In his book Marquesa: A Time & Place With Fish, Jeffrey Cardenas writes of the adrenaline rush of hooking a bonefish alone from a canoe and the reasons why some places need to be preserved. Cardenas spent one cycle of the midsummer moon—six weeks—on his old anchored houseboat the “Huck Finn” in the Marquesa Keys, an uninhabited atoll 25 miles west of Key West. His voice as a naturalist is as strong as his passion for fly-fishing.
Cardenas writes these great lines about being alone in nature:
“Sorting through the rubble inside the cabin of Huck Finn I realize I have no clue what day it is today. This pleases me immensely. There is no calendar aboard. I don’t—I won’t—wear a watch out here. I have fallen into the rhythm of a solar clock; I sleep when it’s dark, I wake when it’s light. I know each turn of the flood and ebb by the smell of the flats and the sound of the water lapping against the hull. The tide tables have vanished long ago under the books and papers and other debris in the cabin.
What day is it? Who cares. It’s a new day” (Cardenas 64).
Marquesa: A Time & Place With Fish was published in a limited printing, and the book is hard to find. Amazon has used editions starting at $144 and new copies for over $300! I’m grateful to Rachel’s dad for trusting me enough with this rare book. I feel obligated to share a few more lines of Cardenas simple, insightful prose before I return the book to its rightful owner:
“I flash on a scene I remember from years ago at the Key West charterboat docks. A fisherman had slain a gigantic tiger shark and the captain radioed the news back to the dock. A great assemblage of people gathered to await the sight of the vanquished beast. When the boat tied up alongside the dock the huge
carcass was splayed across the back deck. People gasped and commented on the heroic catch. How brave the captain and crew must have been to subdue this vicious maneater (close range 12-gauge shotgun holes were visible in the head of the shark). A gallows was set up on the dock and a noose put around the tail of the tiger shark. As it was winched up on the concrete pier people gathered closer, touching the skin of the great shark. The tail was winched higher so that there could be the appropriate photo made of the angler, the rod and reel, and the huge dead animal. It was a genuine circus atmosphere, up to the point where the gallows and pulled the shark’s body higher than its head. Gravity then forced the stomach contents to burst with great velocity out of the shark’s mouth. It was as if a 55 gallon drum of bile poured onto the dock in a torrent filling the shoes and covering the pants of the closest onlookers. And amid the screeching howl of people falling over each other to back away, there floated on the river of green bile and intact cormorant—the tiger shark’s last supper, vomited in death, the final indignity” (Cardenas 59-60).
Cardenas is a catch-and-release guy. He writes that he rarely, if ever, keeps his catch, and in one scene describes what it feels like to hold a tired bonefish in his hands as it gains back enough energy to swim off.