In the warm shallow waters of an island near the equator, on the bow of a beat up panga, a tall blond angler stands with her fly rod at the ready. She loads the rod with a double-haul and unfurls the yellow line, delivering a baitfish-pattern fly to her target. She strips it in and the fish reacts, charging the fly and inhaling it in a split second.
"Yeah! Yeah! Hah hah!" she screams, whooping and hollering as she brings her quarry boatside. Her name is Cindy Garrison, and she has just successfully hooked and landed a puffer fish.
This from the one-time Alaska guide, who pioneered fly-fishing for tigerfish in Botswana, who once wrestled a crocodile in Panama?
"I don't care if it's a150-pound tarpon or a puffer fish," she says. "When I feel a tug on the end of that line I freak out." Since she hosts her own TV show, "Get Wild" on ESPN, one would expect her to be a little more jaded. But the prospect of being on an adventure, or on the bow of a boat, brings forth something in Garrison that cannot be contained. It is with this energy that she plows ahead, hoping her attitude will push people to look at the sport beyond the just catching fish.
Force of Nature
The equatorial islands happen to be the Galapagos, one of the wildest places left in the world, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, where Garrison has teamed with Costa Del Mar Sunglasses to pursue striped marlin. On this day far offshore, the fishing is slow, with hours passing on end before anything appears in the trolling spread.
A striped marlin finally comes on the scene, lit up and looking to eat one of the smoking lures that it mistakenly believes is a baitfish. Garrison jumps to action at the sound of the screaming reel, and takes on the striper with a standup rod in the cockpit. The large pelagic leaps from the water a few hundred yards behind the boat, showing its displeasure, and the fight is on.
Garrison works the marlin until it is subdued. The first mate grabs the leader and brings the fish alongside the boat, and Garrison does something most anglers wouldn't. She strips. Down to her bathing suit, she grabs a mask and fins and jumps overboard to engage the marlin on its turf.
"It all goes together, the animals, fish, people," she says of her penchant for getting up close and personal with wild creatures. From her list of maladies and inflictions, she can detail her interactions throughout the world.