A few years ago, I was invited on a dream fishing trip to Panama. My first response was, no thanks: I don’t like being away from my wife, Angie. I don’t like airplanes. I don’t like foreign countries. For a chubby guy, I am a very picky eater. My list of objections was long.
Then I heard the voice of reason. Angie reminded me: “If you don’t go, you’ll regret it the rest of your days.”
Bass Angler Broadens Horizons for Fishing Trip of a Lifetime
A few months later, I was sitting in Panama’s airport customs answering questions and questioning my decision to go on the trip. Seems the problem was bags of beef jerky in my suitcase. In Alabama, beef jerky is considered food. In Panama, they didn’t know what to consider 10 pounds of dried meat.
I was eventually released from customs and caught up with the rest of the group heading to Los Buzos lodge in Cambutal.
When the lodge came into view, a new set of fears hatched in my head: I have never fished bluewater, I am not at the top of the food chain, and what if they leave me out there?
Into the Surf—and the Unknown
The next morning, as we loaded our kayaks on the beach, the sound of breaking waves taunted me in the predawn darkness. The tightness in my chest was just this side of uncomfortable.
I worried the crashing surf wanted to smear my Alabama bass fishing butt on the beach like a long brown streak. I stowed my fear, jumped into the kayak and followed the crew into the blue horizon.
Once we cleared the surf zone, the guide told us to troll our live baits. I was last in the line of nine anglers where I thought I would be safe from an encounter with a sea monster. When my rod bent double, I was a little surprised.
After a solid fight, a beautiful striped rock snapper popped up next to me. I was able to land the first fish of our adventure.
Putting Fear Aside Pushes Fishing to the Next Level
I spent the next five days paddling and fighting fish until I was physically exhausted. I will never forget the excitement of hearing grown men giggle and scream as they were pulled at top speed by charging fish.
I put my fear aside and scored 20 different species on this trip, 15 species I had never caught before. The bright yellow finlets on a yellowfin tuna are burned into my mind. On the last day of the trip, I caught my first roosterfish. Holding one of the most iconic fish in the world, watching its long dorsal fin pulse and wave like a rooster’s comb, I realized I had accomplished something most anglers only dream of.
At the end of each day, we returned to the beach and dragged our boats and butts back to the lodge. After cleaning up and falling in at the lounge, we relived stories and photos from the day over some of the fanciest food I’ve ever eaten. My beef jerky stayed in the suitcase while I enjoyed fresh fish. I even ate sushi.
Sense of Adventure Stays With You
Today, back in the comfort of my Alabama home with Angie by my side, I can still smell the saltwater, hear surf breaking and feel the excitement of the fishing trip of a lifetime.
Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things is one of the best aspects of fishing. In my land life, I’m not a risk taker. Put me on a kayak in my local river and I’m shooting rapids. Take me to Panama and I’ll brave breaking waves to catch the world’s most intimidating bluewater fish.
At the beginning of a fishing trip, I’m a bundle of nerves. Once I’m out on the water, fishing takes over and the nerves are forgotten. But it’s not until after the fishing trip I realize my fears have fully subsided and I’m left only with memories that will last a lifetime.
Chris Funk is a widely published photographer and writer who likes to stay close to home.
Risk equals reward. | Feature photo: Chris Funk