I was in Cancun, finding ways to while away the hours while my then boyfriend was at a conference. I spent three days lying and reading whilst enjoying the sun and the beach. I enjoyed sending the waiters, who wore pleasingly tight white shorts, scuttling up and down the beach to bring me useful things, like prawns and guacamole and margaritas.
A girl can tire such of things. So, at great expense I booked myself some fly fishing for tarpon and well, whatever else might come along. I waited outside the hotel at five in the morning. I was bundled into a white jeep and accompanied by three Americans. They soon proved to be Neanderthal in intellect as well as size. I assume that Neanderthals were wide.
“Wowee Bob we have a lady on board!”
“Looks like we do”
“I am here”. I thought grumpily as they continued to refer to me in the third person.
I was dressed for protecting myself from the beating Mexican sun. I wore a white shirt, long white skirt made of cheesecloth and a large brimmed hat. I suddenly felt very English and aware that the colonies could be frightening places.
“Wha, you goin’ flyfishin’? Kinda limits ya chances don’t it?”
I turned all prim and proper. “Yes, but there is a certain elegance about it don’t you think?”
“Mind those Tarpon they fight like I fuck. Hard and fast baby, hard and fast”.
The middle-aged man turned to his middle aged buddies and guffawed. It was a charmless and a somewhat unbelievable statement.
“I’ll bear that in mind, thank you”.
I was relieved that I wouldn’t be sharing a boat with them. I feared that I may get Viagra and testosterone poisoning.
My guide was a man named José, whose deep blue eyes just peeped through the wrinkles of his dark, leathery face. It soon became clear that he spoke very little English. I think I made myself understood by using a dodgy mixture of Italian, GCSE French and Year 9 Spanish.
I twigged that the company taking me out really wasn’t set up for fly fishing when I was handed perhaps the nastiest looking fishing rod I had ever seen, with the nastiest looking line.
We headed out towards the mangroves and I watched the sun rise. As it illuminated the coastal waters I was shocked by the changes in colour to pale blue, navy blue and pea green.
We went into a small inlet. The tree roots bored into the water like witches’ claws. I peered into the trees and saw monkeys and odd white birds. The water was eerily still and was a gluey brown.
I began to cast towards the trees. I might as well have been using one of the trees the rod was so heavy. Every third cast the rod tip fell into the water.
José put his fingers to his lips then spoke.
“I beg your pardon”
“Tampon!” I felt suddenly conscious of being in white and began to do female calculations in my head.
His odd exclamation of feminine hygiene products was explained as a massive movement broke the syrupy surface film. I felt massively relieved.
“Oh Tarpon” I whispered reverently.
I cast again, dragging the mouse-like surface lure across the water. A huge wake followed my line.
In the ten seconds that followed I was suddenly reminded of Jaws, I needed a bigger boat and a better rod. I knew these fish could reach eighty pounds. I looked at the scratched rod in my hand, I looked at the hurrying wake of water, I looked at the crappy rod and I flinched. I was scared. The mangrove waters went still again as the monster returned. It was rather exciting.
José and I both mopped our brows and enjoyed a soothing coca-cola.
I handed José the fly rod, wary of its power. I decided I wouldn’t like to conjure up any more beasts. I think José understood. I took up the spinning rod and caught a few fish. One was called a snook and looked like a trout had mated with a pike, the other looked like a dinner plate.
In the heat of the midday sun we returned to shore. I sat at the bow of the boat, holding my hat to the head as we sped along the striped waters. I fancied myself to be a bit like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen.
We reached the shore and José kissed me on the cheek. I was taken aback but he explained.
“First woman fishing. She fly rod”.
I smiled and thanked him. The silence was broken by the return of the middle-aged wannabe lotharios.
I listened to their boasts and watched them gesticulate madly with their fat arms as we jostled in the jeep. As we approached my hotel, one of them finally asked if I had caught anything.
“Oh, me I nearly caught a tampon”. I watched the confusion contort his pink face before stepping out of the jeep, blowing them all a kiss and giggling.