Authors: Hank Manley
A Sea Too Far
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Hank Manley. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
Published by AuthorHouse 7/9/2012
ISBN: 978-1-4772-2859-3 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-4772-2860-9 (e)
ISBN: 978-1-4772-2861-6 (sc)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012911260
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Other Books by the Author
A Legacy of Honor
The Iron River
The Isle of Women
A Grand Quest
Beyond the Green Water
Tales of a Life Upon the Sea
A Sea Too Far
is dedicated to my four grandchildren. Stephanie Manley is approximately the age of Mary Read. Zack Powers, Henry Manley and Devon Powers are approximately the age of Warren Early.
Special Thanks To:
Gretchen Manley for her tireless proofreading and helpful suggestions.
Regina Fink for her initial impetus to encourage me to plow through the difficulties I was experiencing getting Warren past the hurricane.
Kyle Fink who read several of the initial iterations and helped with the two crucial beach scenes.
Conchshell knew the hurricane was coming before anyone else on the island. The young blonde Labrador stood nervously on the beach with Warren Early, her fifteen-year-old master and friend. She looked to the southeast, pointed her majestic head into the minimal breeze and sniffed the heavy, salt-filled air. The dog sensed the slowly descending pressure and instinctively knew it forebode a serious weather change and approaching ill winds. The faint vibrations of enormous storm waves crashing on the shores of distant islands tickled her paws through the damp sand and filled her with dread.
A deep growl of worry rolled from her throat. Conchshell’s rough tongue smoothed the yellow hairs around her snout, and she barked twice in concern.
“What is it, Conchshell?” Warren asked as he knelt beside his dog and scratched the backs of her ears. “What’s the matter, Shelly girl? Did you see something out there?”
The day was splendid. Not a single cloud marred the brilliant, azure sky. The crystal clear, shallow water stretching two hundred yards from the sandy shore matched the eighty-five degree temperature of the moist air. To the young boy’s human senses, no coming threat was detectable.
The early afternoon sun pounded over the shoulders of Warren Early and his dog. The unruffled water revealed every secret to their young but well-trained eyes. Several orange starfish were visible lying peacefully on the bottom. Small green cucumber corals and tiny purple sea fans waved in the tide along the edge of the deeper slough. Three pink-lipped queen conchs slumbered in the current. A small stingray shrugged the sand from its back and swam leisurely across the flat in search of a sumptuous crustacean to eat.
A flicker of silver caught Warren’s eye forty yards in the distance. Sunlight flashed from the wagging tail of a nose-down bonefish rooting in the bottom for a crab.
“Did you spot that bonefish before I did, Conch?” Warren asked in a low whisper. “Is that why you barked? You’re getting good at this, Shelly girl.”
The boy stooped to reduce his shadow in the back lighted condition and held the seven-weight fly rod in front of his chest.
“Stay quiet, Shelly girl,” he cautioned as he flipped the sparkly, tan and white, number four, Gotcha fly hanging from the lowest guide into the water. Without looking down, keeping his prey in sight, Warren tugged line from the reel and stroked the rod back and forth to pay the leader and front-loaded fly line through the tip of the slender nine-foot rod.
“Let’s see if we can catch that bonefish,” he said. “It looks like a real good one from here.”
Together, the boy and his dog tiptoed toward the feeding bonefish. Warren hunched low in the water to minimize his presence, and Conchshell tucked her head toward her shoulders and lowered her nose to the surface. Their stealthy approach barely ruffled the shallow water.
The bonefish quickly righted itself after ingesting a small crab and moved slowly into the tide, pausing occasionally to blow into the sand to expose a fresh, hidden morsel.
Warren and Conch angled ahead of the bonefish, halting when they had closed the distance to twenty-five yards. “Hold here, girl,” Warren hissed to Conchshell under his breath.
The boy snapped the fly from the surface of the water with a smooth stroke of the rod and a powerful haul on the line. He added potential distance by stripping additional line from the reel with his left hand. When the weighted fly line loaded the rod behind his right shoulder, Warren drove the slender graphite shaft forward while hauling the line back through the guides with an abrupt pull of his left hand. The line rocketed ahead, and the fly neatly rolled over the leader and landed quietly on the surface of the water seventy feet away.
The twin metal bead eyes of the fly promptly sank the slender shrimp imitation toward the bottom, six feet in front of the purposeful bonefish.
Warren knelt in the one-foot depth and waited until the fly had reached the bottom. Conchshell hunkered down until the water covered her back. The boy gripped the fly line in front of the reel with his left hand and stripped in three inches of line. The fly hopped from the bottom and came to rest again in a tiny puff of sand.
The feeding bonefish noticed the minute disturbance and mistook the action for a fleeing shrimp. The fish immediately dashed toward the artificial offering.
Warren watched with pounding heart as the large fish raced forward to ingest the fly. The under-slung mouth of the magnificent fish required it to tilt downward to gulp the mock shrimp. The powerful tail of the twenty-eight inch bonefish broke the surface of the shallow flat and waved sharply in the air.
The steel hook and decorated shaft of the fly disappeared into the hard jaws of the bonefish. Warren saw the fish ingest the fly and tugged sharply on the line with his left hand to set the hook. The needle-like point buried into a corner of the bonefish’s mouth.
An instant of confusion followed. The sensation of being hooked was completely foreign to the fish. Panic suddenly overwhelmed the bonefish, and it resorted to its sole means of survival. The fish fled across the flat.
The line that Warren had stripped while enticing and hooking the bonefish lay floating at his feet. He circled the slack line with his left hand and guided it carefully to the reel as the retreating fish dashed across the sand. When the slack was safely through the guides, and the bonefish was pulling line directly against the drag of the reel, Warren stood and held the rod high above his head. The boy knew he had to keep as much leader as possible out of the water to avoid chafing the thin, ten-pound test line against potential dangers such as coral rocks and mangrove shoots.
Conchshell rose to her full height and barked with glee at the rapidly disappearing bonefish. Silence and stealth were no longer important now that the fish was solidly hooked. The Labrador’s recent trepidation about the pending weather change was momentarily forgotten.
“This is a good one, Shelly girl,” Warren beamed as he watched the bonefish rip the remaining fly line from the reel and begin to peel away the Dacron backing at a prodigious rate. “It’ll go ten pounds at least, don’t you think?”
Conchshell barked enthusiastically and hopped in a small circle with unrestrained excitement. Her paws splashed small geysers of brine against her white stomach as she danced in the shallows.
* * *
The terrified bonefish streaked across the flat with powerful thrusts of its tail. A V-shaped wake peeled away from the speeding fish, and a steady line of splashes marked its progress toward the deep channel.
Conchshell ceased her joyous antics and stared at the disappearing fish. She looked at Warren and barked a warning.
“I know, Shelly girl,” Warren said. “If this fish makes it to the deep water, it’ll likely break off as it rubs the leader over the edge.”
With delicate care, Warren eased a finger against the rapidly spinning spool to increase the drag. Experience had taught him that too much additional pressure would surely break the slender leader.
Warren’s skillful application of finger drag worked. The spool slowed and then stopped as the exhausted fish paused against the increased pressure to briefly rest. The young fisherman recognized his opportunity. He lowered the rod, placed the padded butt against his chest, and began to reel frantically to retrieve line.
The stubborn bonefish tugged hard against the tight line and renewed its efforts to escape. Warren carefully lifted the rod tip to pull the fish closer before he quickly lowered it to wind in the created slack. Fifty yards of the departed one hundred twenty-five yards of line were grudgingly returned to the reel.
Then the bonefish, reinvigorated by the brief rest, made another gallant run, pulling almost all the recovered line from the spool.
“This fish doesn’t want to give up,” Warren noted through gritted teeth. “It’s a ten pounder for sure.”