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First Striper
by Scott Lewis

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This 34 inch, 15 pound fish was my first bass ever! It was caught on September 26, 1998 on a live eel in Montauk, New York.

When Greg Flanagan, the father of one of my Second Grade students, asked me to join him on a trip to Montauk I was flattered and excited to broaden my fishing horizons. The thought of going for 20 - 30 pound linesiders was quite different from catching six inch brook trout in the mountain streams of my youth in the heart of Vermont. When Greg described the fish he was catching I knew that this was for me.

When I arrived in Montauk and heard tales of being blown off rocks and getting cut on barnacles and stories about gruff surf fisherman who don't think twice about bitting your line should you cross into their territory. I'll admit it, I was intimidated. But soon I dismissed these tales and decided that I was plenty prepared. Now don't get me wrong, I am not afraid of bloodied knuckles or bruised legs but the drowning thing "kinda freaked me out". Well, that next morning I found it all to be true! The waves, rocks and gruff "surf-rats" were even more horrible than I expected. But the risk added to the excitement and I knew would make a good story when I returned home.

I was only fishing for about one hour when I saw some birds working about 75 yards to my right. I made my way over to a rock which put me in casting distance, all the while getting tossed by the waves. I felt like a human pinball bouncing off all of those rocks. I grabbed some kelp and pulled myself up onto the rock scratching my knuckles on the sharp barnacles. I stood up only to be blown off the rock by a nasty breaker! After spitting out a lungful of water, I got to my rock and saw fish breaking everywhere! My first blitz! The fish were still just out of reach but I saw a large linesider streaking through a wave which crested only 20 or 30 yards away. I threw to that fish and seconds after the eel hit the water I felt a "tap, tap" I set the hook and "FISH ON!" My heart was racing and instantly, I was hooked! I landed the fish after a short battle and stumbled back to shore. Thanks, Greg!

To my fiance's dismay, I have since spent at least one day and night of every weekend at the Jersey Shore (Bayhead) but have only landed shorts on bombers and poppers. At night it has been "bait and skate". Even though I haven't had much luck of late, I still have trouble sleeping the night before the trip - anticipating my next chance. For me though, it is not the "catching" that keeps me "fishing". Much of the joy of fishing is an opportunity to share with friends, laugh at mishaps, remember the days when the memories were made and dream about the memories that are yet to come.

That first striper was caught on my Great Grand Uncle's surf rod and reel which he handed down to me just months before he passed away two years ago. My Uncle Chuck was a diehard surf fisherman who would follow the bass and blues from Massachusetts to the Outer Banks but most days you would find him and his buddy "Whitey" on the beach in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Uncle Chuck stopped fishing when Whitey was found circling in his fishing boat after suffering a fatal heart attack at the age of 72.

I never fished with my Uncle Chuck while he was alive but now I fish with him every time I go out. His hands are connected to mine through that antique surf rod. I wonder how many stories this rod could tell. I wonder how many blitzes... I wonder how many missed fish..... I know Uncle Chuck was smiling down on me that Autumn day in Montauk and I feel his presence with every cast.End

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