Signs by Mark Usyk

A two hour wait in line for a rental car we'd reserved and paid for a month ago. A forty minute drive to the hotel. We checked in close to midnight. Standing on our balcony I knew the beach was right there. I could hear the waves. I could smell it. The longer I stood there peering into the blackness, the more my eyes adjusted, until I wasn't just trying to convince myself that I could see the waves breaking just off the beach, I really could. I set an alarm for 6:30am and hit the pillow. I woke up at 5:30, stared at the ceiling for ten minutes, then got dressed and quietly gathered my rod tube and pack and headed out the door.


The sign hit me like a slap in the face, or maybe more like a sucker punch to the gut. It stood there like a century, announcing there’d be no fun to be had here. You could swim, you could sun bath, you could throw a Frisbee or a football, kick around a soccer ball, build a sand castle, fly a damn kite. But the handful of red circles with slashes through them taking up the bottom half of the sign, one contained the image of a fish and a hook. That was the knife through the heart. You've got to be kidding me. A freaking public beach, and no fishing.


I made my way south to the jetties I'd seen on the Google Earth images, the manmade rock walls I'd been planning on fishing for the past month. More signs. "No Trespassing. Rocks may be dangerous." You've got to be freaking kidding me.


The manmade sea wall went out about two-hundred feet, and where it connected to the shore line the rocks continued on in an effort to keep the ocean from over taking a new parking garage. If I made my way up to a side walk and a small patio on the side of the parking garage, then down a walk way that split between the garage and the shore, I could step down onto the rocks. I didn't see any signs from there. It seemed to me that the signs were pertaining to the jetties, not the shore. It was sketchy, I was reaching, I knew. It looked to me, that if I kept my back cast low enough I wouldn't smack the wall of the second level of the garage, and if I kept it high enough, I could sneak it over the top of the chain link fence that kept the bottom level secure. Basically I had about three feet of empty space behind me at a very specific height. It was still dark, but the lights of the parking garage reached out just far enough to give a glow to the waves that sporadically crashed onto the rocks and sent sea spray into the air. I figured my best bet would be something dark with a lot of flash. I tied on a black streamer, stepped down onto the rocks from the concrete and made my first cast.


For about fifteen minutes I cast, threading the needle perfectly over the top of the chain link fence but under the floor of the next level just above it, and I didn't even snag the roof rack of the SUV on the other side of the fence. My casting was right on point that morning. In the dark, I was feeling the cast more than anything else, almost like I knew what I was doing. I wish I could say I grabbed a good Snook off the shore line, but there's no happy ending to this story. I didn't catch squat. Some days that's just how it is. You walk back to the hotel, take the kids down to a crappy continental breakfast, then spend the day watching their lips turn purple then blue because they won't get out of the water, and spend way too much money on cheesy souvenirs made in Taiwan in the tourist shops. The whole time everything around you is covered in fish themes...just rubbing it in. You remind yourself, this is a family vacation. It doesn't make it any less painful. I walked around the next two days with Tesla’s rendition of “Signs” stuck in my head.