Gone Fishin' : Casting into a sea of memories for a daughter now grownup
There is a photo next to my desk. It is of my daughter Marlan when she was about eight years old. In it she is holding a fluke by hooking her finger into the fish's gills.
As I recall she was unimpressed and somewhat reluctant to hold the fish. But I insisted and she relented.
I find great pleasure in the act of fishing. The rewards are many, whether I am walking up Lobsterville Beach looking for a telltale swirl of a striped bass, or drifting in a boat bottom bouncing for fluke.
So it was only natural I suppose that I hoped my daughter Marlan would also. I think every fisherman who becomes a dad has that idea.
If childhood interests developed by way of osmosis Marlan would have shown an early interest in fishing.
There is another photo on the wall to my left. I am standing in front of Coop's holding a big bluefish I caught one morning off South Beach about one week after the Derby ended.
I have a thicker head of hair than I do now and an unseen Norma is standing behind me perching Marlan on my shoulder. She is about six-months-old dressed in a cap and sweater Norma had knit.
I am not sure what the inspiration was for that photo but Marlan wears a stunned expression. She was too young to express outrage at the embarrassing actions of her father then. That would come later and regularly once she became a teenager.
From time to time, when Marlan was still a baby I would combine parenting responsibilities with fishing. Like the morning I put Marlan in a backpack and cast a spinning rod along Lobsterville Beach. I was limited in my ability to chase fish but it was fun to have her along for the ride.
Above that photo there is one of Marlan, about four, sitting at my fly-tying vise one winter evening. She looks a little irritated because she did not want to be interrupted by dad.
Marlan had watched me tying flies and was attracted to the bright feathers and colored tinsel I assembled into imitations of baitfish. Aha, I thought, an opportunity to tap into Marlan's creativity and love of crafts. I imagined her becoming a skilled fly-tier and standing one day in a stream fly casting in my imagined remake of the famous casting scene in the movie that introduced the beauty of fly fishing to the public, "A River Runs Through It."
I set up the vise and covered the point of the bare hook with cork. Then I set about to carefully instruct Marlan on how to tie a fly. She would have none of it. What she wanted to do was take clumps of tinsel and feather and wrap them together and that is what she did despite my exasperation.
Thinking back now, I regret I cared so much about whether she was learning anything, or even whether she was wasting tinsel and feathers. I would gladly part with all of it now to have those hours back.
One year I was able to cajole Marlan into waking up early and going to the rod and gun club spring trout derby. It is an annual event that attracts hundreds of Island kids and has produced generations of fishermen.
It was damp and cold. On our mantle at home there is a photo by the pond of Marlan hugging Angela George, our neighbor and one of the many girls with whom Marlan would share all of the fun and emotional anguish of growing up in a small community.
Marlan caught a small catfish and insisted she be allowed to bring it home and show it to mom. I agreed. Catfish are hardy and the fish made the trip in a bucket to our bathtub without much apparent harm.
Mom was suitably impressed and I said it was time to release the fish. Marlan was adamant that she be allowed to keep it with her as a pet.
I attempted to reason with her. We needed to release the fish, I said. "Remember in the movie ET, how the kids help ET return home," I told her.
"Dad," Marlan said in her direct little way, "those were boys."
I still chuckle at her reasoning. Marlan has always been every bit a girl and drawn a sharp distinction between the thought processes of boys and girls.
When she was a little older I bundled her up in warm clothes and took her duck hunting. Sitting in a makeshift duck blind with our dog Tashmoo she made imaginary tea with some twigs and small black berries. She never did get to see Tashmoo retrieve a duck, but we did learn that you could get poison ivy even in the winter.
One evening when Marlan was a little older I took her with me to the beach outside the Lagoon Pond drawbridge and set a fishing rod in a sand spike. We got into a silly argument and suddenly the rod arched over under the weight of a fish. By the time we could reach the rod the fish was gone.
I do not remember what we had argued about. But I do remember the line peeling off the reel and the excitement of losing a "big" fish.
On Monday Norma and I took Marlan to Vermont to begin her first year at college. When I returned to my desk late Monday night the office was quiet and my attention fixed on a photo of Marlan taped to the side of my file cabinet.
She is holding a purple backpack. A paper nametag with her name, Marlan, is placed right next to the smiling daisy Norma had sewn onto the bib of her overalls in preparation for her first day of kindergarten at the Tisbury School.
She has a bemused smile on her face, as if to say, "Dad, I'm fine. You can go now."
Monday morning in the Marlboro College parking lot, parents went through the transformative ritual of letting go of their children. Marlan, never one for ceremony, went through registration and then announced she was fine. "You can go now," she said.
But one of the inescapable truths of being a dad is that your little girl grows up, and insists that she has grown up, but in your eyes she has never stopped being your little girl.
Monday night sitting at my desk I looked at that photo and wiped off the dust that had accumulated over the years and cast into a sea of memories.
Bonito and albies, mixed bag
The reports of bonito are mixed. Paul Fiedler fished for bonito in his kayak off State Beach Sunday. He said the fish were there.
Yesterday, I asked Justin Pribanic about bonito. He said the bonito are there but not in great numbers. About 40 boats and three bonito is the way he described it.
Cooper "Coop" Gilkes was even more pragmatic regarding State Beach. "You can go down there and dream about bonito," he said.
Coop said the shore fishing has slowed but the boats are still finding blues and bass.
One piece of encouraging news was a false albacore caught at Wasque Rip. More encouraging was a call later in the afternoon from John Schillinger.
John was out with a charter customer, Tomoyuki Kato of New York City and his nine-year-old son. John saw birds and splashes and put the father and dad into bluefish near Hedge Fence off Oak Bluffs.
More splashes and a cast. Tomoyuki hooked a false albacore. John said the fish was about nine pounds and hit a Deadly Dick, a shiny, thin metal lure that resembles a sand eel.