Thus spake... a fisherman devoted to the transitory moments that allow such excesses. I had the chance to fish, and fish hard, in early October of 2010. My best fishing buddy was set to retire and start turning eight or more wheels on his rather excessive RV. He had not fished with me for more than a year. I had a full weekend. Full, at least in the sense of 48 hours of uninterrupted time, coinciding with the new moon tides of October, which brought the fastest tidal flow of the year and the highest tides amid the peak of the southward migration of fish. We had high hopes and enough stored middle age energy to suggest possibility. I had spent several weeks of sleepless tossing and turning, devoting my unconscious to tracking a list of suggestions for my conscious time. I replaced braided line. I shipped extra soft plastics. I concerned my waking hours with children, spouse, dog, and big bass. When the moment(s) came, I arrived early with clean, fresh knots. My first fish on a new surf rod weighed in at 20 pounds, tied for one of my largest bass. Not a good omen. For I know, after more than a few days at this game, what fortune presents, and seldom does it allow two such opportunities. The next day I landed a 12 pound fish for the table along with its kindred cousin, the bluefish, in a momentary blitz at South Cape beach. These were well-deserved fish but hard won in their own right. When Dan arrived, after I had the chance to scope out the terrain, we fished hard and found little. I did land a 15lb bass (seen in the picture) but other than some bluefish, that was all. The good news is that a weekend with your best fishing buddy has less to do with fish than life. And so, we persevered, from Race Point to Wellfleet, where we observed two late model cars enjoy a cleansing dip from an unusually high tide. Their owners probably sea kayaking and would return to cars with fish swimming over their floorboards. And so Cape Cod continues to crawl under my skin and soul, making me wait with unkind anticipation, when our futures will next cross.
I never learn. Or at least my reflexes don't, and since they must reflect some unconscious element of my character, apparently in dire need of improvement, I must take serious note of them. I have lost a few fish in my life, most of the modest sort, and for excuses too easily given and then forgiven. The lost fish that hurt the most are those that, in the quiet moments of reflection, usually done in questionable company and with too much to drink, make you realize you missed something truly, irretrievably special. A large fish. An old fish. A beautiful fish. A fish who cost you a toll of exhaustion, money, and ego, all repaid with a pigtail of broken promises. A fish that would have provided bragging rights to extinguish the glee of others in their own mid-tale of piscatorial accomplishments. My most recent lesson, and one which I do think has finally penetrated like a ball peen hammer to my frontal cerebral cortex, was on the Pacific Ocean (it should be a proper noun if you have ventured out on it), thirty miles offshore of Astoria, Oregon, a place we arrived at only after crossing the Columbia River bar and making tedious passage for three hours until the water turned from muddy green to luminous navy and cobalt. A small group of flyfishers, half of whom had not partaken of this relatively new and accessible form of saltwater recreation, Pacific Longfin Albacore, formed this merry band of brothers. I had devoted a few hours tying and preparing large deceivers out of synthetic hair, ultra-hair, bucktail, grizzlyed saddle hackle, flashabou, and krystal flash with epoxied eyes and a deadly stinger hook tied tandem off the Gammie main 7/0. The flies looked good. I added blood red gill with marker. I even thought to bring swivels, realizing at the last moment that flies on the troll tended to twist. To the best of my ability, everything was in order. These fish are ridiculous. I have heard people say that tuna are a slugfest, a down and dirty game involving grunting and ridiculous rod angles. While this is all true, they are amazing. Gaffed, they present like taunt lycra bags stretched over superheated muscle. If they are allowed their head down, their tails, which look frayed and worn, cut the water like an amphetamine drumbeat. I have caught smaller versions, the aptly named False Albacore, on the fly which I had thought "red hot," a description which now seems...false. Longfin Albacore have outsized pectoral wings designed to cut the water and provide lift and draft(?), their finlets blaze yellow (God knows what they are for) and they have a body that should, by rights sink to the deep, except for a tail stock that tapers to a knuckle and fin. I have never lost a flyline to a fish, at least not an entire flyline. My first fish brought that hubris, that, what are thinking fish to try to take me this far into my backing. I tightened and the backing bit into itself, parting like two mismatched lovers after the hangover wears off. Hubris makes us think that we can contain the explosive fueled run of a fish who knows nothing of the "game" and all about the tension on its jaw that seems to come from nowhere and tries to control its freedom. It must not be panic, at first, but instinct, which finds a gearbox and moves the levers and makes the thrust possible. My failing is to think that any first run can be contained by hand and reel and drag. It must be endured and appreciated, like the decanting of an Oregon Pinot Noir. I love the moment that the knob strikes my index finger with such force as to cause nerve damage. We should all fight so, when the moment is at hand. It is hubris to think that we can control the fate of a fish, much less of ourselves.
Okay. It's been awhile. Too long in fact. This is the time of year that makes me get agitated. I get the season's new fishing magazines, new catalogs, new products. My eyes scan the pages for helpful tagging, suggesting new items, never before fished. The butterfly jig. The eight inch amber colored hogy. Each saddle hackle feather package makes me visualize a half and half clouser or a articulated streamer pattern for bull trout. I ask my youngest son to practice tying the bimini twist instead of origami storks, his manual dexterity being worthy of the task. I begin doing inventory of tippet materials. I look over my boxes of flies and wonder if, should I die tomorrow, who will use all this stuff? This morning, my springer spaniel made a noise never heard before. Deep, tremulous, and wild. Looking along her angle of sight, my eyes locked with the eyes of an adult male coyote, standing but fifteen feet away in our side yard, unfazed by the yelping of a family pet. "Breakfast" was probably the thought formed in its head. "Playtime" was probably the thought formed in Sophie's innocent canine mind. Neither would be satisfied. Are these signs of the coming season, an edge of wildness creeping into suburbia? The primal look of the hunter, uncontained by context, ready to take to the field in search of the tug, capturing the vision of a tail holding in the current, the swirl, the refusal, the take. I am readying myself, even as I continue to live the routines of my life. I am now looking for opportunity.