I recently returned from a fishing trip with my dad. We spent four days fly-fishing for big bonefish on the coast of Venezuela, coming home with great pictures, a few good stories, and one gastrointestinal souvenir (mine) that kept the memory of the trip alive for a few more days. One afternoon on the beach, I spotted a concentration of dark sea birds hovering just above the water. Fishermen use these groups of birds as a sort of beacon. Wherever there are birds, there are jacks- a type of fish, a really strong fish and a blast to catch. The fish and the birds feed on the same minnows and thus when you see the birds, you can be sure there are swarms of jacks churning the water underneath.
Soon the school had moved on, as evidenced by the now distant pillar of birds. I waded after them but the birds thinned out and I assumed the school had dispersed. As I turned to head back to the boat, the flock of birds regrouped and I saw the telltale splashes of jacks below. Returning to the beach, I sprinted down the sand to catch up with the pillar, finally veering back into the shallows and heading for the birds.
I felt like an Old Testament Israelite, following the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, through the desert. The water deepened as I approached the birds, which had headed back out past a massive shelf, beyond which was deep aquamarine water. I scrambled to the edge, over sharp and brittle coral, occasionally falling through weak points and holes, where rays and poisonous urchins dwell- eyes bouncing back and forth from my footing to the birds, whose presence assured me the jacks were still around.