It just happened to me a while back. I don’t know why. I don’t think I suddenly got born lucky. Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time. Sometimes life throws something at you that you never see coming. Something so unexpected it leaves you wondering, did that just happen? It took me a while to ask. Yeah man, it happens. And it happened on the water and in the sun. Of course it did, why would it not? All good things happen there. Remember (if you're over 45) the album you ran to the drugstore (we went to Laverdiere’s) to buy for one song because you just would not get through the weekend without it. You memorized every word, every chord and then put it away for another day. You listen to the song again a short time later but this time you listen to the whole album and you realize that the first song was good, but the rest of the album is great, like opening presents, one after another. The lyrics, the music, the backbeat…it all connects and lights you up. It rocks your world. Yeah, just like that.
What’s this got to do with fishing? Nothing, it’s not supposed to. But it reminds me of two people I met while I was fishing and their story. And theirs weaves itself into mine.
It was three years ago, just after Labor Day, after all the summer people had left the beach. It was that awesome four or five day stretch when the water is flat under a bluebird sky, the nights cool and the days warm. Bluefish weather. And for the previous two mornings they had been in shallow on the beach just as the sun came up. I had been hitting the beach for a half hour before work and had managed to catch a few on topwater. Bluefish in skinny water on the beach? Yeah, I wanted more.
I stepped on to the beach and saw an older lady standing behind an easel painting. On the sand next to her was a cooler with a boom box sitting on top of it. That’s right, an honest to goodness 1980’s era boom box. AM, FM and cassette. One hand held a paintbrush, the other a red Solo cup. As I walked I could hear music. I got closer and could hear her singing along, “…and it’s ever present everywhere…”
Van the Man and ”Warm Love”. I smiled remembering road trips, campfires, good red wine and singing with my sister. I walked past her and said good morning. All I heard was, “Oh, bloody Hell!”
I turned and said, “Excuse me, ma’am?”
“Oh, not you.” She pointed to a man fishing a few hundred yards down the beach and said, “He got bit off again. I told him he needed wire.”
I laughed and said I could probably help him out. She asked me to wait for a second, opened the cooler and pulled out a plastic jug filled with an orange liquid. She scooped up some ice, filled another Solo cup and asked me to take it to the man.
“His name is Peter, tell him I ran out of grenadine. I’m Lizzie.”
I took the cup and walked toward Peter trying not to spill it as I crossed over the rocks. Tequila and orange juice and a bit of lime juice I think…I liked these people immediately. I walked up to Peter and handed him the cup.
“Lizzie sent this…said she ran out of grenadine.”
He took the cup and smiled. “She knows I like it better this way anyway.”
We introduced ourselves and I asked how the fishing had been. He cursed and told me had been bitten off three times and only had twenty pound mono and no wire. He cursed a lot. I liked him more. I pulled out some sixty and tied up a bite tippet for him and added it to his leader. As I did this he told me he and Lizzie lived in Florida, on some great snook water in Naples. Every August they would travel north and spend time with friends on the Cape and here on Humarock.
I handed him his rod back and he dug out a fly box and pulled out a fly. He looked at the popper tied onto my leader and held up his fly. “This is the ticket my friend, I only have one left.”
I looked at the fly and felt his world and my world collide. It was one of mine. I didn’t say anything, I just smiled.
“Lizzie got me a dozen of these a few years back at Baymen Outfitters down in Duxbury. He’s closed now. The kid she bought ‘em from said these are like crack for stripers. I don’t know what it’s called but I wish I knew where to get more of these ‘cause my snook love ‘em. And so do these [expletive] bluefish. [Expletive].
Crack for stripers. I knew who sold them to Lizzie.
Crack for stripers. I knew who sold them to Lizzie.
Peter and I started fishing next to each other and the bluefish were angry but amicable. Peter landed a couple while I messed with their minds with the popper. After Peter released his third blue, I asked him to let me put on a fresh piece of sixty for him. As I went to work changing the tippet, he waved to Lizzie and told me their story.
They had both divorced late in life, after their children had grown up and made lives for themselves. Somehow they both ended up in the same 55-and-over community in Naples and were introduced through mutual friends at a beach party. Later they learned that each had been smitten by the other but played it cool not really knowing what to do at their age. It took time but he finally he approached her at the mailbox one day. He said after the awkward first few words the conversation just rolled freely as if they had known each other for a long time. They found they shared more interests than not and had similar life experiences. A friendship formed that quickly grew into a deep love that surpassed anything either had ever experienced.
“That was eleven years ago. It happened pretty quickly. It hit me like a wave. But at our age you kind of have to grab on, hold on and hope for the best. There are no guarantees except that the band can’t play forever…dance while you can, my boy, dance while you can.”
As Peter tied his fly back on, I reached into my sling and opened one of my fly boxes. I pulled out the exact fly he was tying on and handed it to him.
“This is called the DNA Baitfish. I tie it in blue back and green back. Lizzie probably bought them from my buddy. We call him The Deacon, he used to work for Captain Dave at Baymen. I tied a lot of flies for the shop when it was open.”
I told him the name of my business and that in exchange for his company and conversation that morning I wanted to hook him up with some more flies. His face lit up, he thanked me and we went back to casting and talking. We fished for a while longer and I told him that I was going to have to go to work but that I would meet up with him the following morning with some flies. He walked up the beach with me and told Lizzie the story of the flies. Lizzie gave me a hug and asked if I had time for breakfast. I told her no but that I would meet them at Sands End for breakfast the next day. As I walked away Lizzie cranked up the music and I watched them dance to “The Bright Side of the Road” right there, in the sand. Like no one was watching.
The next morning we met as agreed. When I walked in, they were sitting next to each other in the window seat, holding hands and laughing. Hoodies, flip flops and sunglasses; pretty much the epitome of cool. We had breakfast and I asked them more questions about their story and their lives. After a final cup of coffee I gave Peter a bag with two dozen of each color of the flies and watched tears form in Lizzie’s eyes. She asked what they owed me.
“We’re square, meeting the two of you, hearing your story, that’s more than enough. I hope someday it happens to me. And if it doesn't, at least I know the possibility exists.”
I got up and shook Peter’s hand. Lizzie stood up and gave me a hug. She whispered in my ear, “The possibility is always there, everywhere, it will find you. Let it happen. Listen to the music.”
“…and it’s ever present everywhere…”
Lizzie might be right.
Humarock Beach, MA
12 November 2014