May 14, 2012
By Rick Ryals
“If I only had one more day to fish, it would be just southeast of the Hopetown Light.”
Man, 15 years ago, I sure wouldn't have believed that. 15 years ago I left the Hopetown in a medi-vac flight with my wife in a coma.
My buddy Dave Crisp started the whole thing. He had talked Debbie and I, and our good friends Sam and Ann Lewis into renting a house in Hopetown, and taking a couple rental boats out in search of dolphin. Dave had told me to just set the lighthouse on my stern, and start trolling southeast. Sure enough, big dolphin came from everywhere, and we were soon having the time of our lives. After a few hours of total chaos, Sam and I decided to go in and get lunch. We'd check on the girls, and be back on the dolphin in no time.
So, there we were, eating conch fritters on the waterfront, when everybody started running to meet the Albury Ferry. It seemed there had been an accident somewhere, and the ferry was being used to transfer some poor woman to Marsh Harbor to be flown to Palm Beach.
The whole town seemed to be mobilizing to help this poor woman that had been hurt in a freak golf cart accident.
Well as you've figured out by now, the poor woman was my wife, and 20 minutes after her accident we were in the air. I wasn't even smart enough to realize the gravity of the situation, until the nurse asked the pilot to please arrange a helicopter to fly Debbie from the airport to the hospital. To say the least I never, ever wanted to see Hopetown or that damn lighthouse again.
Debbie herself was a trauma nurse. In fact she was great at it, and except for the very freak accident, I have no doubt she would be leading a trauma team by now. Instead she would battle for 2 years just to walk and talk again. Our lives are certainly wonderful 15 years later, but sometimes I can't help but wonder “What if”
It was 8 years later that I took over the helm of Mr Barri Vickers beautiful sportfisherman The “Dos Amigos”. Barri had always loved the Abacos, and we made Treasure Cay our vacation home to fish the full moon in May. Now Barri thinks that catching big dolphin on a flyrod is as good as it gets, and I knew eventually I was going to have to troll 25 miles south of Treasure, to fish in the shadow of that damn lighthouse.
Sure enough, we hit a slow spell at Treasure, and I made my way down to Hopetown and started trolling SE. I was busy thinking about how badly things had gone for us in that exact spot, when suddenly every weekend Capt's. dream came true for me. It wasn't a big dolphin but a 200 lb blue marlin that was dancing behind Dos Amigos. We had him hooked on a TLD 30 and after chasing him around for 90 minutes, we set him free, and my crew was delirious. It was a great fish, our first blue marlin, and we were acting like 7th graders.
I will always believe the old lighthouse sent that fish to tell me how sorry it was for how we met. The next year the old lighthouse had 2, 300 pound blue marlin waiting for me. The next year, a blue and a white, and on and on. When my lifelong buddy Bill Wilderotter (71 yrs young) released a fish well over 600 pounds (standing up) within spitting distance of the lighthouse, I stopped for a moment with a tear in my eye, and told the lighthouse Debbie was fine, and we were square. “I'm gonna keep fishing here, but you really don't have to keep knocking yourself out to keep your best fish penned up for me.”
The Dos Amigos is moored in Boat Harbor for May and June of this year, and true to form I ran about a mile southeast of the lighthouse last Sunday, to start our summers fishing. Before we could even get set up good, my good friend the lighthouse sent me a floating pallet with more dolphin, and wahoo than you could count. Soon Barri's fly reel was screaming, and all was right with the world.
I'll be back next weekend with some serious marlin fishing in mind. I hope we're successful, but this much I know for sure. If I had only had one more day to fish…..