Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Flounder

Today I pulled up a nice sized winter flounder in my oyster dredge. It was probably a keeper. But I let it go back into the cold water. Made me remember early spring fishing on Saugatuck Harbor (CT) with my father. Those dinners were the best.

Along with me today was my friend Eric C. We were roomies in college and continue to be very good friends. He lives in maine. Today was a nice opportunity for us to catch up while pulling up oysters. Then a few beers on land.

Today I also caught up with Terry Thomas from Wales. He is now writing for a fishing magazine over there called Total Sea Magazine:

His photography and writing were applied to me, Chip, and Joel a couple years ago and published in some UK mags. Clive Gammon also wrote Chip up in Ireland of the Welcomes magazine...a nice piece with some great shots by Terry.

If only we could live forever.

More next year.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's December

Well, I didn't end up filling in the spaces towards the end of the fishing season. It ended well with several days floating peacefully around the bay in the fog with my flyrod, hooking up almost every cast. Then it ended.

But so busy doing other things that I was secretly happy to see the fish go away. You see, when they are around I am anxious and feel that I am always missing something if I am not casting a line. So, naturally, when they leave I feel focused on whatever else I am doing. And these days it is basically surviving.

The oysters and other endeavors are going well and it still feels good to be spending just about every day on the water here in Duxbury. The season never ends when you are on the water all the time. Really. I can't explain it, but the warps, and the gradual change in season is almost imperceptible on the daily basis. It flows so seemlessly but goes much faster. I am already feeling behind for my spring time tasks.

Tonight there is a new moon and it is dark as ink out there. It is 32 degrees and raining. I hear the rain on the roof right now. Supposed to change to sleet off and on. Sleet, yay. Nothing like an inch or two of sleet. But no matter, only the wind screws me up.

Not sure where this is going, so more later.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Interim, but near the end

I owe a couple weeks of reports and stories, and I will get these done and posted soon. But for now, just a few things from today.

Today (10/10) was spent half in my home office working on this computer and this was probably the longest stint at a desk since my departure from my day job (in May). I did get a lot done and that was rewarding. The other half of my day was spent down at Bennett's and on the water. It was a gray day, with intermittent mist and sprinkles. Cool, but not raw. Not yet anyway. My task on the water was to work on some scallops that I am growing for the fall market. Most of them are looking fine and about ready to go. Others are small and runted and need more space. These were late comers and that is why I needed to get out there and split them into smaller batches; to allow them to grow faster.

But before doing all this I scouted around the bay looking for fish. My first stop was at a rip along the main channel that usually produced fish. But autumn fishing is different from the rest of the season; the rips don't necessarily hold the fish anymore and they're usually in schools in skinny water. And this was true today. The fish weren't far off along a stretch of mixed eelgrass and sand. Almost every cast of my Meunier Green Bug produced at least two massive explosions and fish were landed every other cast. These guys were mixed from 18 to 22 inches long, but I noted several larger fish that proved elusive.

After a while fishing this one spot that was truly remarkable, I moved onto my lobster pots -- lots of lobsters just shy of keeping size, but three still in the fridge from earlier this week. Then to the scallops.

The fish were all around me as I worked. The sound was comforting but also alarming as my instinct was to throw a line out at the busting schools of stripers...but I dealt with the things at hand and now and then my cell phone ringer would distract me from the beckoning fish sounds.

Finally done on the farm and I moved along Two Rock channel to give it a try. The fish were going ballistic at the Green Bug and I managed to land a couple. The water was skinny (3 ft) and the fish were nuts. The sky was turning redish-gray and the light was slowly vanishing. Gregg Morris, a fellow aquaculturist and next-door neighbor out there, came cruising in to tend to something on his farm. We waved to one-another as usual and then, after taking in the tranquility and amazing sights and sounds around me, I throttled up and pointed the boat toward the harbor.

Nothing beats this.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Sunday, September 16, 2007

I awoke to a clear day. The living room floor wasn’t feeling any better with time, so an early start was in the cards for me. I was in Chip’s family’s Wellfleet house and it was full of family visitors. I stepped over a couple of them on the way to the stairway to wake up Chip and get the day started. While he got ready I drove down to “Cumby’s” and grabbed a couple of coffees and then we were really off.

We took Chip’s family boat (Saltina) out of Wellfleet Harbor and out to Billingsgate Shoals. We had just enough water to make a short cut between the shoals and the now-extinct Billingsgate Island. And through this cut we ran into hundreds of feeding blues. But we didn’t want to stop here and get stuck on the low, so we moved on to slightly deeper water. I was reminded of how vast these shallow flats are as we travelled a good half-mile until the engine could be trimmed back down a little.

Anyway, we decided to stop and drift. First cast was with my spinning rod to sniff out any potentials and on the second crank I had several blues attack and one of them hooked. “Ah, they’re right here Chip,” I said as I reeled in the feisty fish. We then rigged our fly rods with some wire leader and the contest began. Chip was using a small popper and I was throwing a clouser. It took a little while on the drift, but we had some action – not as much as we expected, however. A few blues and one 20” striper. As the morning progressed the wind picked up from the N and the fish stopped their bite. We moved around to several areas in the shoals, then to Sunken Meadow, but the action simply died. Most of the other boats out there with us disappeared too. Then after Chip’s phone began to pipe up (mine got toasted on yesterday’s tuna trip) we realized it would be best to head in. We had a large family dinner to prepare down in Chatham and early would be better than late.

The Billingsgate area is an amazing place to be – fish or no fish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

*Pop* Goes the Tuna

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My trusty cell phone alarm sounded at 4:45. Through the sound of the rain, I reached for it, not realizing where I was, and turned it off. My right arm was asleep. After about a minute my eyes adjusted and I was able to coordinate my thoughts and remember where I was: the Chatham rental. And it was time to get up and head up the road to Wellfleet to pick up Chip for our trip with Jeff (Fin Addiction).

I was the first one up, but I heard them stir around as I walked down the soaked path to my truck. The guys (Joel, Gary, Scott, and Brian) were all due to get up at five and head out for more false albacore or big bass; their plan had not been hatched yet. But I was out before seeing any of them and soon on Route 6 towards the lower Cape. The rain worried me, primarily because I was expecting to get wet and uncomfortable. I had not brought proper foul weather gear and instead had my chest waders and a winter gore tex jacket (only one left with working zippers due to the salt water). I had shellfish surveys to possibly conduct on Monday in Truro and Provincetown which explains the waders.

When I was almost to Wellfleet I pulled over to the Dunkin Donuts for fuel. The phone rang as I turned off the truck and it was Jeff. He was confirming my wish to fish, despite the weather. I understood how he felt but I was also keen on getting out for some bluefin. Last month our trip with Jeff was cancelled due to a strong SW blow. This time the wind was not an issue, but the endless small rain squalls were problematic. I called Chip and within seconds I heard myself say, “Fuck it, we’re going, and if it sucks out there then we’ll head in early.” And this is because it would be more sufferable to spend the day wondering whether we would have hooked into fish had we just gone out. Chip complied to my order and soon we were on the way to Pamet to meet Jeff.

On the way out we agreed that if conditions worsened or it was just not worth the effort, that we’d hang it up early, say ten or so. There was no pressure, we simply wanted the opportunity to be in the right spots, with the right boat, and get the chance to cast to some fish. And this we did.

As Jeff took us up along his preferred route our eyes focused on the water. We were keen on finding birds and busts. It only took ten or fifteen minutes before the first school was spotted and it was this school that produced Chip’s first hookup. His cast, a Yo-Zuri hydro pencil, produced a bust, a flash, and a “weeeeeezzzzz” that lasted longer than I expected. He held on to the fish and managed, over the next twenty minutes, to inch it closer to the boat.
Finally it was within sight and Jeff readied himself with his hockey stick gaff. And then…when the fish was just finishing a circle by the boat…it happened. Snap. The line parted somewhere between the rod’s tip and the leader knot. No explanation was possible and the fish was gone. I leaked out a loud obscenity as I watched Chip bend over in exhaustion and relief.

We weren’t done by a long shot. We moved on and soon we were upon another school. This time I was on and man, this fish was a bitch to retrieve. It took my Yo-Zuri, fitted with a single hook in the tail end, a treble in the front. Line went out, and I got most of it back before we started the game where the fish comes close, did a few circles, then dove fifty feet. Repeated five or six times. By the fourth time I was almost spent. My back, which has a history of dysfunction and pain, began to burn like the Yule log. Arms were free of glycogen reserves and I couldn’t feel my hands. Jeff, of course, made fun of me: “Did I tell you about the 63 year-old woman client I had last week who landed a fish larger than this in only half the time?” Chip almost offered to take the rod…I was close to being humiliated, yet this fucking fish would not give up.
After two or three attempts with the goalie-gaff I was beginning to wonder if this fish would come aboard at all. But finally Jeff prevailed over the bluefin and it was up over the rail and in the boat. Yay.

As I rejuvenated myself, Jeff bled and prepped the fish in the stern. “Head us into the wind John,” he ordered. I complied and upon seeing another school not far away, asked the captain’s permission to put Chip on this school. “Go for it,” he returned. So I did and within a few minutes I ordered Chip to cast his line and within a crank or two a decent tuna came out of the confused water and back down on Chip’s popper (intentionally) and again he was on. The reel screamed and we were excited. Jeff and I high-fived and watched intently as Chip played the fish. In the rain, we waited only half the time it took me to land mine and soon the gaff took the fish to the boat, but after confirming the length and making sure it was legal sized. It was 49” and a decent one.

After Jeff got this one into the box we decided to try some on the fly. Chip was keen on this and I relinquished the bow to him for most of the remainder of the charter. But it was hard to cast the fly in these conditions, at least for Chip, and also for me by the time I had my chance. We were both in a trance from the action – just seeing the hundreds of amazing bluefin coming out of the water within feet of the boat was overwhelming. So, no hookups on the fly, and this seemed to frustrate Jeff. Had I been more attentive and clear-headed I would have insisted he take a while on the bow to hook up. But I wasn’t and I regret this now.

We agreed to head in about five times and each time we found more fish along the way home. But soon a final, convincing squall line appeared from the NW and was rushing in fast. Boats in our view were quickly disappearing within a shroud of fog, rain, and wind. We hustled back in, passing schools of busting fish, and finally made it to the dock and then to the dry confines of my truck.

“That was fucking amazing!” Exclaimed Chip. “Yeah,” I said. “What a trip.” Jeff cleaned one and later I cleaned the other on the tailgate of my truck, surrounded by our extended family. We then ate the fish both Sat. and Sun. nights among family and friends. It was perfect.

All for now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Elbow Stories

Friday, September 14, 2007

The weekend plans were as follows: go to Wellfleet to catch tuna with my brother-in-law, Chip. So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to leave Friday afternoon to make sure I was out there and ready at the break of dawn. It also couldn’t hurt to drop by Morris Island again since I needed to stop in Chatham to deliver some shellfish to Joel and his fishing party (Brian, Gary, and Scott).

But I was early arriving (or they were late getting off the water) and I decided that another visit to Morris Island would be a good idea. Tuesday’s fishing, after all, was pretty good and I thought that I might have another shot at the false albacore. The weather was fine: sunny with a few clouds, a fair SW breeze, and warm. I arrived at Morris Island, at the NMFS site, suited up and began my way down the boardwalk which would take me down some steep stairs to the thin beach which would lead me to the point and the flats that stretch toward the Monomoy Islands. But on the way past the bird feeders I noticed a fox, chewing happily on either bird shit or perhaps a bird. Some tourists from NJ were standing there snapping photos of this sad scene. I couldn’t restrain myself, “Oh, wildlife…” I kept walking. The woman then, after about ten seconds realized the absurdity of my comment and began laughing hysterically. “Yes! Wildlife…ha…this is real wildlife indeed! Ha!” I kept on walking. I also looked like an idiot – chest waders, dirty shirt, long-billed hat, and sunglasses….carrying a fishing rod.

The walk takes about 10 minutes over sand of medium firmness. When the tide is high you have to walk up on the stone abutment that has been placed there to minimize, or delay, coastal erosion under the McMansions that have been constructed over the years. During these ten minutes I reflected on previous walks down this beach. My first recollections go back to perhaps 1976 when my parents took me there on a visit to former neighbors in CT who had moved to the Lighthouse Beach area to retire. I recalled Mr. Spague’s HAM radio and the walks along the eroding banks of Morris Island and under the lighthouse. Something stuck with me back then and I haven’t forgotten a thing. The place somehow became mystical to me and words cannot explain. In subsequent years my uncle Joe lived nearby on Stage Island and I did manage a visit or two in the 1980s, then in the 1990s my wife’s parents (Art and Ann) moved to Chatham and I became a regular visitor to this particular spot. One Christmas Eve about four or five years ago I found myself on this same walk. It was afternoon, dinner was on the stove back at the Chatham house, and I was granted an hour or so for a hike. The weather was phenomenal. It was about 50 degrees (F) and the NE wind was pummeling waves along the shore. Rain was intermittent and I got soaked on the “hike.” I’ll never forget that afternoon – I was remembering previous summer’s events out there; fishing and simple nature walks.

Anyway, if you’re still awake, I’ll continue with the fishing story. I reached the end of the island and saw the false albacore. But they were a half mile or more out, between N. Monomoy and South Beach. I had no chance for them unless they travelled far and right near me. But I waded out anyway and began casting. I reckoned I had about an hour before Joel would call to say that they were back in and I was happy, on this falling tide, to have that time to just fish from shore and let my thoughts ramble where they may. Nothing happened for some time. But about a half hour later I noticed that the false albacore schools were indeed getting closer, perhaps following the ebb tide to Nantucket Sound. I was full of hope and anticipation. And meanwhile, bluefish showed up. Suddenly on one of my retrieves (one of Joel’s homemade jumping minnows) an explosion occurred and my lure disappeared. It was a medium sized blue and I carefully retrieved him to my chest-deep location for a release. It sprayed me with a good amount of water, rendering my sunglasses useless, and drenching me to a significant extent beneath my chest waders. Released and happy…both of us.

Then a few more. Then the phone rang but I could not answer as my body was within a pressure suit. The false albacore came close for about two minutes…on the edge of my cast…but no hookups as they mysteriously moved back south and east into the waters of the Monomoy Islands.

I returned to the beach, checked my messages, and indeed, Joel and his party were back at their rental property. I was to show up, deliver a bag of oysters, a bag of steamers, and a small bag of baby scallops – all from my efforts in Duxbury Bay. So I did this and they were happy to greet me and my bags of shellfish. My reward was a nice sized gin and tonic. And then some dinner. And then some more nice gin and tonics. And then, after we began to ignore the Red Sox game, which was on in the background, and after Joel’s eyes turned upside-down and he went to bed, we had one more nice gin and tonic and crashed. I slept on the outside porch in my sleeping bag and dreamt good dreams and wished big wishes as the morning was to be special. In the morning I was to head up to Wellfleet, pick up Chip, and meet Jeff Smith at Pamet for a full day of tuna madness.

It began to rain at midnight and that is when my eyes finally closed for the night.

(This picure below is of Terry Thomas from Wales. A day to remember, Terry hooked his first keeper striper on the edge of Morris Island in September 2005.)

Next up: rain, fog, and tuna.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Shore Fishing and Albies

September 11, 2007

So today I had to work. I have a job to work with some shellfish constables around the Cape to assess shellfish densities and growth. Afterwards I had some time and decided to head to Chatham to check Morris Island for albies. The public access area down on Morris Island is one of my favorite spots on the Cape. It is a place I visited as a child (before much of the current riprap and buildings were constructed) and where I continue to go when I want a relatively short walk or to fish from shore. Today I wore my chest waders and lugged myself down to the point facing North Monomoy Island where I immediately found loads of albies breaking in two or three schools. One school was close in, but I would have to wade to the brim.

First cast: a take. Then lots of line peeled off. I phoned Joel to let him hear the screaming reel and then the fish shook the hook. “Man, that was a nice false albacore!” And I could hear Joel telling his office mates what was going on…I was making them squirm in their cubicles (fattening pens).

Then the fish moved out a ways and I was out of luck. I stayed for an hour and the fish did come close again, but not close enough. When I was about to turn back to shore I noticed a few surface busts in the shallows not far away. I threw my deadly dick over to them and had a feisty blue on the first crank of the reel. I took him in with me for dinner.

A quick, late lunch at the Squire and then home. Two for two.


September 10, 2007

After an early morning on the water, gathering and bagging oysters for our buyer, I decided that I wanted to get out of town. The day was young and I was done working by 9:00. It would be either Boston or Woods Hole. I decided to hit Woods Hole and I am glad I did.

Joel Meunier, who you may have heard of by now, had planned to be somewhere on Buzzards Bay with his kayak to seek out false albacore, a species he had not mastered yet. I, of course, couldn’t resist throwing a rod into the back of the truck on my way out but my kayak remained at home. Really, I didn’t feel like fishing or being on the water. I wanted to visit the library, check in with some old friends, and then have a good meal at Captain Kidd’s. But only part of my plan would come to fruition.

As I passed the road to Little Sippewissett my mind immediately thought of Joel – “Man, maybe he’s down there on the bay.” And he was. His was the only car in the lot. I couldn’t see him for a while, but then my phone rang and I told Joel that I was there on the beach and, as a good friend would do, he came in to loan me his kayak to head out for albies. He had already landed two nice false albacore…his first. I enthusiastically took this opportunity and paddled out – not far – and found the fish in a series of shit shows. My first cast: hookup. This was a nice one. It took me at least 20 minutes to land him and he must have been at least 10 lbs. The kayak was relatively small and the fish turned me around and pulled me along many meters of distance. It was a good experience. He hit a popper: a chugbug.

Next try: almost. But close.

Then I felt guilty and returned the kayak to Joel. And he went right back out.

Next message on my cell phone: “Fuckjickidus dude, my rod just broke on one!” Joel went through lots of tackle (a tackle busting time) but I think he managed a couple more fish.


On the Fly

September 9, 2007

Well the pressure was on: Brooke and I decided to throw a dinner party tonight and I got up early to catch it. There was no guarantee of course. But I made my way out to the bay and found it alive with about a million fish. I wanted striper, of course, but a few blues would be good too. My plan was striper on the grill and bluefish cakes for an appetizer…along with oysters. But all the fish were stripers and to my dismay, they wouldn’t hit any of my Joel Meunier custom sluggos. And these suckers were hooking stripers on each cast over the past month. Hmmn…good thing I brought along my 9-wt Temple Fork flyrod. First cast and I was on. Not too huge, but a good fighter. Second cast: blam and that was it. After a few minutes a nice 30” striper was in my boat and man, was I happy. Dinner was caught. But I still wanted a few blues.

But I couldn’t find the blues. However, the party went well and everyone was happy to eat fresh fish from the bay. The oysters proved successful as well.

Live life deliberately.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Birthday

September 8, 2007
Arthur Leslie Brawley – my dad.

This would have been his 91st birthday. He was 50 by the time I was born and our time together was short (he died in 1993). Anyway, he was a true fisherman and an excellent writer, though he hated to write. He was an editor instead.

Here’s to you Dad!

Solo Days

September 6-7, 2007

I had two days working the oyster/scallop farm and hitting the rips right after for some action. On both occasions I didn’t need to go far. After wrapping up the shellfish duties I hit the same big rip and man, the fish were there and inside the Cow Yard in big numbers. Lots of fun. One keeper came out of the mix and many good, aggressive fish. Casting a fly or a plug or a sluggo into moving water and having a hookup is awesome. The fish are typically energetic and mad and the action in the rolling, standing wave is a sight that excites all. These two days were spent fishing the rips quite casually and hooking up quite well. These were experiences that would have been nice to share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Auction

Monday, September 3, 2007
Labor Day.

Today’s charter was really not a true charter but a donation to the Duxbury Art’s Association – a very worthy cause. I had offered a charter in their silent auction and it raised some money and that is great. I attended the party one cool evening in August and, of course, knew one of my auction winners: Brian M. His friend, Bern, offered the highest bid and the two of them were on me for the date of our excursion. I knew Brian, faintly, from our college years. He and I lived in the same dorm during freshman year at UVM – back in 1984 (he was on Patterson 2nd and I was on Patterson 4th). And although we weren’t friends back then, we shared the same friends and as a result, as adults, there was a kindred connection of sorts.

But Brian and Bern knew the bay and knew it well. And this was a mental challenge for me because many of the spots I took them to were ones already familiar to them. So, we met up nice and early at the town dock (I required 15 minutes to clean the oyster mud off the boat) and off we went. I knew it might be a hard morning because the weather had just changed. It was cool and the wind was forecast to pick up from the west/southwest. And it did, and this pushed the fish down. But not before we hit some nice rips that held some decent sized stripers. Brian’s largest was 28” and he released it. Bern and Brian both hooked up on several Saquish-area rips but then as the day wore on the fish thinned out and the wind picked up.

It wasn’t the best day of fishing, but also not the worst. The three of us did have fun with stories; new and old. And I scored some extra coffee as Bern’s Dunkin Donuts clerk accidentally doubled his order. Brian is a big, newly converted, live pogy man and he impressed me with his accounts of hooking into large fish in the channel and other parts of the bay. I see him regularly out there netting the baitfish and on one occasion (see a future post) he scooted up to offer a live one to me as a gift. Great guys and skilled fishermen.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Revisiting P32

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ah yes, Labor Day weekend and parties and such. A few of us spent some of yesterday afternoon at the Lojko’s who live not far away and there the plan was made: Joe would join me this morning in pursuit of the infamous P32 bass. The P32s were the ones I have found to be in residence at a certain time and place every year. So, after a few beers and a margarita (perhaps in reverse order), and a few trips down Joe and Cheryl’s amazing “zip line” which runs a good distance down their yard…through massive oaks…Joe and I agreed to meet, if possible, at 5:15 AM. The confirmation came a few hours later over the phone and I should have gone to bed right then, but we had guests for the weekend and we carried on later than necessary.

4:45 AM – Ugh, not again. I need to change that phone alarm ringtone as it is completely ridiculous. Up I was and out the door within minutes. Joe and I took off from Mattakeesett in near darkness and bolted right to the spot. A few casts yielded nothing. Then, as the light increased slightly, the action began. The rip formed quite well and we both hooked up several times. But out of the two of us Joe had the mojo. His third or fourth fish took lots of line and I could tell by his expression that he might have a significant fish on. And it was. It took a while (he didn’t want to lose it) but when the fish was finally landed it gave us a good shot of adrenalin. It was 36” and very fat; one of the heftiest fish I had seen all year. Joe smiled and we continued. The wind became a bit of a menace. North and increasing to 10-15 kts. But the fish were still on and soon Joe had a 28 incher on and I offered to keep it for him (dinner plans).

We tried another spot and were successful. It was fun. But I had to head in to work. Of course, I was already in my office (the boat) but I needed to drop Joe off and pick up my business partner for shellfish chores. So, we ran back to Snug Harbor.

I know that if I had gone to bed an hour or two earlier last night then I would have landed a couple of keepers too. I was out of it. It has been a long week/10 days of very early mornings and lots of physical activity. To make things worse, another dinner party tonight and an early morning charter tomorrow. Pooped.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Friday, August 31, 2007

Again a morning out with Joel. Hooked a bunch of sublegal stripers at some usual spots. Then cruised into the Cow Yard and got into some nice blues with bass mixed in. A few drifts over the rip produced some good action and finally, with a 5” Fin-S I hooked a keeper bass – and this was good luck because we were counting on this for dinner.

Overall the morning was great. Lots of laughing and some good hookups. The fish were challenging but we managed success when we needed it. All this in preparation for the evening event: the Marshfield Fair Crash-Up Derby. A first for me and for Joel. Took the all the kids, met up with Alex and friends, and hit the fair. A scene it was and perhaps hard on the eyes and the nerves. We left early to head home to cook that striper. We prepared it in the fennel, endive, onion, and thyme style that Chip demonstrated just a couple weeks ago. It was awesome…even absolutely magnificent. Some great wines and stories made it a great night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cranky Corker Tackle Buster

Friday, August 17, 2007

Again, the plan was hatched the night before. “So, I pretty much have tomorrow off. What are you thinking, Daddio?” Since changing my career setting I had more flexibility and, therefore, Daddio was set and ready to fish the early AM on Friday. So we did. And here’s the story.

I met Joel around 5 at Howland’s. Remarkably, the indicator lights at the Dunkin Donuts gleamed and life seemed to be in existence there. So, despite my pledge to avoid that place, I caved and entered to order my medium coffee. But my wishes were smashed when the server had to actually brew a whole pot just to serve me. Ah, no one’s fault but mine. I was ten minutes late meeting Joel at the landing. And ten minutes were important on this trip.

We set off through the channel. The mid tide was ebbing and the good rips were just now forming. First stop yielded nothing. I was somewhat surprised, but took it well. We were on fly rods. We had decided to fly fish for a while before going for the big bass on our secret weapons. I suggested we move and Joel agreed. We traveled for only a few minutes to our next spot and immediately some guy in a Boston Whaler sped nonchalantly over our rip….hmmn. Can’t prevent those things. So we set up a drift over one of my cherished spots and within seconds the fish were showing. I was the first to hook up: a 28 incher on a fly that actually lasted through the latter half of the “one-fly” tournament a few days back. This was sweet. At that time, however, Jon Nash and Eoin showed up in Jon’s boat which was presenting a high pitched alarm every time he ran it (explained later). And this was OK. It was nice fishing among friends. We took turns through the rip and had luck through each one.

My next fish was a wee bit larger (29) and was caught on one of Joel’s famous double-hooked sluggos. Joel, at this point, had several near misses and was getting pissed. Not at me, of course, but at the situation; there were lots of big fish flailing about in front of us and they were hard to catch.

But Joel’s luck turned in rapid fashion. After I unhooked my second keeper he threw out a white sluggo and muttered a bit until *KLASHLURRRP!* an explosion good enough for the books occurred over his lure. Then the reel screamed like a frightened girl, and kept screaming. “Daddio, I think that I have a good one here,” warned Joel. At that instant I noticed several very large fish surfacing within casting distance. I was alternating between fly and spin, trying to satisfy my need to hook into a decent sized fish. I was probably somewhat rude as a result; Joel had to net his fish himself. But I knew that this is a fun accomplishment and let it ride. It was a good one. He was quite happy and we moved on to the next drift.

Next drift (or one soon after)….. *KLASHLURRRP!*. Joel was on again and this one was a bit larger. “Doooooooo-ooooood,” cried the crazy-haired maniac. Meters of line peeled off his reel and this was getting exciting. We landed the fish together (this time I offered to be net boy) and rejoiced loudly enough for Jon and Eoin (who were actually only 15 meters away) to notice.

“Hey, nice fish!” yelled Jon. But I couldn’t resist. “Yeah man, we’ve a corker here. Corker on board…on rubber cranks!” Then the classic reply, “We’re having some tackle-busting action here.”

It was a nice fish. About the same length, but larger in other dimensions. I kept telling Joel that I knew of another spot to try and we’d better go as our time was limited. But his expression was telling me to stay and I felt the same way. And so we did, for a while, and hooked a few more, including keeper sized bass that were released. Don Mac. showed up and joined us all in a couple of drifts, then moved on. And after a while the phone rang and it was my business partner, and friend, Alex. We were to pick him up on shore and then get to work on our oyster farm. But I gauged the time delay between his departure and our arrival and insisted that we hit this other spot that I had been thinking about. So we did…for about 9 minutes.

We arrived. I told Joel about where to cast and when, etc. And it worked. We went through this drift about 4 times and each time we were doubled up with decent sized bass. And these guys were somersaulting over the standing waves after our lures. It was good enough to stay, but we couldn’t. We hit the road and met Alex as he arrive at the landing.

But some things worth noting:

(1) The gut contents were primarily small, stunted squid (see photo). These squid didn't seem to be juveniles, but perhaps a small species? Not sure...looking into it.

(2) Got back to shore and thought this guy (photo below)was dead in his car. Turns out he wasn't. Joel was diligent in taking a photo for posterity.

The rest of the day was cool. We worked for a bit, checked lobster pots (one keeper), and then had a good lunch at a local restaurant. We took home four fish (our limit) and Joel managed to pay for lunch on account of a curious, eager onlooker at Howland’s.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The One-Fly Tournament

August 11, 2007

I’ve never fished in a tournament. Something I have always not been really that interested in. To me, tournaments bring out the lesser qualities in the sport of fishing in most people. Yes, I will agree with the proponents that they are fun for most involved. But the risk is that the outcomes of these tournaments include lots of dead fish (and sharks) that get killed for no reason other than gorilla dust. I’ve seen pounds upon pounds of dead fish thrown away and these fish would never have won any contests anywhere.

But here I am, reporting on the tournament that I joined. It was a fly fishing tournament. This doesn’t mean that it is above all else, but I tend to think that the chances of by-catch are lower than other methods and that the focus is on sport over success. Jon Nash emailed me the rules and gave me a nudge of encouragement, and so I called my sister’s husband, Chip Cornell, and we were in. Being so busy on the water these days I didn’t pay too much attention to Jon’s detailed messages (belated readings of them were actually quite helpful in the understanding of things). So the deal was to meet up at a specified location for instructions and the divvying up of team partners and boat partners (not to be the same). And so we did and off we went. The contest would occur on a very bright, cloudless, early August Saturday afternoon which, if you fish, means that the odds of good fishing were nil.

Chip turned out to be my team mate and, through lottery, he was matched up with Sam Davenport. My boat partner was Scott and right now I cannot remember his last “Scott” will have to suffice. Off we went at 12:00 from Howland’s. First stop was nearby, along the Kingston channel to check out some birds and begin rigging up. We were both unprepared and clumsy. This was probably because there was pressure on us not only to win the first prize, but also to impress one another. Jon, of course, ruined things for me by stating quite loudly to everyone that I was a local guide and probably should be disqualified. And this stunned me and perhaps made me worry more than I should about performing successfully. But Scott was no stranger to these waters and he confidently suggested that we first head outside the bay and try some areas close to the Pilgrim Power Plant. This was actually a fishy spot and quite nice, but no fish. Not even after some attempts with a black sluggo.

We motioned back towards land and came across a couple of schools of bluefish. This, we found out, through Scott’s retrieval of a half-a-sluggo. Hmmn. Bungling around I put on a wire leader and awkwardly attempted at throwing some homemade fly poppers (untested) around. And I skunked out at this attempt. Scott landed one blue and we kept him (for me). I worried about fuel. I mistakenly remembered the fuel tank being full and brought only a few extra gallons in a jerry can. But the tank was near empty and, of course, our first spot was a good haul and this consumed half our day’s fuel. Hmmn.

The sun was high and lots of boats around. It was odd fishing in these conditions. We headed in to the Bug/Saquish area and that is where we started to get back into the groove of things. I took Scott to a small rip that I had been successful with almost 100% on incoming tides. And, to my pleasure, we were. We hooked a few, nothing too big, but enough to get us into the game. I can’t remember exactly where Scott hooked his longest fish of the day (only 26”) but I think it was here or right nearby.

We then moved on to Clark’s Island and had some fun with midsized fish in very skinny water. And after that played out we hit a familiar rip where, in a matter of seconds, most of the other tournament boats showed up and here began the banter. But then other boats, surely attracted by our six boats, showed up and man, were there some classics. People trolling umbrella rigs through our drifts, hooking down and throwing seven baited rigs out, almost consuming the entire rip…etc. To each his own, but Scott and I grew tired of this scene. We both recalled the scene from Jaws where the whole town marina sets off to find Bruce the shark….”They’re all gonna die.” So I offered a new spot for us and I am glad that Scott agreed. This was a skinny, long rip that has been producing fish for me all year. We hit it and, quite honestly, on every pass we were doubled up on good fish. It was exciting because these fish were coming clear out of the water as they devoured our flies. We hooked many, no keepers, but close. Realizing there was only a half hour left of the tournament we switched to a new spot. By this time I had lost both of my tournament flies (allowed two of the same pattern for the day to compete). So we drifted, told stories, then motored in at 5:00.

Jon was smart and put lots of beer on ice at noon. By 5:30 we were ready. And then the Island Creek oysters, and then the Mt. Gay rum and tonics, and dark-n-stormys…and the big gathering that ensued. We had fun meeting one another (20 of us) and recounting the day. Later we feasted on striped bass and a nice surprise of bluefin tuna that was landed by Jack Kent the day before. First raw, then seared, the tuna was absolutely magnificent. Some loony business ensued and I would normally describe these events in detail, but I reckon that the folks involved would frown on me…so later perhaps.

A nice tournament. I actually won one award with my boat mate, Scott. We went home with a couple of nice fly boxes. The overall winner (biggest fish) was Sam Davenport. Good for him.

Next up: another amazing morning in Duxbury Bay with Joel Meunier – we were on.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Major Higgins

Monday, August 6, 2007

Chip was back and ready for action. He took a short flight from White Plains to Boston, rented a car, and by 9:00 AM was in my driveway pulling out his fly gear and proudly exhibiting his apparel. A decent resemblance to Major Higgins, Chip was all suited up and anxious to get out on the water. And this we did. The plan was: fish, eat, drink, sleep, fish.

As usual, and consistent with most of Chip’s visits, the wind was up and the weather unsettled. But this didn’t deter us. When we set off it was partly cloudy with a SSW breeze of 10 – 15 kts. I was on spinning gear (easier from the stern) and Chip on his 9-wt flyrod. And there were fish immediately found on the surface. We found several schools of stripers under crazy terns and I got us close enough, but they were apparently full and hesitant to bite. I landed three or four, largest was 27.9” (yes, he went back in) whereas Chip had difficulty hooking up. This was because the wind increased in steady increments and messed the whole thing up for him.

We broke for a late lunch and a stop at Atlantic Angler to seek some new, local flies. At 3:00 we returned to the bay and found it much worse. Again, undeterred, we move forth to the Cow Yard, where we left them earlier. And yes, they were there. By this time the wind was 20 kts and quickly increased by 3:30 to 30 kts. A thick front of black clouds approached from behind Cordage Park and the rain began whipping us. “I think we ought to head in,” Chip offered. “Hmmn, maybe you’re right,” I said. But I was not going to give up that easily. There were hundreds of breaking fish, unfortunately finicky fish, and Chip had put a lot into getting up here to hook them on his fly gear. I began the journey back toward Howland’s, the weather really becoming a threat, and on the way passed an acre of fish froth. “Listen Higgins, we’re not heading back to shore until you catch a goddamn fish, got it?” But this was not to happen today; it was simply not smart to be out there much longer and we gave up within a couple minutes. The fish, although plentiful were up then down and so full of food that they just weren’t hitting artificials.

We returned to Howland’s under the watchful eye of the Harbormaster and, soaked, retreated to the house to prepare for the evening’s festivities. A jaunt to the shops was followed by perhaps the best meal of the summer: grilled striper (thawed from Dave Yozzo’s recent visit) and tautog (blackfish) in an amazing mixture of caramelized fennel bulb, endive, sweet onion, pernod, and fresh thyme. Good wines too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The alarm sounded at 4:30. No coffee or food, just straight to the boat. The fog was as thick as it gets and stayed that way all morning. Good thing I had just replaced my broken GPS. On our way out my neighbor, Ned, was preparing to head out too. I found our way to some good tidal rips first and then Ned phoned me. “Hey neighbor, I’m onto some fish right here at Howland’s and landed a keeper on my second cast.” Shit. I mean, good for Ned as he was due for some good luck on the water. But we had already invested a good deal of time navigating out into the bay and to turn around based on this report was not really a desirable action. We were socked by the fog, heard birds in the distance, and Chip had still not hooked up with anything on this trip. But I was confident. We continued out to Clark’s Island, then south to Saquish Neck and it was there where we found acres upon acres of feeding stripers. This delighted Chip and within minutes he was landing as many as he could cast to. Me too. We stayed there, taking multiple drifts, for a good hour or so. Ned called several times trying to convince us to head back to Kingston Bay. “But we’re onto acres of them man,” I countered. We did, however, eventually head back to see what Ned was talking about and yes, we found pretty much the same picture as Saquish. These schools were not necessarily showing on the surface but every second or third cast produced a striper. The water was green and clear, like pernod. The fog continued to be fog and never lifted. No keepers this morning but lots of mid-sized stripers. No blues, which surprised me.

By 10:30 I stated that I had to head in. I was due back out on the water around 11:00 to work on the oyster farm. A few more casts, then we went in. Chip had some time to kill before his flight out of Boston. I pointed him to a flyfishing shop nearby and he was off, but not before he proudly displayed his "striper thumb". I have a busy week on the water ahead, then Chip will return on Saturday as we'd been invited to a small flyfish tournament this weekend. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Full Day

Thursday, August 2, 2007 (Morning)

Joe and Cheryl were a few minutes late arriving at the landing, but I was glad about this because I needed some time to sort things out and the boat needed at least some cleaning from the previous day’s work on the oyster farm. It was a great morning; slight haze, warm, and calm. We sped out to spot number one, took a few casts and watched the sun rise over Saquish Head. Not much luck there, so we moved to number two and had a few interesting hookups, but unfortunately nothing of any great size (although I knew that some cows were in there). The spring tides were responsible for the masses of floating eelgrass and these fouled our lines consistently. As a result I had to maneuver the boat, changing our position, to open areas within. So I did this and they kept casting and overall, within spot numbers two and three, several fish were hooked, including some small bluefish.

The tide, which was ebbing, would turn within the hour and this would likely cause a short lull in the action (likely, but not guaranteed). “How about we head north to the beach channel and see what’s happening up there?” I asked them. They happily agreed and so we moved north. I was explaining that there were a couple spots along the beach channel that would produce fish fairly consistently. The first one was obvious because there were about a thousand birds working the surface and the fish were exploding almost beyond belief. We stopped and fished there for a while and soon had a good number of blues and bass pulling the drag out. Still, nothing too big, but Joe and Cheryl were happy to keep a few blues learn some of the choice areas.

We explored a few more areas in Duxbury Bay, showed them how the boat handles when the prop grinds the sand (it was quite low and murky), then after the tide switched over we headed back to the Saquish area for more bass. We did find more at some of the same spots and some new ones. It was hot and the air was still. No keeper bass today, but plenty of fish. A great time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 (Afternoon)

It was hard to schedule, but once Stacey nailed both her husband (Dave) and me down on an open timeslot, we worked the trip out. The purpose of the trip was primarily to put a fish on Davey Junior’s rod. Davey Jr., an excitable three year-old, was eager to see some fish. Also on board was Davey’s cousin Edmund, an experienced, award-winning fisherman.

I had seen some surface action in the Cow Yard on my way out to Saquish, but when I returned with my party the fish had vanished and now the bay was full of chop and wake as it was peak return time for all the daytrippers and the SW wind was up to about 15 knots. There were still lots of weed in the water from the spring tides and it was still hot out there. But it was a beautiful evening and we decided, of course, to make the best of it. To ensure that some fish would be hooked (“Anything, even a dogfish,” Dave stated to me.) I picked up a couple of fresh menhaden (called “pogies” in this part of the world) to provide some chunk fishing while we drifted through some of my favorite locations.

First, however, I was keen on finding surface action because this would be the most exciting thing for the young, future angler. A trip up the beach channel – nothing. Further up to the bridge – nothing. Even some little spots that I felt surely would hold some fish, but nothing. Hmmn. This is the part of being a fishing guide that gets a little uncomfortable – when the strikeouts clearly exceed the hits. But we just needed some more time. The sun was still high and the boat traffic needed to die down a bit.

We returned to the Saquish area and quite gladly, I spotted birds working a small school of fish. We sped over to the spot, Dave threw the untouched chunk of pogie over as Edmund and I began casting swimming Yo-Zuri minnows into the school. I hooked up, winked at Dave, we switched rods and soon young Davey Jr. had his first striper. He and his dad reeled it in: about 18 – 20”. Davey was thrilled. Edmund watched happily as he continued to pull eelgrass off his hooks.

Within a few minutes we had another one, but this time on the chunk. Father and son excitedly reeled the fish which required a bit more energy and time then the last one. For effect, I netted this fish. It measured 27”….just shy of keeper size. Again, Davey marveled at the striper and watched in fascination as it swam down into the dark water upon its release.

A few more rips produced some surface explosions but we failed to hookup. It was getting late and time to head back to the beach. I dropped the men off after we all watched the sun set over Kingston Bay. The trip home was fast and beautiful.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Playing Tag

Monday, July 23, 2007

The first thing I heard at 4:15 this morning was the wind. Soothing, yes, but once I reached a 51% level of consciousness the sudden shock hit me hard. I had been gambling on the weather over the weekend in attempts to schedule a trip with Scot L. He was out on Saquish Head for several days with family members and we finally put the trip off until today. The forecast was a mixed bag of NE breezes, some 50% chance of rain, and probably worsening throughout the day. Saturday and Sunday were perfect weather wise. But other priorities prevailed and we were eventually stuck with today, Monday.

I met Scot and his father, Rich, down at the town dock at 6. On the way I stopped to for 5 minutes at one of my usual locations. I found birds going berserk and lots of stripers. I quickly sampled the school for size, etc., and landed two in the mid/upper 20s (inches). Hmmn, good sign. I was worried that the ENE wind would be putting them down. So far, no rain.

I told Scot and Rich about the fish I had found and we all agreed it would be a good idea to return to where we knew the fish were. We acquainted ourselves along the way and upon arriving we did indeed find the fish, still up on the surface and not another boat seemed to be fishing the bay. Perfect.

Rich took a rod that had a double-hooked white 9” Sluggo that my friend Joel Meunier rigged for me a couple weeks ago. This Sluggo had already hooked about 10 fish, including a 36” striper last week. Before casting, both Rich and Scot marveled at the rubber bait and firmly decided that these were to be their lure of choice. I needed to rig another one for Scot, so he started off with a Yo-Zuri popper (also, a keeper veteran, but in much better shape).

Rich’s first cast into the school of busting fish: KABLAM! (obligatory caps and exclamation point….I’ll ease off on these from here on). Line peeled from the reel, we all watched in anticipation, and yes, a fish that measured 28 inches. Nice one. But upon further inspection we noticed a USFW tag in its belly. I had never come across one of these, nor had the guys. I took my pliers and gave the bubblegum-colored plastic tubing a pull but only managed to break it off at the scales. We set it aside for later.

Soon both Scot and Rich were landing fish, and this continued for some time. I was happy about having a keeper on board on the first cast of the day. For a while there were big follows, mid-sized landings, and then Rich hooked into a larger striper that, again, peeled away. This one was about 32 inches and the happiness continued.

Then we moved to another area not too far away. I told the tales of how I’d hooked many large bass in this spot and if they were in then they’d be appreciable in size. Within one minute of the first drift we had a major double hookup (see photo). Scot’s fish I saw. It was a biggie and took lots of line off his reel. But Rich seemed to be huffing and puffing too, and his reached the boat first. A quick dip of the net and it was in. However, this story has a sad ending: while unhooking Rich’s fish the same happened to Scot’s and his fish unhooked at the boat. I didn’t get to see it up close (Scot did, of course) and we all sulked a bit when this happened. I, like a dolt, left my tape at home (next to my broken GPS) so we couldn’t get an exact measurement of Rich’s new friend, but I estimated about 36”. He was fat too. We all agreed that Scot’s was larger, but we’ll never know.

The action continued for some time. Scot kept pulling in 27 inchers while Rich, taking full advantage of his lucky (and skillful) streak, pulled in one more keeper back along the original rips we fished. We sampled three or four more spots. The weather was tough to take and we decided that the 50% chance of rain the NOAA site predicted really meant that 50% of the time we were getting soaked. The small NE squalls hit with a consistent period, about every 15 minutes we would get some wind and a good soaking, then 15 minutes of mild air and brighter skies (but no sun).

While the guys fished I decided to poke around into the tagged fish and finally found the tag. “Reward” was the first word I recognized. It had an 800 number to call and a “fish number.” I dialed up the USFW and a woman promptly answered. I answered questions, then she asked to speak to Rich. He answered questions too…more personal questions. He responded to the announcement of the reward with glee and I immediately imagined some cash coming his way. But alas, no cash, but rather a USFW baseball cap. It was either that or a lapel pin, and I commend Rich for choosing the former. Hmmmn. Well, they’d also be sending some info on the fish as well.

We finally quit and I got both wet men back to the dock in time for lunch. Their tally came out to approximately (judging from the condition of my left thumb) 15 to 20 fat stripers each, including four nice keepers. We parted with smiles.

But the day wasn’t over for me. I checked my lobster pots (nada) then decided to fish for a little while myself. The fog thickened appreciably and I had to rely on my internal magnetic sensing system, which actually worked quite well today. I returned to Keeper Hole. First cast and (sorry), KABLAM!! I massive striper was now on my new Joel Meunier cherry popper (newly fitted with a larger VMC hook). But something was wrong. This hookup seemed totally odd. And yes, it was. The fish was not foul hooked but had hit with such vigor that it managed to wedge the thing sideways and upside-down in its mouth. When I got it close up to the boat (with net in hand), I was rendered aghast by the sight of the hook which was hanging freely out of the fish’s mouth. The horrified creature had the plug, as mentioned earlier, wedged in the most unnatural position. Ooh, I thought. Then I slid the net into place, but of course…yes, of course, removing the tension from the fish’s mouth for even the microsecond that I allowed it to do resulted in the gentle release of the dowel dam and the fish, ever so nonchalantly, swam over the net and out of reach into the dark water.

Good for him!

I called it quits for the day and somehow found home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Twelve hours, no injuries.

Tuesday/Wednesday, July 17/18, 2007

One of the last times Dave Y. departed from Duxbury it was with a deep 3” gash across one of his knees. This wound was the result of a freak accident; he stumbled and sank beneath the boat as he generously attempted to shove us off to a fishing trip of high expectations. An oyster shell, perhaps, shuttled a piece of Dave’s knee material to the crabs, but he didn’t complain, and in fact, he went through the next 27 hours before seeing a doctor. The doctor cussed him out, of course, and it was after that I learned how serious his little scrape was. But he survived.

So this year’s challenge was to keep Dave Y. blood-free and happy on the water.

It was Tuesday evening, about 4:00, and we were off from Howland’s Landing. Dave quickly revisited the accident scene and displayed the scar on his knee, but soon we were off onto the calm bay. My expectations didn’t match my hopes. The past few days on the bay were good, but not tremendously good. I had fished the past few mornings and had several nice fish as a result, but nothing to brag about. Evening fishing was something I hadn’t done in several weeks, mainly due to my early mornings and being dead-tired by 6 PM. But my friend was in town and I needed to see him succeed.

First, a sure thing: bluefish near the Powder Point Bridge. These were small ones, but fun to catch and good eating (I’ll eat any bluefish, anytime). The bridge area produced several (dozens) small blues. We kept five – the perfect number for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. This was a good warm up because Dave got the skunk off immediately and got to test out some of his freshwater tackle on these guys. He seemed confused when I doubled over in a laughing fit when these aggressive blues attacked, with vigor, his little Tiny Torpedo (a Heddon product) which was about an inch long – it chattered like a nervous Nelly, and had a little propeller stuck in its rear. I marveled at the way the small blues busted at this little thing. I could hear the “brrrrbbbbrrrr” of the little prop and then the unforgiving strike of the bluefish, turning this little thing into a piece of rubble.

So we had fun, and after about 10 drifts through our spot we decided to switch gears and head for some stripers.

Again, my expectations were modest. I scanned the usual spots and, to my surprise, my first choice was boat-free. Dave and I gabbed on about frustrations at work places and the unimaginable level of inefficiency associated with legal and administrative processes (*yawn*) while I set us up on our first drift. Within a few seconds we had ballistic stripers after our sorry lures. I explained all my thoughts about how to hook fish in this particular place to Dave. He seemed half interested because the trip through the rip only lasted about a minute or two, and he didn’t want to miss anything. And he didn’t. Within a seconds I was onto a bunch of stripers – wildly attacking my plug. But only a few fish in the low 20s were hooked. Then I switched to a Fin-S, and Dave to a swimming Yo-Zuri, and immediately we were doubling up on good fish. I landed a 28-incher and things got going. But Dave struggled to find hookups. I decided to try to find another rip to fish. So I did.

We moved on. Within seconds Dave had a large fish on. This fish would turn out to be his largest striped bass to date: a 29-inch keeper. Man, was he happy. A few pictures and laughs and in seconds I had another keeper on the line. This guy was hooked on the first cast of one of Joel Meunier’s third-edition cherry poppers: the fish took to the home made plug within 2 seconds – amazing. We ended up taking home three stripers and five small blues. We were happy. Another stint in the morning was agreed upon over beers and broiled bluefish at the house. I was worried, however, as I felt completely bushed out and lethargic. I started to think: what would influence me more, fishing or sex? But I promptly fell asleep.


4:10 – here is what I hear: “Dalalalaladada, Dalalalalaladada – boom-ding-dong…boom-ding-ding….(pause)…[repeat]”. My cell phone alarm is reminding me that Dave Y. has already risen from the loft and is preparing for his morning trip on the bay. I hear water running, I feel like shit. Basically, I am tired…too tired, but within a couple minutes I rally up and decide it is no use to fight. Plus, I want to hook a fish or two.

The mornings are getting later. A couple weeks ago I would have seen some light on the horizon, but this morning it was pitch-black. We stumbled with some aquaculture materials that were necessary for our mid-morning project, then finally got our act together and got on the water.

The morning was spectacular: awesome colors and FAC (which is an acronym for “flat ass calm”). First stop and – boom – fish! Good fish. They were nestled into a small area, but very consistent. Jon Nash showed up with his friend Sam and we all took turns over the rip and did well. Dave quickly landed a keeper and released it. He was excited about the action, as was I. But after several drifts the action diminished and my mind drifted elsewhere. The sun broke through the morning clouds over Clark’s Island and this created an amazing scene. Some photos were taken and soon we decided to move on.
Closer to Saquish, the rips were roaring and within seconds the cold air arrived, followed by the fog, and then socked in. But within a drift or two we were on. I switched from a surface plug to a 9” white Sluggo that Joel Meunier had fitted with a nifty hook assemblage and after two cranks of the reel – SCHLURPT! – a good hookup. Lots of line peeled off – drifting through lobster pots – maneuvering the best we could, and finally the landing: 36” and fat. Next drift: Dave did the same on his Yo-Zuri swimmer and landed a fat 36 incher. Eyes bulging, Dave stated clearly that now, this, was his largest striper.

The fog wisped around us then finally socked us. “Dave, what do you think about heading in a bit early, putting these guys on ice, then getting our shit together for our oyster work?” [we had oyster work ahead]. “Sure,” said Dave, blinking excitedly, still recovering from his fine fish.

In sum: fishing was excellent. Lots of bait in the bay, large fish in the right spots, and fun catching them.

Dave left intact. No stitches or whatever.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mr. Barnacles

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another early solo trip, but this time with Dog. It took a little longer to find the fish, but they were there again. Not as many large fish – mainly in the mid-20s. One near-keeper was fat and strong and peeled dozens of yards off my reel. Hopes up, ending in dampened expectations.

One odd thing did happen this morning. While drifting through the rip where yesterday I had snapped off my beloved Cherry Popper, I reflected on this event and even marveled at the idea of being surprised by finding it still floating around. Within seconds I spotted some line, weed, and…and…a popper. The mess drifted right past me in the exact location I lost yesterday’s lure…at exactly the same time. I snatched it up. It was not Cherry (that would have sent me to the bell tower). But it was a nice, old, barnacle-covered popper – Mr. Barnacles. I cleaned him up a little, leaving the barnacles intact, and stowed it away, where Cherry would have been resting. His test will come up soon.

In all, about a dozen nice stripers this morning – one just a quarter inch from dinner. The dog’s ass, black from sitting in the boat muck, shivered on the way in.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 12

Out alone this morning. Low tide, coming in. Big fish in the rips - going completely ballistic after my lures. So wild that they would often send the plugs several feet up (vertical) and hookups were difficult. A large Sluggo? Devoured and destroyed in short order.

Lost my cherished Cherry Popper this morning to a (typical) Penn reel malfunction. SNAP - @#$%!

AM fishing continues to be great. PM has been less so.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

...And Then The Rod Broke.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The dog came along this morning. Pea soup, like totally thick. GPS worked out well. Found the fish in short order and soon was into a group of feisty stripers that ranged from 25 to 35 inches. Landed one on a surface jumping minnow (Cherry Popper), then switched to a massive white sluggo that Joel Meunier assembled with a double hook gig. First cast and the water erupted around the sluggo and a 26” was on. Nice. Second cast, more eruptions but no hookups. Third cast - *SNAP*! The lightweight Temple Fork busted off at the first ferrule. WTF?! The dog stared worriedly at me as I retrieved the entrails of the rod back into the boat and swore at it a couple of times. But the morning was not over. I switched over to my flyrod. I continued to work this area for a little while before deciding to move to a different spot. One nice strike out there that looked like a blue, but the weed was bad and another boat decided to troll in circles around me. I returned to the original spot and immediately hooked into a couple of near-keepers on the fly. Fun indeed, but what with the busted rod? Most likely it went because the ferrule connection had loosened up and I was enthusiastically heaving a heavy sluggo - woops. I’ve heard that these rods, which are quite nice, need some candle wax in the ferrules to ensure complete connections. I’ve learned my lesson.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"That's What She Said."

Wednesday (7/4)

I almost rolled the car over Joel. Returning late from a game at Fenway Park, my son and I discovered a lump in my front yard, and it was, in fact, Joel Meunier wrapped up in his sleeping bag, titsup, and dead to the world. He had participated in the Marshfield fireworks chaos earlier in the evening and at some point we decided over the phone that an early trip out on the bay was warranted. I had also called John Daly (who was still in town) and the plan was firm – 4:30 at the boat.

This we did. The day looked amazing: calm winds, clear skies, and an ebb tide about halfway out. The first couple of spots we tried only produced one fish for Joel and this worried me. No luck in these areas meant we might have to really work hard to find whatever was in the bay. But I was confident and after about 45 minutes we found them along a very nice, picturesque plateau of smooth water that was quickly rushing over a bar. The fish were limited within a very narrow zone, but there were large numbers of them and between drifts we would see them surface after whatever baitfish flowed over the rip.

Immediately we were into them. Joel and I reserved ourselves the stern of the boat to throw jumping minnows, swimmers, and Fin-S baits on light spinning gear while John worked his flies from the bow. Each drift produced some feisty stripers – most measuring out in the mid to upper 20s. Joel’s first fish attacked his popper, “Ah, nice…now that's a big one!” Joel exclaimed in a stern tone. The joking ensued (see Subject Header, above).

The action continued until we simply ran out of time. We were all short on time; John was scheduled for a holiday road race and Joel had to drive north to NH. So, we ended the morning by quickly checking my lobster pots and poking around a few more rips. No lobsters or additional action. But the morning was a success.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

To the Flatlands

Monday (7/2) - A decent westerly breeze, turned northwest over the hours this morning. Best action found early along rips in the central areas of the bay. Very small blues were biting along the Bug Light whirlpools.

Today my guest was John Daly from Burlington, Vermont. An avid flyfisherman, John was totally and completely psyched to have a morning out on the bay. In all we did pretty well, but would have liked it just a little better. A few fish in the low 20s, and a few small blues. But John lost a couple of was certainly a keeper. We watched the fish follow the fly over the dense eelgrass meadows, open wide, and clamp down on his sorry fly. But alas, the hook didn't set right and the fish soon turned and ran. This event produced immediate spasms of frustration and jumping fits, but with big grins. Oh well.

The new tide brought crystal clear water into the bay and the flats looked amazing as usual. But today the fishing required some hard work as the bass were tight in specific rips under a bright sun.

John’s philosophy was simple and admirable: he was fishing not just for the fish, but for the opportunity to fish. Just knowing that they were there and he was there too made him the happiest man in town.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Last Week

Monday (6/18) – 10 stripers, 3 shad.

Thursday (6/21) – out with Eric Poreda. A few stripers.

Friday (6/22) PM – with Don Gunster. Four small bluefish.

Monday (6/25) – solo trip. A nice morning: several stipers, including one amazing fighter (35”). Several blues in the mix. Fish were hitting the surface throughout the morning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Water Like Chocolate

Friday, June 15

I was worried about the wind. On Thursday night it was blowing and I didn’t pay enough attention to the weather because, like a dolt, I read the extended forecast a few days earlier and it was for nice weather. I was nervous because my Friday morning charter was to be predominantly on flies and the wind would louse that up. The wind in the trees usually makes for good sleeping, but not this night. It continued, out of the north, even as I left the boat ramp at 4:30. But then, miraculously, it laid down to 5 – 10 and in an instant my hopes were up.

I picked up Dave and John at the town dock just before 5:00. John was running a few minutes late – he was driving down from his hotel in Boston. From Pennsylvania, John was in town for business and had been up late with Dave at Fenway Park to watch the Sox lose terribly. These guys were tired. We began out of the harbor and as we passed Captain’s Flats the wind became an issue again. The tide was draining out – a minus tide at 6:15 or so. So, between the wind and tide, our options narrowed significantly. But we attempted some open spots first in case the wind was indeed manageable. It wasn’t. Although the fetch of the bay was temporarily reduced by the surrounding sand flats it was making a mess of the lines and frustrating all of us.

We finally opted to find some shade from the north wind and that is hard to do in this bay. Behind Clark’s Island was the nearest choice and we fished it for a while. It was calm along the southern point but as we drifted south the wind and chop would slowly increase. We ran numerous drifts through here and on the second or third one John suddenly had a screaming reel. His flyrod, a nice Loomis, was bent hard and he had to work hard to get this one in. It was a fine keeper sized striper – and fat too. He was happy about this. I was happy about this too. If my memory serves, despite a lifetime of fishing all over the world for all kinds of species, I think this was his first striper.

Dave took the bow next. We repeated the drift several times and soon enough he had one on. The fight lasted only a short time, however, because the fish was small. John took a few photos of Dave with the fish, which made Dave laugh. But it wasn’t ludicrous at all because on days like this it takes a lot of time, patience, and skill to hook up on the fly.

Next we moved to some structure, a little more into the path of the wind (which just got worse). Dave took a few casts with some light spinning gear with a storm shad. Almost instantly he was onto a nice one. The reel screeched a little bit and a smile emerged on his face. The fish was 22” or so and had provided a nice fight.

We tried a few more drifts along this area but had no more luck. I then took the guys into Kingston Bay, to the vicinity of the Jones River where the wind was a bit less intrusive. The water was quite murky and we skunked there. John entertained us with several good stories of fishing in Chile and other locales. But I was preoccupied with finding more fish for these guys. We ended up trying several more areas, including a return to the one spot that proved successful earlier. But by this hour several other fishermen had arrived on the bay and were in the same situation - also seeking out the wind shade below Clark’s. We spent a couple more hours fishing and storytelling. The weather was curious but beautiful; the maritime low out over Nova Scotia was pumping rows of low clouds from north to south, but brilliant sunshine would alternate with the cloud cover every few minutes.

Despite all further efforts no additional fish were hooked. It was a marginal day, but this is fishing. I’ll refrain from quoting that bozo, Forest Gump, but still, you never know what to expect out there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Luck

Tuesday, June 12

It was an interesting morning. Flat calm at first light. First cast and first fish: 33". This was taken on the surface on a homemade jumping minnow – the same one that has been described in many of my posts…I am wondering when it will finally succumb to a broken line or poorly applied knot. My first stop proved to be a good choice. Not only because I landed a beauty on the first cast, but also these guys were going ballistic (out of water) on every other retrieve. Eventually I moved to another spot only a few hundred meters away and within a few casts I landed another keeper at 29". There were a few smaller fish in the mix, but mostly large fish. But the weather changed abruptly and amazingly. Right after landing the first fish the wind went from 0 to 20 out of the NNW and this occurred within a mere 10 seconds. Minutes later the bay was capping. I took a break from fishing to check my lobster pots (7 keepers). Then on the way in I found a big, dense school of hickory shad and had some fun with them for a half hour before heading in. Driving to CT this morning with a cooler of fish and lobsters.