Entries from the journal as I scribbled them a few years back, a quick out and back trip to Martha's Vineyard…
The ride across Vineyard Sound has been quiet. And wet. The forecast for this excursion is rain and seasonably cool. I don’t mind the rain or the temperature it’s the wind that could make this miserable. Right now it’s not bad, maybe 10 knots. Three months ago when I made these arrangements I hoped for clear skies and flat conditions but I’ll take whatever Mother Nature throws at me. I’ve got thirty-three hours to fish straight through until I catch the last ferry tomorrow night back to The World. The goal obviously is to catch as many fish as possible, I’ll settle for one to officially enter into the Derby. Four species: striped bass, bluefish, false albacore and bonito. It sounds like that increases the odds in my favor but it doesn’t. I’ve written off the bonito, am less than hopeful for a shot at an albie, guardedly optimistic about a bluefish and somewhat positive I can catch a striper. Will any catch meet the size requirements of the Derby regulations? Who the hell knows. Does it really matter? Call me Eeyore.
I sit in the truck and wait my turn to disembark the ferry. I don’t know the island all that well but have been here enough to know my way around well enough to get lost with confidence. I laugh to myself because nobody knows where I am. And nobody here really knows me so I can disappear. I told the office I had some personal things to take care of for a couple of days. In the midst of a train-wreck on the tracks of life, nobody questioned what I was really doing. I wonder if I don't go back will anyone notice. I need some time away from it all. I let it go. I leave mainland life behind as I drive off the boat. I’m on The Rock.
After the obligatory stop at the Black Dog for Abby’s t-shirt and a hot cup of coffee, I’m about to go “boots wet.” I stopped by Menemsha Texaco for a few supplies and to get mentally oriented. The rain stopped on the ride out here. By the time I drove around to the other side it started back up. No matter, I’m rigged up and ready for the walk along Lobsterville Beach. The tide is outgoing just past slack. I’ll fish here up until the low and see what I see. The eight weight has an intermediate line and a two feather flatwing, the nine has a sinking line and a small Clouser. Locked and loaded.
The rain continues and man is it dark out here. The wind so far has been benevolent but it really doesn’t matter so I’ll speak of it no more. I ran into some bluefish, had one on the nine weight, not large by the feel of it but it was on nonetheless. Until it bit me off. I moved fast to add a 60lb bite tippet but the blues were gone by the time I had my shit together.
They’re back. Shallow and moving fast. I left my gear up the beach and ran after them like a mad man. I was able to get a few casts into them and fooled the smallest one of the bunch with an orange popper on the seven weight. The size of the blue is irrelevant; the black and white varmint has now been dismissed.
I’m at Big Bridge. I can’t describe the rain other than the air is full of water. I spent some time at the end of the jetty blind casting. Crickets. Ghost Town. Silence, no phones, no computer…I’ll take it. Powering up on Diet Coke and a Clif Bar. Optimism exudes as I head up the beach.
20” striper in the surf on a black lobster buoy popper. Scoreless in terms of the Derby but I feel like I just took Andy Pettitte yard.
I’ve moved up to a spot just outside of Oak Bluffs. I’ve had luck here in the past. It continued. In what little light there was I found some happy stripes on top near some shallow structure. Olive and white Slim Jim on the seven, my last one. Some follows, some short takes and two little guys to hand. Yeah, it’s still raining.
Vineyard Haven. Stopped for more Diet Coke and Snickers at the bridge on Beach Road. The fish from OB had me charged up but fatigue just knocked on my door. I can hear splashing under the bridge. Gotta go.
The splashing at the bridge may have been an auditory hallucination. I just drove out to Tashmoo. Pretty sure I saw a toothless kid in one of the trees playing a banjo. Eerie does not fully describe driving out here in the dark and rain. Geared up and ready to stand on the jetty and wait for Albert when it gets light. Yeah, a little windy. I figured I’d be alone but there’s a dude already out here.
The water at Tashmoo is like the salad bar at The Sizzler on a Saturday night. Shit everywhere. We did see albies splashing - for about 3 seconds a hundred yards off the jetty. I set over and dredged off the beach with the nine weight hoping for a stripe but I think it’s time to move. I just found half a tin of Cope in my fleece...trying to quit but I've been awake for a long time. Sitting here in the truck, soaking wet and cold with most of my worldly possessions in the back seat I realize that right now, right here, there is really nothing else I want. Maybe an albie. Excuse the profanity but I f*c#ing love this.
Gas station coffee…nectar of the sleepless. Half a dozen guys walked up from Edgartown Light as I started down. Change in plans, I parked the truck and jumped on to the ferry to Chappy. For some reason the water along the beach just looked fishy. My buddy Z caught a baby jack here once. I’ll take anything. The rain has let up and a pretty woman smiled at me as I passed by her car…blonde hair, baseball hat with the pony tail through the back…yeah man, life is looking up. And then I realized she was talking on the phone and was not looking at me. Crickets. Typical. Whatever. Game back on.
The water here on Chappy is fishy. There is bait everywhere and every few minutes something cuts through it. I’m thinking snapper blues.
Nope, little rat stripers as far as I can tell. Three of them for sure. I’ve resorted to the trusty orange Charlie. Never fails on rats.
Back at Lobsterville headed down the beach. The rain turned back on with a vengeance. Apparently there were albies off the jetty this morning. Nobody I talked to said any had been caught. Judging by the number of people there they are expected back this afternoon. Too many people for me, I need open space and obscurity.
It stopped raining. It’s just gray and wet. I just noticed the smell permeating from my waders. It’s more like a cloud. And I’m pretty sure I’ve got trench foot. But the hunt is on. There are fish out there periodically hitting bait on top, stripes I think.
Back in the truck. Fishless. I’m talking to myself. I brought two beers with me. I’m on the second. I’ve got a little time left. A few minutes at Big Bridge, a few minutes at that spot outside of OB. Maybe.
I’m calling it, heading to the dock. No fish to enter into the Derby - seemingly a failure but it’s not. Not in the least. It's been a training run for future exploits. I caught another (or maybe the same) 20” striper just before I left the beach at Little Bridge. In the light of my headlamp I watched him swim back into his world. Now I’ve got to return to mine.
I drive on to the ferry and feel the weight of the mainland back on my shoulders. It sits there, as heavy as it was when I arrived. I can carry it. The water is glass and I see stars in the sky as we leave the harbor. All storms eventually pass.
Vineyard Haven Harbor, MA
Mid-Derby Sept 2010