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.


the said...

the expression on Chip's face - and that of the tuna - suggests it's being violated by something lurking beneath Chip's oilskins...

John said...

Perhaps Joel...perhaps.