Gone Fishin' : There are two kinds of people in this world
We have all experienced it. You are at a party, in a meeting, or just having a casual conversation with someone. You decide to tell what you think is a funny fishing story.
The person on the receiving end looks at you as if you dropped a lead weight on his or her foot, or worse, suggested that George Bush deserves a third term. Why?
I will tell you why. There are two kinds of people in this world - those who fish and those who do not.
This is not a new thought I had. The revelation came to me while goose hunting with Cooper Gilkes last winter in Chilmark.
At the moment my division of humankind occurred, Coop was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a goose that had plummeted from the sky feigning death. It sure looked dead to me until Coop bent over to pick up the goose.
Watching that scene of flailing wings and arms struck me as quite funny. It occurred to me that should someone happen on down the road they might have another view, even be horrified. That thought made me laugh even harder.
During a brief moment of introspection (it happens) I decided that there are two types of people in this world - those who hunt and those who don't. Seasonally, that changed to fishing, but you get my drift. I draw the line at hunting and fishing.
I told my hunting story to Carol Guthrie during a lull in the fishing action Saturday. She laughed, and I took that as a good sign.
Carol, a landscape designer from Darien, Conn., and seasonal Island visitor, was the winning bidder for a fishing trip Coop and I provided to Community Services' annual Possible Dreams auction, held earlier this month.
Fishing with someone you have never met is sort of like going on a date arranged by your mother. The potential for disappointment is great.
I joined Carol and her three invited guests, Mary Jo Goodrich, Tessa Dahl, and Tessa's 14-year-old son Ned and Coop on board the Clean Sweep, the charter boat operated by Coop's son Danny.
Danny's participation in this trip over many years is representative of the generosity that characterizes the entire Gilkes Family. Not many charter captains would give up a day in August.
In the wheelhouse, Danny said the plan was to head to the Hooter, a fishing area about four miles off the southeast corner of the Vineyard. When I asked him why, given the fact that our guests had never caught fish before, we did not simply save gas and hit a closer spot and fish for blues, Danny laughed. He knows his father, and when it comes to fishing, Cooper does not believe in shortcuts.
"This is about Coop," said Danny. "There are bonito, blues and bass at the hooter, and Coop's not happy if they're not catching fish." So, off we went to the Hooter with a short stop to look at a colony of seals basking on a sandbar that has emerged just off the Katama cut.
"Carol," asked Mary Jo, turning to her friend as our crew passed around anti-seasickness pills, "do you know what you are doing when you fish?"
It was a reasonable question. Luckily, Danny was well practiced at explaining fishing techniques to the uninitiated. His tutorial included advice about how to avoid turning a lure festooned with multiple treble hooks into a dangerous flying object - keep the rod tip to the side.
An element of danger always adds to the fun. In an effort to be reassuring, I pointed out that the Martha's Vineyard Hospital is one of the country's centers of hook removal expertise.
The fishing reels were equipped with line counters. Along the gunwale next to each rod holder were the numbers, 100, 150, 200 and 250.
Danny explained that at his signal each fisherman would push the drag lever and let out the amount of line that corresponded to the number next to the rod holder. The crew performed well and Danny began trolling the four swimming plugs set off the stern at varying distances.
I assured Tessa, who bore a strong resemblance to her mom, Academy-award winning actress Patricia Neal, that we would catch fish. By way of emphasizing the skill of the Island's charter captains, I said that a properly trained monkey, one of the caliber of Tarzan's companion, could catch a fish if he or she was with an Island captain. Why did I say that?
It was not long before we had our first hit, a bluefish. Carol was ecstatic as she brought the fish in with Coop's watchful guidance.
Ned, who spoke with a distinctive British accent, wanted to know when we were going to kill the fish by bludgeoning it to death. He did not want to watch. He was relieved when I told him the fish would go into a large cooler and succumb on the ice.
I may have suggested it would be peaceful. If the blue had not thrashed around so much, I might have been able to pull it off.
I spoke to Ned, a very bright boy, about the boarding school he attends in England. My image of English boarding schools was far from the reality. No more pummeling; instead, every school is required by law to have child protection officer.
Tessa was not having much luck when the tip of her assigned rod suddenly bent violently. I took the rod out of the holder to hand it to her and was surprised to see line stripping off the reel. "That is no bluefish," I said to Coop.
It was a very big bonito. When the fish was finally in the net, Danny, Coop and I were relieved and Tessa was beat.
"That was like giving birth," said Tessa. Just when you think you can't push any more you're told to keep pushing, or in this case reeling. "That was the size of one of my babies."
The birth experience was a metaphor I preferred not to dwell on. Tessa sat down to have a cigarette and Rock Star Energy Drink. "I'm recovering from my aerobics," she said.
Ned asked if we would release the fish. I explained to Ned that bonito are very hard to catch and excellent eating. We would release the fish right into the cooler, I told him.
I complimented Tessa on her catch. You said a monkey could catch a fish, she said.
"Not a bonito," I assured her.
"You're next," Coop told Mary Jo.
Anyone who thinks being a charter captain is easy work should watch what happens when four people hook up at once. Let the dance begin. The catch included two striped bass.
The currents that make the Hooter such a good fishing spot can also make the water rough. On this particular day the ocean was flat.
Tessa and Ned were anxious to get back to land. Tessa was looking a bit green, and Ned appeared a bit bored.
There is a cosmic element to fishing that is inexplicable. Sometimes, on a beach or in a boat one fisherman is the chosen one. No matter which rod Carol stood next to, that was the rod the bluefish, bonito, or bass hit.
Like any fisherman, Carol wanted to catch one more fish.
It did not take long. She hooked up to a big blue. "He's winning, he's winning," she shouted, as she leaned back against the strain on the rod, lost in the fun of it all.
A few days after the trip, I sent Carol some photos. She emailed back, "Thank you, I love them! I am especially pleased to have me and the bonito, as it completes evidentiary pictures of the three B's (and to think until Saturday, I had never heard of the three B's)."
As I said, there are two kinds of people in this world.