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kingballyhoo

Fly fishing in the NYTimes

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Check this out:

 

UNLUCKY fishermen are all alike: We don't know how to see. My friend Jud has outfished me in all but one or two of the hundred times we've gone to the ocean and bay beaches and kettle ponds on Cape Cod. By both study and exercise, he knows the culture of striped bass better than I know my own nose. But to call him "lucky" would begrudge him a talent that I have never seen in anyone else and that lives underneath skill or knowledge.

 

One July night, on a falling tide that sifted through the granite jetty in the west end of Provincetown, we fished the same 10-foot sluice, with the same tackle and the same flies (he ties them for me), and I watched in outrage as he caught 20 stripers to my two.

 

Another night, on Long Point, the finger of sand that curls into Provincetown harbor at the far end of Cape Cod, the stripers were chasing alewife, peanut bunker and other baitfish through the current that rips the point on a rising tide. I caught the first fish of the night, a 32-inch bass, enormous for me and for the lightweight rods we were using. It took 20 minutes to land. Jud yelped in amusement and then caught eight more just like it, while I stood cursing and changing flies by the light of the town, two miles across the dark harbor.

 

What he can do and I can't is face a piece of water and so absorb himself in the place that he seems to share the consciousness of the fish in it. If you have seen a school of 10,000 sand eels swerving as one animal under a wharf, you have seen that individuals can integrate their senses into a collective mind. Without the benefit of language, they share all the most important news: where to find food, light, threat, rocks. Human beings usually experience this common mind only under the stress of love or panic.

 

My friend pulls his hat brim down to deflect the sun, as everybody does, and makes the double-haul cast - a move in which the non-dominant hand jerks down and up on the line, both on the forward and back casts. Think of a man doing the polka with his arms. It isn't as hard as it sounds; it just helps him reach the fish, not find them.

 

For all I know, he may, more often than not, see only a confluence of light and current, and point his desire at that spot, so that he believes he sees the fish before his eyes detect the animal itself. But I can't deny that wherever he puts the lure, the fish find it.

 

We've evolved a neocortex that presents us with an awareness of past and future at the cost of forgetting where we are right now. Jud seems to switch that faculty off in favor of an older, lower brain. Like a sand eel in the school, he sees with 10,000 pairs of eyes. Many times when he was catching fish and I wasn't, I've asked, "How do you know where the fish are?" And he's said, "I see them."

 

I may have glimpsed for myself what he sees, but only once. On an early summer afternoon we were fishing for brook and rainbow trout in the mid-Cape, at Cliff Pond. In reality, except after heavy rains, it's two ponds split by a narrow sand bar.

 

More than 300 of these kettle ponds perforate the Cape. They formed around 10,000 years ago. As the Laurentide ice sheet retreated into Canada, it left behind chunks of ice as thick as 60 feet that the force of the glacier had plowed into the earth. The sediment outflow from the melting Laurentide sheet covered the blocks of ice, so they lay hidden and insulated for 1,000 years or more beneath the soil. As the climate warmed further, the blocks melted, the sediment crusts collapsed, and the deep holes that the blocks had formed began to fill with ground water and rain. In general, streams neither feed nor drain the ponds, and in the absence of wind they lie as still as mirrors.

 

Oak and pine trees ring Cliff Pond so tightly that if a wading fisherman tries to cast much farther than 10 feet, he snags his fly in the heavy brush during the back cast.

 

I was having a miserable afternoon, yanking one errant fly after another from the pine boughs. Jud came around the corner, having caught half a dozen brook trout and let them go. He saw my irritation and suggested another spot.

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With luck you won't have the week I just had...20-30 with gusts to 50, and sideways rain!

 

(Or maybe with luck, you will. It's all perspective...biggrin.gif )

 

At least I know it will be a little quieter in Cape May County....

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I'm no NY Times fan, but this story brings back memories of their old fishing sports contributors and should rank with the best of them. Nelson

Bryant, Nick Lyons, Thomas McGuane and Ernest Schweibert and Bob Boyle.

 

In 2007 a book edited by Stephen Sautner call UPRIVER & Downstream was published by Harmony Books. It is a compilation of several of the great fishing columnist and contributors to the Times over the years.

 

I recommend it highly and suggest you seek it thru the used books route on Amazon.com. I picked one up for a friend for under $8.00 including shipping.

 

A nice walk down memory lane with old friends, that will make you smile.

 

Bob

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