The day they met, Parker had been wading the flats for bonefish on the west side of the island near the ruins of an abandoned shrimp farm. He’d already caught a couple of respectable fish when he spotted a real bruiser gliding out of the grass in a foot of water. The black tip of its dorsal just broke the surface. He placed the fly six feet in front of the fish, and let it sink to the bottom. He stripped the line to pull out the slack, and waited until the fish was almost on top of the bait. With the rod tip close to the water Parker tugged the line gently, bumping the fly to get the fish’s attention. The fish stopped and turned. Parker pulled on the line again, and saw the fish shudder as it surged forward to take the bait.
Parker knew that he would not feel the strike. He quickly stripped a yard of line to set the hook, and raised the rod tip to absorb the shock. The fish paused. Parker tucked the butt of the rod into his waist and checked the free line floating at his feet for tangles. The fish turned and streaked for deep water. Parker let the line stream through his fingers into the rod guides until all the free line was gone and the reel began to sing.
The first run was nearly a hundred yards. When Parker managed to turn the fish it came peaceably, saving its strength for another dash. Two runs later Parker had the fish in his shadow. He could see that it was spent. Its color was gone, its eyes listless. He removed the hook, and squatted to place the fish back in the water. He curled his free hand under the fish, and tickled its belly until it colored up. As he watched the fish gather itself and flash away he heard a slow clapping of hands on the beach behind him.
“Nice fish,” she said.
“I’m glad to see that you catch and release.”
“They’re not very tasty.”
“Oh,” she said.
She was younger than he, slim and angular with short, sun-streaked hair. She wore white shorts, a tie-dyed t-shirt, and flip-flops with spangles on the straps. The strings of a bikini top were tied in a bow on the back of her neck.
“You’re Parker” she said.
“I’ve been looking for you.”