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.

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