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Harbor Delights
"Your Rod Sleeps with the Fishes"
by Rocco DeTeso

FORWARD: I used to like to fish alone. It was a time to relax and reflect on the hectic insanity of the past workday. The solitude of the dark stretches of North Shore beaches gave me the opportunities to put my life, career and daily tribulations into their proper perspective. Fish and fishing stories abounded, outrageous and sometimes nutty situations would occur. However, with no credible witnesses (including myself), my incredible tales were dismissed as "just another fish story." So now I always seem to need company when I fish, especially at night.

esthetics play a major role in where I fish. The warm white sands, the freshening sea breezes, the surf rushing and foaming along the gentle curves of the beach, all play their part in renewing one's spirit during a fishing excursion.

If the fishing is slow, as it usually is when I show up, the beauty of the natural surroundings in and of themselves hold just enough enjoyment to urge me to return. However, aesthetically pleasant surroundings eventually lose their appeal, especially when the Striped Bass do not show up. Moreover, if they consistently don't show up, then this forces me into a mode for an exceptional realignment of priorities.

After playing out all my options at my traditional fishing grounds, I seriously considered making a desperate move. All spring long, Richard, my good buddy and hunting partner, by virtue of the location of his house, has been observing quite a bit of shore action "somewhere in Boston Harbor." One recent evening he phoned me and said, "Geez my kids have been taking my old 10 foot Penn setup down the street and have been catching keeper bass most every night."

Knowing exactly where "down the street" was, I wasn't real excited about the prospect of trekking through Boston traffic to get there. Since it's not real relaxing, and that's why I fish. But as the spring season moved along and my keeper count was a big zero I figured why not bite the bullet and give it a shot.

After preparing my friend Dom, a diehard sandy beach type fisherman, to come along for the "experience", we struck off in the direction of Olde Bean Towne. For us, it was really unusual to chase stripers by being snarled up in traffic jams along the lower deck of Route 93 and then run the gauntlet of airport traffic into the harbor tunnel. Weaving around the city streets in this part of town wasn't new to me since I visit Richard and his family quite regularly. However, Dom looked a bit disconcerted and kept wondering where the heck I was taking him when I pulled up along a driveway and stopped next to several other "fishy" looking vehicles.

"Down there" I pointed, "just down that dark alleyway to the water is the spot." Dom looked at me as if I was a real kidder and said, "Oh Yeah you first."

Black slimy ooze gripped the ankles of our wader boots as we made our way along the mussel beds encrusting the mudflats and towards the deeper water in the boat channel. The smell of burnt diesel fuel filled our lungs and was just strong enough to cut the perfumed offerings of the exposed mud flats. The channel, since it is maintained regularly, drops off quite steeply in this area for several hundred yards. During a dropping tide, it becomes constricted for its entire length thus concentrating any fish moving through the area. The tide was about 3 hours from low and running with just enough force to urge the stripers into a feeding pattern.

One of the best spots to fish at the head of the channel was already occupied by what appeared to be two other fishermen. As Dom and I approached, we were curious about one of these fellows who was stomping around in knee deep water with shoes and socks on. His pants were wet up to mid thigh.

The fellow, an apparent novice fisherman, turned and gleefully declared, " Gee, I had one 35 inch keeper and released it and I just lost another one that was over 45 inches long." He then said, "Ya know, I reeled it in most of the way then it straightened out my hook and got away!" "Just look at this setup and bent hook." Dom and I just looked at each other and wondered why the hell are we gabbing and not fishing.

We learned from him that this was his first time striper fishing and he didn't have any of his own equipment. The rod he was using belonged to a friend of his who had just recently purchased it. His companion, a more experienced and better equipped fisherman just furtively rolled his eyes and grudgingly verified the fellows story.

Moving down the channel to get some elbowroom, Dom appeared quite puzzled. He looked over at me and said, "Hey I've heard a lot of fish stories in my time, do you think this guy's telling the truth???"

I replied, "Man, just look at this pathetic guy, he's all excited, and soaking wet, I don't think he's enough of an experienced fisherman to concoct a lie like that. Besides his buddy was trying to give him the hi-sign to shut up."

As we tossed out our baited rigs, the smoggy haze and humidity of the city lights simulated a sultry summer sunset. "Looks kinda neat huh Dom?" I said. He could only reply with a few raspy coughs as his lungs rejected the diesel fumes. The water in the channel appeared flat and lifeless but was actually moving from our right to left quite rapidly. We felt our baits settled into the channel drop off and we waited.

Dom set his rod into the sand spike, turned and cocked his head slightly as if listening to the familiar sound of storm tossed breakers rolling into a beach just over the dunes. Steadily the rush of noise rolled in louder and closer. It sounded as if the mother of all rogue waves was charging landward and towards us. Dom turned towards me quizzically, a modest look of apprehension on his furrowed brow as the noise got louder and the very ground we stood upon started to quake.

Blinding and flashing lights hit us like a hammer, an overwhelming roar screamed in our ears. Dom's dark silhouette radiated light as he performed a little dance like a squirrel stuck in the middle of road dodging traffic. He ducked to the right, dodged to the left and finally broke towards dry land, rod and reel in hand, line dragging closely behind. Not a pretty sight, for this was once a proud man.

The air around us seemed to be virtually shredded as the Rome bound Alitalia Boeing 767 flew directly at and over us and rapidly gained altitude. Dom, his knees buckling, stopped dead in his tracks, mouth agape, eyes lit up like a full moon, his arms dropped limply to his side. He turned towards me and as he caught his breath said, "You ..., you didn't tell me that we would be this close to the airport." I smiled with a wry grin and said, "Well yeah, I guess we are, Heh Heh .... pretty close." Dom settled back down and resumed fishing but I could make out only a few words of what he was muttering under his breath. I think it was something like "Close hell, I could count the rivets on the damn thing."

"Say fellows did you see a fish pole go by?" the figure emerging out of the darkness inquired. "What?" we replied simultaneously. "My pole, it's gone, it was here a few minutes ago, now it's gone." We recognized that it was that novice fisherman again. "Gee I walked away for a few minutes and when I got back my fish pole was missing." His manner seemed mildly accusatory, questioning us as if possibly we absconded with his gear. "HUH!" we said, "What are you talking about?"

"You see, I cast out my bait rod and stuck it straight up in the mud. My shoes were wet so I went back to my car to get some dry shoes on. When I came back it was gone. Did you guys see what happened to it?"

"No!" I said, "but I can tell you what probably happened to it. With your luck it's out there in the water somewhere with a striper on one end of it."

"OH no, my friend is going to kill me, it's his new rod and reel and he told me to take good care of it. Oh he's going to kill me, can you guys help me find it?"

I don't know what it was, just the kind of guy I am or maybe my curiosity about what really happened to this guys rod that spurred me to help him out. Well, I rigged my casting rod up with a weighted snag hook and proceeded to probe the depths. After 10-15 minutes with nothing to show, the novice fisherman got more and more exasperated. "Gee I just have to find my friend's rod," he said as he walked waste deep into the water. After a few more frustrating minutes he decided to give up, go back home and get into some other dry clothes.

"Listen," I told him, "why don't you get some waders and come back here for the morning low tide." "I am sure you will have better luck in the daylight. We will continue to look for it as the tide goes out. If one of us finds it, I will put it up along the seawall under those bushes. OK?... "Yeah, I guess so," he said, but seemed resigned towards coming up with the cash to buy his friend another new rod and reel.

Peace and quiet at last, taking flight schedules and the wind direction into consideration. Dom and I checked our baits and cast out again commenting on the luck, both good and bad, that the novice fisherman seemed to have. Within a minute my rod tip light started a long slow methodical wave.

There was something there, but it wasn't a solid hit like one would expect from even a modest striper. There was a slow almost strumming feel to my line. Dom asked, "do you have a hit?" "Well yes, in a way," I said, "but I will bet any amount of money I know exactly what I have." "Dom," I said, "just watch my line as I reel in, and try and guess what it is."

My terminal tackle and baited hook broke the surface with an ever widening V wake following close behind. "Hey," said Dom, "you got somebody else's line hooked up." "Yeah I know, but that's not all I've got."

As the snagged line came in I tossed Dom my own rod and had to hand line in the itinerant mono. A few yards to my right a rod tip broke surface in 4-5 feet of water and I made a grab for it. The rod had been wedged into a shell bed, the reel was loaded with silt and was useless. Dom took the recovered rod as I continued to hand line in the business end. About 30 yards out a wide tail slapped the water as a nearly exhausted striper made a furtive attempt to dive. The fish felt heavy but there wasn't much of a struggle because it had been tethered to the sunken rod for over half an hour.

Sliding the striper up into shallow water I removed the hook and measured it out at a modest 37 inches. After reviving and releasing the fish I revealed my thoughts to Dom. I spoke about the novice fisherman. "What a putz," I said, "he was totally unprepared for fishing under these conditions. He shows up with no hip boots, waders or sand spike, uses a borrowed rod, gets soaking wet... twice even, and finally ends up losing his friend's rod and reel."

"Yeah," says Dom, "but you forgot the one most important thing... this guy hooked up with three keepers in less than one hour. So, how many have you caught this year?"

I cleaned off the rod and reel and true to my word placed it up on a shelf in the sea wall. "Let's get back to fishing Dom," I said, "if that novice can catch keepers then so can we."

School bass were hitting bait fairly regularly that night but after several hours we still had no larger fish. At about the bottom of the tide I felt a light hit then a sudden and powerful run. My 10 footer doubled over and I knew from the strength of the run that this had to be a keeper. The fish reversed direction and was running right to left parallel to the shoreline as I tried to gain some control over it. "This is a good one Dom, just look at the bend in the rod." Finally, I thought, the first keeper for the year. Suddenly, the line tension released and the rod recoiled. "OH no," I said, "it's gone."

Checking my 20 pound mono showed the fish had cut off about 20 yards of line. The end of the mono looked shattered or completely frayed since it was fanned out. Cut it on the mussel beds or God knows what else is down there. Anyway it's gone, Rats!

Dom took this as an opportunity to get a bit of revenge for his airport surprise earlier, tossed back at me some of my unflattering comments about the novice fisherman. "Hey smart aleck surf guy, answer me one question now will ya. Who is it that was really unprepared for the fishing conditions at this spot. Your gear is all set up for a sandy beach with no obstructions, sharp rocks or harbor debris like exists in here. Ya know Mr. Expert, if you really want a keeper here you better come better prepared." Dom reveled at the chance to get back at me a little, and he kept laying it on pretty thick. "Yeah I know, I know," I said. "Next time I will have on a shock leader of 40 or 50 lb. mono, Lesson learned pal!"

After Dom finished ribbing me and getting his last laugh we decided to call it a night and proceeded back up the alleyway. It was after midnight now and we were both a bit apprehensive. As we walked closer to my truck, we froze as we both spotted a dark figure skulking in the shadows. Then out of the darkness came a vaguely familiar voice.

"Hey!"... "Any of you guys seen a fishing pole"? End

Copyright © 1996 - 2013 Rocco DeTeso, All Rights Reserved

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