Archive for June, 2013

Gone Fishing with J R Hartley and Crew

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

I had never done any fishing which is surprising when you consider I lived three quarters of my life living near the coast. I once tossed half a loaf on the end of a bamboo and string into the lake in Brynmill Park when I was a kid, but that merely terrorized the duck population.

So when one of my work associates, Joe, suggested a weekend fishing trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, I signed up immediately. Joe owns a bungalow (I can’t remember what Americans would call it) approximately 600 feet from the water’s edge, so accommodation was taken care of.

Terry, Max, and young George (he’s 47 and compared to the rest of the motley crew he’s a whipper snapper) are also work associates and comprised the rest of the group. Terry, the master angler, was already down in Panama City Beach with his wife and family and we would join him on the pier at some appropriate time.

Max and George are professional musicians and were committed to Friday night gigs. They would hook up with us sometime late Saturday morning. Joe and I drove down together on Friday morning to set up base camp.  Panama City Beach is a 51/2 hour road trip from Atlanta and following a prolonged delay in Phenix City looking for a Chick-filc-a, we arrived at Camp Joe around 1.00pm.

Joe gave me a tour of Panama City Beach which has developed rapidly in the last 5 years and now resembles South Beach, Miami. Surprisingly for mid-April it was rather cold and rainy and we elected to have dinner at Hunts Oyster Bar, Panama City. This is a genuine” hole in the wall” establishment; no frills but hundreds of fresh oysters shucked by bar tenders in front of your very eyes. The place was packed to the rafters and following an hour’s wait we were seated at the bar. Joe consumed two dozen oysters without blinking, but he was no competition for the young lady sitting next to him who demolished four dozen.

My stomach prefers to repel oysters and I settled for the day’s special; Grouper Throats. They don’t sound very appealing, but they were quite tender and palatable. Following a sizeable portion of Hunt’s unique atmosphere and quirky characters we returned to Base Camp for a good night’s sleep.

Max arrived next morning around 11.00am and we made the short journey to the pier to hook up with Terry. The pier is 1500 feet long, but before we had time to catch our breath Terry thrust a rod into my hand and I was a virgin angler no more. Call it beginner’s luck but I caught three Spanish mackerel; the biggest weighing in at 21/2 lbs.

The pier resembled a battlefield with the blood and guts of caught fish spewed onto the floor because of hooks catching the fish unceremoniously and fishermen gutted and cleaned the fish before depositing them in their coolers.

We returned to Camp Joe and George had finally turned up by mid-afternoon. Our fishing expedition was rewarded by the arrival of cocktail hour. Joe and Max attempted to introduce their friends Ezra Brooks and Evan Williams to me but I politely declined and was content to sip on a glass of cool chardonnay.

George was the anointed designated driver and drove us to the local Winn Dixie to buy provisions to accompany the fish we were grilling for the evening meal. Joe and George flirted with every female in the store; young and old, thin or fat; it didn’t really matter. Meanwhile I stayed with the task at hand and unceremoniously shucked my corn much to the dismay of my cohorts who claimed I was making “one hell of a mess!” in the grocery section.

We returned to base camp and in the role of self-appointed chef I grilled the Spanish mackerel with a bunch of vegetables. We each chose our own particular beverage to accompany the meal and everyone appeared satisfied the food. Surprisingly the grilled corn was a huge hit with everyone.

The next day I couldn’t wait to return to the pier to continue my quest for fish. Unfortunately reality hit me right between the eyes and I didn’t catch another thing for the remainder of the trip despite the exertions and encouragement from master angler Terry.

We spent another raucous evening at Base Camp swopping stories about the one that got away. As the alcohol flowed I wasn’t quite sure whether we were talking about fish or women. We all agreed the trip had been a huge success and we enjoyed each other’s company. So much so that the next fishing trip is in the planning stage for October; destination Gulf Shores, Mobile, Alabama courtesy of Max.