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.

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