It wasn’t even light yet and we were already arguing about directions. Heavy fog filled the air as well as my head; the remnants of that extended bourbon nightcap. I turned “Running with the Devil” up a little louder on the CD player as The Beast barked out directions and tried to get the navigational app up on his phone. I drove to the end of the road the house he had rented was on and turned right toward coffee.
“We should have turned left…” was all I heard from my navigator.
“I have the ugliest wife in fly fishing”, I said as I rolled down the window to let fresh air hit my face. He either didn’t hear me or was saving a reply for later.
I first met Mark Seymour out on the Vineyard during the Derby five years ago. Outside of fly fishing we don’t agree on much. It makes for some interesting conversations. Somebody mentioned a while ago that we are like the Odd Couple. I hope it’s the Lemmon/Matthau version. Regardless, there’s a mutual respect between us built from spending a lot of time together in cold water, cramped quarters, crowded bars, shitty fishing conditions and Steve Bechard’s hedges. The guy doesn’t stop. Wind, weather, breaking fish, no signs of fish…he just keeps at it. Because of this I started calling him “The Beast” a few years ago.
On this morning we were headed to the Cheeky Fishing Schoolie Tournament. Beast has been my fishing partner in it since its debut in 2012. Our team name is “Team Dirtbag”. He’s a wine guy, I’m a tequila guy but we will both drink warm cheap beer, especially if it’s free. It fits. We have never done well. Not for the lack of effort – in the 2013 tourney we caught over 100 fish between the two of us. They were just all really small.
I had spent the previous two weeks working everyone I knew on Cape Cod for information on where the fish were. I had a plan and felt confident. At the pre-tournament get together the night before at The Sand Bar I had talked to some guys who had fished that day and what they had run into fit right into all the intel I had been gathering. Beast and I looked at maps on his fancy phone, agreed on an access point and settled down with fish tacos and PBR’s. With good intentions we left to turn in early. Good intentions were met with bad influences when we got back to the house and Beast’s business partner Stephen greeted us with a bottle of bourbon. The night was long and sleep was short.
After getting coffee we found our way back to The Sand Bar and stood in the parking lot with 140 other anglers waiting for the start of the Tournament. It was an impressive group gathered there in the fog. At 0600 the official “start” was announced and seventy one teams spread out over Cape Cod. Beast and I headed to our secret location and found a few teams already there in obvious spots. We had two options; stay in one place and fish it hard all day or go gypsy and keep moving around. Beast and I had agreed based on the reports, wind forecast and tide that we would stay in this place and just keep at it. The water looked fishy. I had a good vibe going. We kept moving as the fog burned off and blue sky appeared. We found a flat off a sod bank with good visibility and structure that was holding bait and settled in to grind.
And grind we did. At 0823 I was tight to eighteen and a half inches of striped bass. Not a great fish but it was a start. It was also the end. The only fish brought to hand by Team Dirtbag that day. I took shots at a couple more fish on the flat as the morning wore on. One even turned on my fly, looked up at me, flipped me the bird and slowly swam away. Crickets.
The Beast and I moved around and covered a lot of water in the final two hours. It just wasn’t to be. Over a beer back at the Jeep we agreed we had made the right decision on staying put given the information we had. Then we argued about the best way back to The Sand Bar and who was buying fish tacos.
And that was it. But that’s what it’s like. Fishing is called fishing for a reason. With the twenty-four hour fishing news cycle and real-time-from-the-water-posting that technology and social media afford it can be easy to forget that there are days you’re not going to catch anything. Nobody posts about those days.
Some days it’s epic. Some days it’s just you and the water. You won’t know if you don’t go.
During the festivities of the tournament I got a chance to hang out with my buddy Ben Carmichael from New England on the Fly. For a better look at the Cheeky tournament check out his write up here.
And please check out The Beast’s retirement project at High Hook Wines. Look for and ask for his wine at your favorite packy and restaurant.
|Photo by Mud Dog Saltwater Flies|
The Wine Cellar
17 November 2015