Gone Fishin' : Big Apple is a long cast from home
I spent July Fourth weekend in New York City. It was no fishing trip.
A trip to New York in the summer is a cross between watching a science fiction movie and visiting a foreign country.
Apparently, on summer weekends anyone who can leave the city does, so that at most hours the streets are practically devoid of any vehicles, except taxis. I started trying to guess who were the real people and who were the zombies.
It is also possible to walk entire blocks without hearing the English language, even when they are speaking the English language.
I overheard a woman and her significant other arguing on a subway platform entrance. At a certain point they stopped making headway, and she began to call for the police. "Offisuh, offisuh," she shouted in a tone of, "I'll fix you."
There are a lot of fun things to do in New York. One of my favorite activities was to say "thank you" when making a purchase.
I tried that on the checkout woman at a neighborhood supermarket. It was fun watching her hesitate, unsure of the proper response.
The purpose of my visit was to escort my wife and daughter to the city where they will spend the next five weeks.
My daughter, Marlan, is attending a teenage theater program at the Stella Adler conservatory. My wife, Norma, is staying with her. They are living in a complex of apartment buildings that has more inhabitants than the winter population of the Vineyard.
We traveled from Providence on an Amtrak train into New York City. As we approached the city, I looked out the window and could see a tributary of the East River as it curved around an industrial site. A visible seam in the water indicated a current. I thought that if I could make a cast into that spot, I would certainly catch a striped bass.
It would make an interesting story to fish spots around the city. But I am not that intrepid.
The ferry ride into Woods Hole provides a more scenic opportunity to contemplate fishing possibilities. No fisherman can look at the current ripping past the point of land on which sits Nobska Light without thinking there is a striper lying in wait.
The term is "reading the water." Not every stretch of water holds fish. The best fishermen learn to identify the conditions that favor fish, such as structure and breaks in the current.
Months ago, when plans for the great New York adventure began to form, Norma jumped on my suggestion that she accompany Marlan. A co-worker of mine said I would be able to go fishing all of the time.
She did not realize what I already knew and dreaded. I was about to lose my entire support system.
My filing system, notes scribbled on crumpled pieces of paper and stuck in my pants. "Norma, where is that note I wrote with that guy's name on it?" Norma always knows the answer to questions like that.
I have been home with my wheezing, fat, old Lab for four days. The magic refrigerator no longer fills magically with food; the magic drawer does not fill with clean T-shirts and underwear; no cleaned and ironed shirts appear in the magic closet.
No one is more concerned with this development than Norma's goldfish, Oscar. The fish joined us years ago and has already exceeded the promises in the actuarial tables for his species.
Once, he flopped out of his bowl and lay there for some time. Norma performed goldfish CPR and saved its life.
Norma figures that when she returns, the bills will have gone unpaid, her flowers will be wilted, and Oscar the goldfish will be deceased.
Rest easy, Oscar; not on my watch.
VFW Fluke tournament
The ninth annual Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) fluke tournament is scheduled for July 12 and 13, weather permitting, said tournament chairman Peter Hermann.
The annual contest is hosted by VFW Post 9261 located in a one-story nondescript building on Towanticut Avenue in Oak Bluffs. The post is not a place to go for celebrity sightings. I doubt that the tour buses have it on their route.
The Vineyard summer glitterati regularly photographed at one summer event or another do not stop in for a cold one. But the post is a place to find Islanders hanging out and having a good time.
I like to think of the folks who will be driving up with fresh-caught fish in coolers as the Vineyard's fluke fishing glitterati. What they may lack in celebrity appeal, they make up for with fish catching ability.
I expect that fishermen will be scouting for big fish, also known as doormats, prior to the start of the contest. But fluke fishing is a little like the stock brokerage business. Prior performance is no guarantee of future success.
A deep hole that gives up a 10- or 11-pounder on Friday could easily come up dry on Saturday. There is just no predicting where the winning fish will be caught.
I expect that many fishermen will be working the deep holes in Vineyard Sound that surround Lucas Shoals. This is normally productive ground, but several people told me this week the fluke fishing has been slow.
I did hear about some nice-size fluke taken in Muskeget Channel. It reminded me that sometimes it is good strategy to change locations, instead of hoping for a change of luck.
There are some basic rules fluke fishermen follow to success. It is critical to be in touch with the bottom. That is not always easy to do when a rising tide in Vineyard Sound combined with a strong west wind will move a boat quickly up the Sound. The combination can make it pretty difficult to stay on the bottom.
In that situation, it helps to have a rod capable of handling considerable weight and a sea anchor to slow the boat's drift.
For bait, I prefer a strip of white fluke belly with a strip of squid. The combination of color, taste, smell, and texture attracts big fluke.
Above all, jig rhythmically and carry a big net. The designated "net boy" needs to act quickly and skillfully.
Chasing the fish or worse, trying to net it from behind is a recipe for a lost fish. Some fishermen stab the net into the water in front of the fish. But that is risky because the fish will often dive down under the lip of the net.
I prefer to hold the net at an angle in the water and let the fisherman lead the fluke toward me. Then I sweep the fish up in the net. The timing is critical.
The fluke derby also features a trophy for the fisherman who catches the largest black sea bass. For those unfamiliar with the sea bass, it is a strong fighter and a member of the grouper family.
I think that sea bass is one of the tastiest fish caught in Island waters. The fish is a little tough to clean because of the pronounced rib cage, but it's worth the effort.
The fluke tourney weigh-in is from 4 to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday at the VFW. On Sunday the final weigh-in is followed by a cookout and the awards ceremony.
There is no entry fee for kids 12 and under. Youngsters 13 to 16 years of age and folks over 65 pay $10. The rest of us pay $20 to enter.
There is also a side team competition. Any team of up to four people may enter this category. Each competing group will weigh in its four heaviest fish on Saturday and again on Sunday. The team with the highest combined total weight wins bragging rights and custom made tee-shirts proclaiming the wearers to be the "Team Champs," or something like that.
The entry fee is an additional $40 per team.
Fishermen can sign up at Island tackle shops or at the VFW. Peter can be reached at 774-563-0293 with any questions or weather cancellation updates.
Lost and found
My column of June 26 described Ben Scott's loss of a fly book containing more than 100 flies he tied over the winter. I received an email from Ben. He wrote that a man, whose friend was a fisherman and had read the column, found it on Lambert's Cove Road the same morning and returned it. Who says there is no good news?