Friday, May 9, 2008

Drag Racing

After yesterday's rushed schedule and crappy weather I felt more of an urge to make up for lost time seeking stripers. So before catching the tide at the oyster farm I decided to scout about for a half hour. The conditions were calm, a north wind just beginning to show, and I cruised out of the harbor with the draining tide. But not too far. Within a minute or two I found myself within about two acres of busting fish. I reached for my rod (a clunker that I've been keeping on the boat as a backup) and began throwing things at the fish. First a storm shad, then a Fin-S, then a popper, then a little leadhead with a yellow squiggleworm on it. Two strikes (on the shad and the little yellow job) and lots of weed. The fish seemed to be after small baits which were never visible to me. Throughout my early season spasms (tripping on anchor, tying poor knots, yelling swear words at fouled up lures) I began to notice that my old clunker line was getting tired and kinky. Hmmmn. Twice I bird nested and twice I swore that I would take five minutes to straighten out the spool. But with busting fish all around I took the short cut and paid for it with some additional knotting.

Then I ran out of time. I had to get to work on the grant.

I rushed through my tasks and was surprised to have them done prior to the full draining of the tide. If I had been a few minutes later it would have been hard to get the boat back into deeper water and I'd be stranded for an hour and a half. So back out I went. I ran out to the mid bay where I found a school up top. But after three casts they went under and never came back. Then over to Clark's Island where there were fish lined up along one of its coasts. Still lots of weed. Casting away with all kinds of lures I began to notice something else (besides the line knotting up....and the curse words, etc.). My reel, a Shimano baitrunner, starting this annoying clicking noise. You know, the noise a reel makes before it totally shits the bed. Hmmmn. Maybe it will fix itself - my little voice said to ease my nerves. But within a couple of casts (that did not yield anything) the clicking evolved into crunching and the reel began to reject my efforts to retrieve the line. Then I could sense little bits of parts banging around inside the casing. Crap.

I called it quits and decided to head in. A NE storm was on the way, sprinkles had begun, and I needed to get the boat out of the water or moored somewhere safe for a day or two.

But then, as I ran back toward the harbor, I glanced back into Captain's Flats and saw the shit show that the bass were throwing there. Birds were balled up and diving aggressively. I reckoned I had a few casts left in the baitrunner so I turned the boat into the shallow flats and made my way to the fish. When I arrived the fish were broken into three or four schools and the terns took turns moving among all of them. I put the little yellow squiggle job on the line - a tradeoff because although I felt it would attract a hit, it was light and would only cast about 25 feet. But on my second or third cast from my rapidly deteriorating reel, a hard strike and a fish on. Yay. It fought well, but especially well because the drag on the reel had completely died. So I palmed the spool and eventually got the fish in. I felt ridiculous.

I raised the fish up, kissed its forehead, attempted to take a picture or two with my cell phone camera, and tossed it back. It was small, maybe 20 inches, but the best looking fish I've seen all year.

Back out when the wind sets down. I'll be certain to bring an array of better rigs, including some fly tackle. As far as the reel goes - interment will be private, but there will be a memorial service on Tuesday, May 13. I request that cash be sent to my house in lieu of flowers.

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