would not be going.
The time to leave arrived, and at the last minute I put my reel, a box of bait flies, and my trusty sling pack in my luggage. I zipped it up and proclaimed to my wife, “I am all packed!” That is, except for my 8-weight fly rod. How was I going to get that past her? It was too big to fit in my luggage, and I never really like checking my fly rods anyways. The wheels began to turn. I loaded our luggage into the car, carefully avoiding my wife, and I put the fly rod in the back seat . . . out of sight. I now had the 30-minute drive to the airport to figure out my story of why I was bringing my fly rod.
When we arrived at the airport, I dropped my wife off with the luggage and then made my way to long-term parking. I parked the car and looked at the fly rod in the back seat. “Do I take it?” I asked myself. The shuttle arrived, and I instinctively grabbed my fly rod and hopped onto the shuttle. I was all-in at this point. On the shuttle, I tried stuffing the fly rod up my pant leg to conceal it from my wife, but that wasn’t going to work, as I was bound to walk like Frankenstein through the airport and the jig would be up at the security check point anyway. I received a lot of strange looks from other passengers on the shuttle and I am sure that someone was calling TSA.
The shuttle arrived at the terminal, and I walked toward my wife who was at the ticket counter; she was kneeling down and had one of the bags open. I did my best to keep the fly rod concealed as I walked towards her, but perhaps she had seen the fly rod already in the back of the car.
“I noticed that you packed your sling pack,” she said with a smile and a wink.
“I did,” I responded. “I like it because it is small, light-weight, and easy to swing around on my shoulder without having to take it off each time that I want to get something out.”
“Is that what you tell the clients when you are out guiding? You already own one. You don’t need to sell me on it.”
Somehow I managed to make it to the security line without her seeing the fly rod. Now it was go time, so I removed my shoes and just about every other article of clothing and then put the fly rod onto the belt to be scanned.
“What’s that?” she asked with a huge smile on her face.
“A tripod for your camera” was my response.
“Oh!” she said nearly laughing. “I didn’t know Orvis made a tripod. Isn’t Hydros a fishing rod?”
“Yes. I just used the fly-rod case so the tripod wouldn’t get damaged.”
“So there is a tripod in that case and not a fly rod?”
“That’s correct!” I stated.
We landed in Atlanta and had enough time before our next flight to grab some breakfast. When we got up to leave, I grabbed our carry-on bags and pushed away from the table. “Don’t forget the tripod!” reminded my wife. I grabbed the “tripod,” and we made our way to the connecting flight.
We finally landed in St. Thomas. We got a taxi to the hotel and checked in. Our hotel room was ocean side—how lucky! I walked out on the balcony, and we had a perfect view of a point just off the beach. I studied the water and saw some small baitfish rise to the surface. I was sure that they were being chased by a larger predator, so I waited for it to surface. Sure enough, it did. ”What are you doing?” she asked. “Just looking for a place to take some pictures,” was my reply with a chuckle.
We unpacked and began to search for activities to occupy us for the free time that we did have. I suggested a romantic evening kayak around the harbor near our hotel. She agreed that it sounded like fun, but I think that she knew my real motive… a quick scouting trip of the places to fish. The kayak trip was great! We hung toward the back of the group and I quizzed our guide on the types of fish that were in the harbor, what they liked to eat and where would be the best places to “see” them during the day. I soaked in all his knowledge.
The next day we took the ferry to St. John, USVI for a trip to snorkel and just to hang on the beach and enjoy the sun. I left the “tripod” back at the hotel. Most of St. John is a national park, so while visiting one of the park’s bays, I cornered one of the park rangers and quizzed them on the types of fish that were there and did my best to make mental notes of their colors and shapes so that I could identify them when I saw them. On the ferry ride back, we discussed plans for the next day.
“I think that I would like to get up early and see the sunrise.”
“That sounds like a great idea” she said. “Maybe you can take the “tripod” and get some good pictures!”
“That’s a great idea. Do you think that you would like to come with me?” I asked.
The alarm sounded early, we awoke and headed to the point that I had scouted a few days before. The sun was not yet up, and there was just enough light to avoid the sea urchins as I walked barefoot over the rocks. I selected fly that would best mimic the small baitfish that I observed in our kayaking and snorkeling adventures the days before. The first cast was about the right distance, so I counted to 15, and then began to strip the line in. Quickly, there was a tug on the line… Fish on! I had just caught my first yellowtail snapper on the fly. Later that afternoon, I had some time between meetings and began to cast a few lines on the other side of the cove by the boat docks. I had a few more fish take the fly and managed to land what appeared to be a sea robin before heading to the next meeting. These fish were not the trophy saltwater flats fish that are sought-after by most, but it was nonetheless a memorable experience.
My wife is a good sport and she had fun playing along with my “tripod” experiment. She had me figured out from the get go, of course. I guess that is what happens when you are married to a fly fishing guide and a fly fishing addict.
Garrett Sill is a guide at Falcon’s Ledge in Altamont, Utah.