Hook, Line, and Sinker

How to close out the back nine with a string of birdies and the occasional three-pounder.

Once I set it free, I cast several more times, reeling in the spoon slowly so it looks like a baitfish swimming the surface. Then another tug. A few precious, delicious seconds later I land another tarpon, this one about a three-pounder. We've been fishing all of fifteen minutes.

Despite the giddy prospect of reeling in something with every cast, Eddie insists we take a break to watch the sunset. He's the guide, and he knows this place, so why argue? We stroll down to a part of the course that touches the bay and sit in silent awe as the expiring sun and the open water and the mangroves conspire to paint the world a breathtaking purple and orange and blue.

In the shallow inlet before us, another fisherman saunters into view -- a gawky blue heron tiptoeing out from the mangroves onto our private stage, nature's theater presenting a classic. The big bird takes the most delicate steps, a tai chi master on rice paper, and before long he bows a bit, then plunges his head into the water. Gulp. Golf-course fishing at its most sophisticated.

In the growing darkness, with the stars above and the tall lights of the nearby Lipton tennis complex casting their beams, the sprinklers raining down their water, the undulating carpet of grass interrupted only by white sand traps and blue lakes, the course assumes an enchantingly surreal quality, melting and blurring into a liquid green otherworld.

I cast a trout-tout lure and quickly hook up another huge tarpon, but he shakes the hook and gets away. Then Eddie lands a small tarpon.

Another light tug and I jerk up my rod. I'm on yet again, but it is clearly a smaller, less tenacious and spectacular species. I pull the fish ashore and call for the flashlight. Before Eddie arrives with it, I see the stripe running lengthwise across the fish's body. "Hurry up with the light," I yell. "Got me a nice snook here."

The snook and tarpon get into the course's lakes via large pipes that channel in water from the bay. That they find their niche here is a natural minimiracle. That they seem to thrive only increases the ecological ante. For the intrepid golfisherman at Key Biscayne, it adds up to a uniquely pleasurable experience: a beautiful setting, exquisite solitude, and the satisfying knowledge that you're not supposed to be here enjoying it.

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