The Yellow Intruder
Low rays of orange tinted sunlight reached over the Pinellas Peninsula and angled into the tea-colored water of Old Tampa Bay, stirring me from my half sleep. I began to swim around my corner of the bay, but stiff and marl-minded, I lazily raised and lowered my tail, enjoying the sun on my dorsal fin. My relaxed pectoral fins brought me to the surface for a pleasant breath of sun warmed air, and I swam in no particular direction.
“Where are you?” I felt the clicking from my friend, Evan. “I’m hungry Tim. Get your gray-self going.”
“Alright fish breath.” I replied with gentle clicks so as not to scare the fish we would be chasing. “You swim near the mangroves, I’ll swim down here.” In this formation, we began hunting for an easy-to-catch breakfast. We glided onto a shallow and sandy flat then began clicking with all the menace we could. Crabs stopped, shrimp dove, and fish scrambled into a shallow area. The thought of a juicy fish for breakfast woke my hunger. I clicked quicker and swam faster.
Evan moved away to my right and his clicks drove fish toward me. Quietly, I humped my back and flicked my tail to follow these savory morsels onto a flat. Behind me, I heard Evan splashing in the shallow water, grabbing his meal.
I swam harder and turned left away from the sunlight. But as I neared the fish, I felt an odd echo. Ok, this might be cool, I thought. Let’s check it out. The echoes showed a large, dense object. A manatee? I faced toward the thing. It’s on the top of the water. I turned to swim toward it. No manatee; it’s staggering like a floating tree stump. I clicked faster. This thing is bigger than me. It’s an entire school of fish. Breakfast! I pointed my forehead toward them and thrust for my final charge.
But my breakfast did not scatter. Something’s wrong. It moved toward me! I clicked louder and swam faster. Almost time to bite. I raised my head above the water to look.
Not fish or manatee, my food was a floating yellow beast! With its long stinger already raised, it was looking right at me. It stopped moving its black fins to strike. It wants me for breakfast!
Vibrating my tail, I stopped and turned back over my left fin. In one breath, I bobbed my head and splashed my tail to get off the flat and then sped toward the deep. Go. Go. Go! Up down up down I pumped my tail, swimming back to the drop off as fast as a mako shark.
Finally, I reached the safety of deep water. What is that beast that attacked Evan and me? Circling slowly, I kept watch above me. And how did I defeat it? As my mind slowed, the story of my victory formed.
Eventually I felt Evan clicking for me to join him. Instead, I called him down to my safe place, and told him how I saved us both.
“Are you high on puffer fish?” Evan wouldn’t believe me. “That was a human. In a little kayak. Fly Fishing.” He pointed his beak to the surface and continued. “Look air-brain, they don’t even catch any of our fish!” He swam away saying, “I’m going back to breakfast.”
He just doesn’t understand, I thought. I am the one who faced The Yellow Intruder. But all the same, I stayed in the dark, deep, safe water and didn’t eat until dinner.
Chris O’Byrne has been a teacher in Polk County for over twenty years. When he’s not chasing bass on the fly, he teaches fly fishing to individuals and groups.