Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tranquility at the End

Well, I need to wrap up 2006, and I have fallen considerably behind . So, I am not going to try and remember each and every outing since my weekend with Chip. But I remember the essence of the final month or so of fishing in Duxbury.

The fish lasted quite some time. I continued to find blues and bass in numbers throughout the first few weeks of October. Then the blues took off. But bass were still numerous, often congregating in the dog leg and just east towards Clarkes Island. Other times they were bunched up against the beach.

The final days of fishing the 2006 season were solo, except for one last day with my neighbor Frank Tenaglia. On a whim one Saturday afternoon we threw some gear in the truck, grabbed a few Heinekens, and were soon on the glassy water. The air was cold and the sun was sinking fast. I took us to a little rip just south of Clarkes Island and we hooked up immediately. Every cast a nice 22” fish. Then, as the sun sank and the colors turned bright tan, we fished along the western shore of the beach…near High Pines. Lots of schoolies. I hooked a bunch on the fly and on rubber shads and the like. Frank and I had a blast. At one point he looked to me and then to the almost-setting sun: “Shit man, why would anyone want to live anywhere else? We are so fucking lucky, aren’t we?” I agreed wholeheartedly because he was right. I joined Frank's gaze toward the backlit island and sighed in pleasure. But I didn’t want to push my luck so I said, "We'd better head in now and make sure we keep out of trouble."

On our way in Skip Bennett intercepted us along the northern side of the bay. The water was glassy smooth and the sun was just inches from touching the treeline on the horizon. We docked up to one another and drifte lazily in the calm water. Skip had just harvested thousands of oysters and had them all sitting right there in front of us in bins and buckets. They were spilling over and Skip had a hard time avoided them with his feet. I had a knife and so we started shucking. We slurped down a bunch of them – the best in the world – and finished what was left of the Heinekens. The sun set and twilight set in. We told stories and laughed. We admired the beauty and in silence, we all knew what we were thinking - much the same of what Frank proclaimed earlier. It was an absolutely awesome evening and we all felt lucky to be alive.

We finally realized it was time to head in. And we did. And that was the last night out fishing on the bay in 2006.

Compound Fracture 9/24/06

Part 3.

On Sunday morning we rose to marginal weather. It was cloudy, a bit drizzly, and the wind was there although we couldn’t really assess its strength from the driveway. After a little coffee we trudged out to the truck, loaded up, and drove the 1.5 miles to the dock.

On the water: not too bad but not that great. I took us out to the middle of the bay where most of the schools from the day before were found. But we found nothing there. The tide was quite low and still draining, the wind from the SW and threatening to pick up, so I guessed that we ought to visit a few narrow, very shallow, eelgrass fringed channels on the southern side of the bay. We motored out there and immediately my bet was paid off because there were fish everywhere. And we were the only boat. Now a little fog mixed in and as we marveled at the dawn colors, I set us up onto a few drifts through this narrow channel – bounded by sand bars and eelgrass, and fog.

Chip was psyched. Every cast produced a fish. These were small fish, but the action was great and Chip, on his fly rod, was enjoying himself to no end.

And then it happened: Chip high-sticked his rod and , it shattered about 7 inches from the tip.

“Fuck!” he yelled into the fog. “Fucking shit!” he yelled again. “Piece of shit! I can’t believe this…..….fuckin’-A, man…” His anger tailed off to resignation and he accepted his fate. The rod, a nice custom that he purchased in Greenwich, was total history. This was the third such episode I witnessed – unfortunately, with Chip – over the past year and because of this coincidental, or rather, predictive self-repeating phenomenon – I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. It was kind of like a TV show: poor guy pays the price of poor luck while the others laughs in disbelief. But it sucked nevertheless.

I had an extra spinning rod all set to go and we continued for a while. Chip caught plenty of fish, but the pain of his rod’s compound fracture still seethed within. After some time my phone rang and it was Don Gunster. He was on his way out of the harbor in his 23-foot Grady White and wanted to know where the action was. I told him our coordinates and soon he was nearby. However, Chip and I decided that we should head in, get some breakfast, and grab at least one of my fly rods for the remainder of the day. We headed toward Duxbury and on the way stopped along Captain’s Flats for good measure. Don followed us through the shallows and immediately found himself grounded on a shallow bar. The tide had just turned, so his wait was probably not too long. But he was bummed. We continued on – poor fellow – and scanned through the northern side of the bay before heading in. The sun was peaking through and we were hopeful that the weather would hold throughout the day.

It didn’t.

After breakfast we returned to the bay, which was now rolling and heaving. Sun and clouds and fast SW gusts. The seas were up and rolling us around. But we found the fish. Schools of stripers were found just north of Clarke Island and many were spread between the island and Eagles Nest. They’d come up, feed voraciously, then go down and pop up a quarter mile away. We chased them and caught many, then moved into Eagles Nest for a spell before heading into port. Chip had a flight to catch and the conditions were worsening.

We returned to the house, ate some lunch, and Chip departed in his rental car for Logan. It wasn’t what I hoped for – the weather – but we had fun and did manage to hook up, and break a rod or two.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Leonard Nimoy - Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (MZK)

I thought this cheesy little ditty would provide some limited entertainment for those who happen upon this page...I'll complete 2006 soon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Horizontal Rain Keeps Men at Bay

Saturday 9/23/06

About two weeks ago my brother-in-law, Chip, warned me that he’d be arriving on Saturday, 9/23, for a couple days of fishing. On Friday he phoned and I gave him a relatively good report (Part I, no injuries), but I ignored the weather reports which basically got worse and worse every hour: wind out of the south, and rain. But Chip hadn’t fished in Duxbury in two years and I was eager to have him out on the water again, on my own turf so to speak.

He arrived around 11 and after putting bags away and getting our tackle together, we made a stop over at the bakery for sandwiches which we ate at a picnic table on the water’s edge. The wind was just beginning (I had been out on the water at dawn when it was flat calm). We finished our lunch, loaded the boat, and we were off. The wind increased steadily to the point at which I felt like suggesting that Chip not use his flyrod, the only thing he brought out. But he was determined and within a few minutes I had us on a school of feisty blues along the mouth of the bluefish river. Another boat was with us and it turned out to be Frank, our next-door neighbor. We chased the fish around and around, the wind kept increasing, and then some rain began. Chip landed a couple of nice blues, as did I on my light spinning rod. But we had to chase them and this finally became frustrating as the wind had reached at least 15 knots with higher gusts.

“Let’s head across the bay to Clarke’s Island where we can find some shade from the wind. There’ll be some stripers over there too,” I offered Chip. He nodded and we began our pounding trip across. Right around Two Rock I recognized Brian McNulty, a former classmate of mine at UVM who also lived in town. We attempted communication in the whipping wind and rain, but this was unsuccessful and finally gave up….they were heading in.

At Clarke’s the wind was worse and the “shade” I spoke of turned out, in reality, to be a small triangle of roughly 50 square feet. So, we had to ignore the weather and seek fish. And we found them, right at the beginning of the beach channel. Lots of fish, some large ones mixed in, but mainly stripers in the low to mid 20s. And this was no reason to complain; fishing in the storm was fun and Chip and I were hooking up.

After some time I felt impatient and decided to move back across the gauntlet to the western side of the bay. The trip started out quite hectic as the swell was growing and cresting at heights equal to the freeboard of the boat. Chip looked slightly apprehensive in the 25 knot winds (gusts to 40), but I kept going through the rough stuff, not really sure of my plan. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a large school of fish. A mix of stripers and blues. We stayed as long as we could – Chip still fighting the wind with his fly gear (still unbroken, more on that below) – and then I spotted an enormous cloud of birds working inside Eagles Nest where there would certainly be shelter from the wind.

We were the first to arrive there, but others in the bay were watching and within a few minutes we were forced to share the limited space with three other boats. It was indeed calm, but the fish were nervous and moving from place to place. We chased, drifted, did what we could. I hooked a couple of nice blues, as did Chip. Then the action died. We were wet and not certain where to go or what to do. We’d only been on the water for about 3 hours but I asked Chip if he wouldn’t mind heading in to visit the tackle store and perhaps explore the waterfront where there was a classic boat festival going on. He agreed.

On shore the tackle store offered some temporary entertainment, the boat festival was winding down, and we ended up heading back to the house. We shared a beer and Chip napped for an hour while I got dinner things together. We didn’t end up fishing again that afternoon as the wind would not relent and we had planned on attending a happy hour at the maritime school down the street. So we did that (which was fun); ate oysters, drank some wine, and then came home to a grill dinner and drink more very nice French wine that Chip purchased.

To bed at a reasonable hour. Dreams of fish. The plan for tomorrow was solid and the alarm set for 5. It was good to be dry, warm, with a buzz on.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Before Part II

....falling behind, but good stories ahead. Tomorrow.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Three Days on the Water. Part I: No Injuries.

I was psyched. Friday was to be taken off from work to host a professional friend who was traveling up from Rhode Island just to fish Duxbury waters. Serendipitously, Joel Meunier was also available for the day and a plan emerged faster than shit through a goose.

At first light I met Joel at the coffee stop and while he crullered-up, I filled an extra jerry can of gas for the long day ahead: about 12 hours on the water. The first order of business was to run some maintenence on the oyster grant. Joel and I motored down to Mattakeesett to meet Alex and within a few minutes Alex had discovered an aweful thing: his keys locked inside his truck and a work day ahead for him. He tried to jimmy the door but failed to do so. He decided to borrow my truck to return home to grab his extra set of keys and by this decision he was out of luck for working the oysters.

So Joel and I did the oyster work for about 45 minutes and accomplished quite a lot more than I had anticipated we would. Then, still wearing our damp wet suits, we headed out for fish. First out to Saquish and beyond, but nothing going on out there. Then to Kingston Bay where we ran into Doug Carver near the dog leg near Howlands. He was on top of some blues and soon Joel and I were hooking into several fiesty fish...jumping, screaming, and making for all sorts of action.

After some time we decided to check the lobster pots and bait them with the fresh racks of 3 or 4 bluefish that Joel fastidiously bled and fileted. No lobsters but a small throwback. Then to meet Jim from RI back at the town landing.

I was thrilled beyond words to be off from work on this Friday. Having this freedom really agreed with me; knowing that I'd be sitting in that room, that chair ruining my back and ribs, telephone calls and computer screens -- the boredom at my place of employment (am I wasting my life?). I attempted to convey this all to Joel, but he was probably being polite with his nods of agreement.

We had an hour or so to wait for Jim; he was running late. So we went to the gas-n-sip to get some ice and bagels. Then ran into a talkative commercial shellfish guy in the parking lot who tended to monopolize the conversation. Then Jim arrived and we were off.

We had fish within the first five minutes: blues out front of the harbor, near Powder Point. Joel and Jim jabbered on as I took the boat from here to there, seeking schools that wouldn't evaporate in the blink of an eye, which they all did.

Duxbury Bay, Clarke's Island, Saquish, Kingston Bay, and finally back near Cripple Rocks where we were on top of schools of blues for an hour or more. But Jim’s luck was poor and it was beginning to piss him off. Follows, break offs, near misses, but nothing to show for it. He did a good job of containing his frustrations despite the fish Joel and I were successfully hauling in. And this is good because once just a little bit of negativity leaks out then the whole picture is ruined for everyone. A delicate balance where one must enjoy vicariously. “It is a beauty of a day though,” he said.

Soon we had decided to begin making way back to Duxbury. We stopped briefly at the Nummet, one of my favorite spring season spots, but it was unproductive. As were a couple other rips along the way; the sun was high and by then the boat wakes were probably spooking any slumbering fish in these deep holds.

After an uneventful checking of the lobster pots, we did manage to find a scattered school of blues along the north side of the bay. And at last, success. Jim’s fish was fighting hard and a smile was beginning to emerge on his face. But after a minute or so his grin flattened as he began to recognize that he had goofy-hooked the fish. The treble of his chub popper lodged equidistantly between the mouth and tail, right under its dorsal fin.

“You know, that’s a 4-point deduction right there Jim,” I offered as comic relief. But it probably induced more pain than comfort. We knew that this was it for the day and so after Jim tossed the back-injured blue overboard, we all sighed and looked toward shore.

Joel and I stopped in at the Winsor House for some post-fishing beverages and recapped the day. It felt good to sit down. We stayed for about an hour until the Friday night crowd increased in numbers. Surrounded by madras.

Two Weeks Lost to the Ether

I do know that I fished several times between 9/11 and 9/22 (which is when my next entry begins). Water flat on many occasions with large schools of blues and bass and mixed assemblages all around the bay.

One notable evening on the water was with Don Gunster. I was discombobulated to a real maximum level; I ran late and met Don at the dock, but without my boat keys. But Don had his keys with him and we took his boat out. His is 23' and draws a few feet of water. The tide was low. But we had a few beers on board and it was a good evening to fish.

But we went aground a few times trying to reach the enormous school of bass that spanned from Captain's Flat north to the dog leg. We ended up getting close to fish and they moved from place to place which made catching them difficult. Lots of weed. Don ended up hooking up a few times and I, for whatever reason, ended up with a few near misses, but skunked.

I didn't mind, however, because as it darkened and the fishing slowed, we ended up having some good conversations and the rods went back into their holders. A few beers, drifting north with the tide and the wind, which by then had picked up from the south to about 10 kts. Clouds rolled in. It was a true summer night on the water and amazing to be there.

Back to the dock by lantern and Don's double vision.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Joel and I met at the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee. Mine was on the house. Joel's was not. Hmmmn.

The forecast was for NE winds to diminish from 20 - 25 kts to 10 - 15 kts by morning. But when we arrived to the dock it was evident and obvious that we were in for a ride. The wind was whipping out of the NE and all the boats on harbor moorings were tossing. "Fuck it," I said. "So we'll get a little wet, so what." Joel didn't even acknowledge my comments because he didn't even have one shred of concern over the weather.

We headed out towards the Bug Light, anticipating some calmer seas in the lee of Clarkes Island. And after getting sprayed to an almost uncomfortable level, we arrived there and we were right. It was almost flat, but the wind would occasionally shift and catch us. Dark still, but the casting commenced. Once final swig of the coffee, not to rush it, but it was cooling off fast, and we began a series of drifts across the Saquish area.

Joel had brought along several newly crafted plugs. These were combinations of "jumping fish" or "surface swimmers." They were awesome. On was, in fact, a close replica of my cherished Meunier Cherry Popper, which was lost to a beast of a fish a couple weeks earlier. Joel sampled each one of these first and soon he had a very nice explosion and a 26 incher. Then a few follows. But then action died (never began for me) and we skirted out to Kingston Bay where birds had attracted us, but nothing there either.

But here's the story of the morning:

Joel paused for a minute to proclaim his newly found respect for sharp hooks after our "hook-in-quadracept-fainting" episode a few weeks back. He said, "Man, these new hooks are effin sharp," and I quickly agreed as just two minutes earlier I had accidently jabbed my left thumb into one of them and the blood was still beading out of the little hole.

But just one minute later, a sliver of time, Joel found a treble deep into one of his index fingers. The barb was not visible.

"I'm telling you Daddio, this is just fucking crazy! I mean, I've never been hooked below the barb, all my life, until our last trip. This makes two within the month on the same boat. What the hell?!"

I looked at Joel's finger. There was blood. I remembered his earlier testimony: Dude, if I see my own blood, I am gone. So I carefully asked Joel, "Hey, you're not going to pass out, are you?" Immediately I realized that the imagery from my question would automatically result in a swift loss of conscience. I readied to catch him from behind.

"Nah," he went on almost nonchalantly. "The thing is that it is different with finger. You cut your fingers so much throughout life that this is not such a big deal."

Then he asked for the exacto knife. I had to shed off the sections that held the blood from the last operation. "Clink" went the knife, against the side of the boat, and a new, sharp edge emerged. Joel took the knife and went to work on his index finger. I felt a little queasy and began humming some songs...can't remember which, and then in 8 seconds, he was done.

We continued to fish.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Man Attempts to Impress 7 Year-Old Daughter But ...

I took my daughter out tonight to check the pots and maybe hook a fish or two. I had spent weeks telling her that the fish were guaranteed and due to some nice, big fish recently brought home, she had high expectations. But she also wanted lobster...with melted butter.

It was kind of a creepy night on the water. It got dark faster than usual and some rain drops fell now and then. The water was glass when we embarked but ended up in a little chop from the SW when we finally headed in with our lights on.

But the story is this: small bass were all around the mid-sections of Duxbury Bay. They were very, very finicky but jumping all around the boat. "Why don't you just catch one, Dad?" "Er, well, I'm trying..."

But we managed to hook three small stripers (largest about 18 inches long) and then a nice surprise, a huge hickory shad. The largest I've ever seen. I was overjoyed and told her, "These make great bait!" But the young girl couldn't stand to see that beautiful fish die. She threw it back. But just hooking him made my day.

The lobster pots were empty, except for the resident spiders and hermits.

We motored in, under the black/orange sky. The same colors as my pot markings.