The weather the past few days has been perfect. The air and the light at this time of year combined with the Indian Summer temperatures do something to me. It probably has to do with the change in seasons and my northern blood.
Driving over the bridge this morning and looking out across the glassy surface of the river, over The Spit and out into Cape Cod Bay brought to mind days past and running to the outside with the dogs in the bow to engage bluefish off of Third Cliff and Peggotty. The dogs have all passed and the boat is gone but I have the memories. The images of Jack and McGee pointing when they saw fish breaking, of Bekka not knowing what the hell was going on and the feel of that boat beneath me and at my hand...that was living. Those times were gold. Cash money. I parked at the office to start another day “making a living” and laughed at the irony of it all.
Shortly after going through the morning’s emails my iPhone lit up. My buddy Capt. Hal Herrick and his crew from Sankaty Head Fishing Charters are down at Harker’s Island, NC this week chasing albies and he sent me some photos of the start of their day. Fifteen pounds of green. On my fly.
|Photo by Sankaty Head Fishing Charters/Capt. Hal Herrick|
I tried to get back to work but my mind wandered back into the archives and I thought about the first albie I caught. It was also in NC, not far from where Hal had caught the monster this morning. I cracked another cup of coffee, found the photo of that first albie on the computer and let myself relive that day for a few minutes.
It was 2007. I had taken time off to spend a full week in Morehead City with Henry (previously written about here) and his friend Barry albie fishing. Being down there also gave me a chance to hook up with my good friend Capt. Bill Strakele, a Cape guide who had relocated there. I had met him a few years earlier when I bought his boat. It was an eighteen foot Lund Alaskan center console. Custom rigged with fore and aft casting decks and a poling platform. It was a fishing machine.
I knew of Billy through fly tying articles and word of mouth. He was part of a group of guides and fly tiers I looked up to. To be honest, I was nervous about meeting him. That nervousness disappeared three seconds after meeting him in his driveway. Through the process of taking the boat out for a splash and making the transaction we learned we had some common history as cops. We had both been detectives when we got out and had some similar stories. In law enforcement, at least back in my day, it was common for a veteran to take a rookie under their wing and be somewhat of a mentor. The veteran was referred to as your “uncle.” Bill Strakele became my “uncle” in Fly World.
Once H, Barry and I arrived in Morehead City, Billy came by the hotel and gave me a few of “the flies” that the albies were keyed in on. There were probably 40 other fishermen staying at the hotel, many also from Massachusetts, and we all met for breakfast each morning. I had packed my vice and materials and sat in my room each night drinking beer with Billy and twisting these flies to hand out to the guys at breakfast.
I think it was day two or three and I had yet to catch an albie. We had found some, cast to some but I was still on a learning curve. At breakfast it was decided that I would go out with Billy on his Pro-Kat and meet up with H and Barry on the water later in the day. The day was gray, windy and cold. There were no classic bait balls to be found. After a couple of hours of searching and waiting we found a few albies moving fast along Atlantic Beach. They were up and down and unpredictable as they tend to be. Billy set up a drift and told me to just keep blind-casting until we saw them break and then try to lead them with a long cast. It took some time but it allowed me to mellow out a little. Eventually a few fish broke in front of us and I got in a good cast and was hooked up. Drag screaming, line flying all over the place…now I knew what “albie fever” felt like.
|Photo by Capt. Bill Strakele|
The fish was small but I felt like I had just slain a dragon. Billy tailed the fish and handed it to me. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Even as small a fish as this one was I could feel its seemingly infinite strength as I held it. As Billy dug out my camera for a photo I looked up behind him and noticed that the clouds were giving way to blue sky and sunshine. Moments like that change you. I was glad I was able to share that moment with my “uncle.”
I think of that first albie periodically but I think of that morning with Billy more often. Being on the water with him for a few hours and talking about life and having him there as I let that fish go…that’s cash money.
North River, MA
4 November 2015