Gone Fishin' : The hook is to have something to sing about
I rarely plan a fishing trip. It is one of the luxuries of living on Martha's Vineyard.
I keep fishing rods, waders and lures in my car. The water is never far away. And in June the striped bass are never far away either.
The most I do is call someone. "Want to go fishing tonight?" That is it. It is easy to forget that not everyone plans that way but when people are flexible it can work out very well.
I was walking my poor elderly wheezing Lab in front of my house when a woman staying in a house a few doors down stopped to talk. We had met years before.
One topic led to another. She was from Nashville, Tennessee and worked in the music business. I said I loved country music, the schmaltz with the ballads.
That is true. A good country western song is the perfect accompaniment to any fishing trip. Every song tells a story, sometimes quite poignant and moving, other times funny.
She said she and her husband, Pete Huttlinger, like to fly fish. Her husband, a musician, had even named an album "Catch and Release." They regularly went to Colorado to fish but had never fished on the Vineyard.
I was intrigued and hopeful that he would be a card-carrying red neck country western full twang kind of guy.
I asked what he was doing and she said he was cooking dinner for her mother. "He could do that anytime," I said.
I told her to tell him to join Tom Robinson and me that night.
Pete came over inquisitive but not sure what this was all about. "Do you go out in a boat," he asked, "at night." He was a bit more refined than I had hoped he would be but quite personable.
Photo by Tom Robinson
I later learned that Pete is an established top-notch session guitar player, composer, arranger, bandleader, songwriter and sideman and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music.
I told him to be at my house at 7:30. He arrived running. I liked that. By way of introduction he also gave me two CD albums, "The Santa Rita Connection," and "Catch and Release." Not a word on either album about horses, women, whiskey or flags but quite nice stuff.
We arrived at a north shore spot just after sunset. Terns were working the shoreline dropping on bait. I liked that.
On his third fly cast in saltwater Pete hooked up. The fish took out a considerable amount of line as Pete battled to keep the bass from around a large boulder.
There is always a risk when you invite someone to go fly fishing. Not everyone who says they can cast, can handle the conditions Islanders accept as normal. Current, swells, rocks and darkness can rattle anyone.
Pete did just fine. It was exciting when he slid a beautiful striped bass about 33-inches up on the beach. I felt like singing, no, not really but it was great fun.
The fish were there in numbers. Tom, Pete and I regularly hooked up to fish between 32 and 33 inches in length.
A combination of no moon and fog combined to make the night very dark. The splashes of bass striking bait echoed across the water.
Pete was frustrated. The fish were striking the black sand eel I provided but he could not hook a fish. I asked to examine the fly. There was no hook point, just a shank.
I explained that he had likely dropped his backcast and struck the rocks on the beach behind him. It was a common error for someone not used to fishing at night standing in the water.
I told him he had a great title for a country western song. "It takes a hook to catch'em," I said. Fish, women, and men it is all the same.
Fishing for striped bass is often challenging. The bass continued to strike bait but for some reason I was unable to figure out the fish became quite selective when it came to our flies.
With the many fireflies that had emerged and were dotting the cliffs lighting our way we left carrying four good sized fish destined for the smoker.
Pete returned to Nashville Sunday. I know his vacation ended on a good note.
Photo by Ton Kalkman
Slugs use sluggos
I received an email Tuesday from Rene Sehr and Ton Kalkman, also known as the Dutch guys. Rene and Ton are avid flyfishermen and port controllers for the port of Amsterdam.
Years ago Alex Preston of Chilmark did his part for international relations and opened his home to them. They have returned regularly to fish and fish and fish.
Rene wrote, "We are back in Holland again. Time flies. Sorry that we could not meet, but we were very busy and sometimes it goes as it goes. We were quite busy and our timing turned out to be perfect in "our" corner of the island and we didn't visit the other part of the Island. We experienced very good fishing, a lot of bluefish 8-12 pounds. Even during the day we have caught a lot of stripers in Menemsha bight. This was the first time that we have seen so many fish during daylight. It was perfect!
"I caught a 40-inch fish in Menemsha Harbor between the piles. It was a big fight in the middle of the night!
"There is one thing that is worth mentioning. We have seen a lot of sluggo guys and they outnumbered the fly fish guys (is this due to your column?). Problem with those guys is that it seems that they have a different attitude towards fishing and we have seen guys fishing who took everything they caught.
"One night on Lobsterville Beach we saw 3 guys taking at least 13 big fish. They didn't even take the time to kill the fish and just threw them in the sand to let them suffer and die a slow death. Painful sight! But what could we do in the middle of the night? And we have seen more of these guys practicing catch and take.
"We have not seen the white shark, but some guys swore that it was in the neighborhood of Lobsterville, perhaps next year..."
It is a shame that Rene and Ton had to experience the other side of fishing. I know a few Island guys who would have had their own ideas about what to do in that situation. I encourage anyone who sees fishermen piling up fish to call the police.
Although the local police do not enforce size limits many police fish and would be upset to find what Rene described. I am sure that an Island police officer would be able to find a way to rain on a slug's fishing trip.
Have a safe and happy July fourth. The striped bass and fluke fishing should be excellent.