Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shaky Hands

August 29, 2008

This story is about the 2nd annual Duxbury “One-Fly” Tournament.

I hate tournaments. The men milling about, grasping for testosterone-boosting tales to tell, trying to look professional, like they’ve been doing this longer than the other guy…and such. Then off to the water to kill every fucking fish they can find, including sharks. The shark tournaments are the worst. Hundreds of them get slaughtered, like fish, and thrown out with the trash because they weren’t big enough for the trophy. I assume the trophy fish also get thrown out in many cases.

But I need to admit, if that is the right word, that some tournament fishermen are true sports fishermen and don’t attempt to needlessly kill fish and sharks. I am not one of them because I really don’t like the traditional tournaments and what they do to both the image of fishing and the fish themselves, never mind the whole ecosystem. So I don’t participate, and really, I want to let you know that I am aware of how smug and pompous these two paragraphs make me out to be. They are smug and pompous, just the right subtitle that should be tacked under most fishing tournaments. So there.

Well, really what I wanted to write about mostly is the fun I had with my friends, and newly acquired friends, throughout the planning and implementation process associated with this one-fly fishing tournament. But let’s just get a couple things straight at the start. First, you’re allowed to use two flies, so I reckon we’ll need to vote on a new name for next year’s tournament. Also, the tournament’s prizes are worth less than the underpants you are wearing right now. Lastly, the tournament is designed such that if we were to hold one every day of the year, we would probably increase the striper population by driving most other fishermen out of the bay while hooking magnitudes fewer fish than Santa, thus saving the species from its impending collapse. Hmmn?

The tournament rules and regulations are too dull to ensure that you’ll keep reading this piece, so I’ve left them out. But basically it is all about getting the biggest striper on one fly pattern throughout the day….but you get two flies to work with, which is why it is called the one-fly tournament. We form teams of two and mix everyone up such that each boat has conflicting yet complimentary interests: you team with someone on another boat AND with who you’re fishing with (for the boat prize) and for yourself (to get that spiffy jacket that could be used for picking up chicks at the Winsor a couple hours after the annual beach party ends, unless the winner is a woman who then, of course, could pick up a wide variety of eager men at the Winsor at any of the 4:30 pm opening times).

But first there is the planning process, sometimes more fun than the actual event because geez, getting 47 emails each afternoon is truly an ego boost (until you read each one of them) and you get to vote on crazy stuff like how to officially measure the fish, what plaid designs should be considered for the coats, how many bottles of Mt. Gay Rum will be necessary, who the hell is going to provide the dinner fishes, and such. Right now you think I am being sarcastic, and I am, but with a smile because all this stuff is fun and we’ll keep doing it every year.

The tournament itself is also fun, if you like to fish under a radioactive scorching ball of reacting hydrogen. Yes, that’s right, we fish mostly throughout the midday on this one – gotta make things tough on ourselves. Last year it was on a Saturday which added several additional handicaps to the mix: fourteen-thousand Grady Whites, a few dozen jet-skis, and lots of sailboats. This year we did it on a Friday to make sure we’d avoid these distractions and compete only against the commercial striped bass fleet. And this we did.

I can’t report on anyone else’s tournament experience, just my own. Rob Fawcett and I fished hard and sober all day long. We hooked stripers and blues and eventually lost our two flies to end up throwing sluggos into a cool rip at the end of the day for an amazing array of keeper bass and blues. Just like last year. The flyfishing was fun until we witnessed J. Nash, within the first half-hour, land a 36 incher in one of our popular spots. A sight that immediately crinkled my manhood while boosting his. But we all had fun and by 3:45 I am betting that all entrants were thinking more about rum and tonics, oysters, and the cheese plate than getting cut off again by the exquisite bluefish. By 5:45 this was proven true by the parade of cars and trucks that descended upon the Nash barn (his wife and kids gagged and tied to chairs in the cellar) and quickly devoured the food and beverages like termites in a rotten stump.

We carried on throughout dinner which consisted of amazing stripers and tuna (mine sat unwanted in a lonely blue/white cooler in the driveway) and other fixings. We handed out the awards, munched on cookies, drank more drinks. Then the best part of the night drew upon us and one by one, the jokes (most of them embarrassingly dirty) bloomed to the point to where the final one told, the last joke of the night, curled the group up into quivering, spasmodic adolescents. It was a good one.

But seriously folks: the one-fly tournament was one of my summer’s highlights, even if it really isn’t full of blood and gore. It is full of guts and good times and I will remember each one for the rest of my days. I think that is the ultimate intention.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dig, Joel, Dig!

August 21, 2008

*Photos provided by Capt. Jeff Smith. Permission pending. (

It had to be done. My brother-in-law, Chip, and I spent a morning off the Cape with Jeff Smith last summer and, of course, we hooked into some nice tuna on spinning gear. Our rewards, and stories, were shared with Joel, who by then had the bug to make it happen at the next chance. So earlier this year he pressed me for some dates (all mostly agreeable) and he pulled the trigger to hire Jeff out for another trip. This is the trip we took today.

Tuna fishing, as I’ve learned, is quite an art. There are many, or that majority, who rig themselves up to their necks in big boats, expensive trolling gear, and full bars. I’ve done all that. The style more appealing to me is to head out with spinning gear, find them, and cast to them. It is harder, for sure, and some people won’t want to put in that much effort. Good for them – keep trolling.

The story is this: last night we left a party being thrown at my own house to get at least part of the way to Truro, our point of departure. Joel and I arrived in Chatham and couldn’t resist a GnT at the Squire to at least look at the clientele, and this was done and it was pretty good. All kinds, and good GnTs (I highly recommend the bar at the Squire). Then to my mother-in-law’s house where we would depart for the Pamet in a few hours.

The morning was perfect. Only a bit of a breeze coming out of the north. Jeff met us at the dock and, after a slight delay, we made our way out through the rolls of the Race and into the more quiet waters of the Bank. This was a perfect morning; clear, but some seas and Jeff felt that this was better than smooth water. Plus it kept a few boats back in port.

We quickly rigged up and took position. There weren’t any fish surfacing in our area, but the birds and the location were what our guide felt would be the indicators. Joel was up in the bow with an unweighted Sluggo and I was in the stern with a weighted RonZ.

I want to report that it was my first cast that caught the first fish, but really my first cast was a practice one; I was trying to get a feel for the heavy braid that I had not used in about a year. But Jeff had indicated that he’d found them down around 50 feet and I asked him what he thought the count would be to get the RonZ down to them. Twenty to 25 seconds was the answer. So that next cast, the second one, was it. I counted perhaps to 15, cranked the reel about 3 times and felt a sudden, very strong strike followed by a run that screamed off about 200 m of the braided line.

It didn’t stop.

Fish on, I said. And soon Joel’s laughter and eager support was audible. My first fish of the day screamed as it removed a lot of line off the reel and this made me remember how long and painful it can be to land a tuna with attitude. Meanwhile Joel’s line began to sing and he was on his first (ever) bluefin tuna. This was a big event. I heard \a few howls of pleasure and excitement from the bow. Soon Joel and I were darting around the boat trying to keep our lines apart as both fish circled the boat in opposite directions. We managed to keep them free and clear of one another; we’d already have had much practice doubled up on fish. My fish was out a decent distance and I began to tire, but the fight wasn’t as long as I had thought it would be – perhaps 40 minutes. In the end it turned out that the fish had managed to tail wrap the line after shaking the hook free. It was only one wrap and hadn’t damaged the fish at all which made it an easy release. Meanwhile Joel’s fish held fast and slowly, after over an hour, Joel’s strength eroded to the point that he needed a little help. So, being rested and able, I quite reluctantly took the rod and powered the thing in. This fish was nice – measured out to 54 inches and was probably between 110 and 120 pounds. The photo session was politely brief, the fish bled, and into the box on ice.

OK, so we’re almost done with the story. Jeff continued to get us to some gooey areas where we just knew the fish would be (at least, Jeff needs to get the credit for sniffing out these spots). We hit a nice zone where Joel and I did manage to hookup again. What I insisted was a dogfish or small striper turned out, instead, to be a good sized tuna that must have been swimming toward the boat until it realized it was hooked. At that point the reel went spinning like a tornado and I had to goose-hop around the stern to keep the line from being cut under the boat. Ultimately the fish tailwrapped after about 20 minutes and released (quickly). Soon Joel was on another and he relived the first fish’s fight, though a little easier. This fish was landed, revived, and also released.

After these two fish we were physically tired and satiated. A large tuna was in the box, and we were on the way for some bluefish. Bluefish?!?! Yes indeed. See, some of us actually like the fight and the taste blues and the day was getting on. So we did this and it was fun. A few drifts along the Race, where just about every Cape tourist seemed to be, and we had our blues (with Jeff’s help).

The fish was dressed back in Wellfleet and we hurried to get back to Duxbury to have our celebratory pint or two at the Winsor House. The bartender’s mouth watered at our fishing stories so Joel ran out to the truck and soon returned with some sashimi slices for her. Might as well share the wealth.

Next up: The 2nd Annual One-Fly Tournament (and all those big fish we caught before it started)