The week ended with no trips booked and an unusual Sunday off. It was time for a busman's holiday; a chance to fish for the fun of it. I thought it would be healthy and nostalgic to try fishing from shore and riding my bicycle to the water's edge and wade in. No shallow draft rig with clever electronics, stealthy electric motor, and boxes of gorgeous injection molded lures. It was time to go old school
I stuck my favorite spin caster into the rod holder on the luggage rack of my bike. It is a 7 ½' custom rod with medium action I had made just about 20 years ago by "Tightlines Custom Rods" in Bridgeport. I had it made with no real seat, deliberately, so I could tape my reel wherever I wanted on the custom cork handle. The request drew an odd glance, but my wish was granted and the results became quite convincing. I did not want to fly fish this morning; I just wanted to keep it simple. I did not even bring waders; I just wore shorts and my dive booties for shallow wading.
I chose one plug. A hand-carved cedar popper from Phase II lures in Westport. Talk about old school, these lures "truly" hand made. Many other lures have been marketed as hand made, but they were turned on a lathe producing production type quality. Phase II lures are not turned on a lathe, they are whittled, one at a time by a long-time Westport resident and local sharpie, who also sells them to tackle shops door to door with a hand shake and a smile.
The plug I chose for this adventure is called a "Scooter", and is about 4" long, through-wired with a split ring and 3/0 hook, covered in hand-tied buck tail. Dick (the craftsman) bores a hole in the tail section to add weight. It flies like a missile but still floats! The head sticks out of the water and rolls over when yanked for a nice splash and gurgle affect, while the weighted tail section, and hook, stay in the water where the fish can grab it. Lovely.
When I arrived at Penfield reef, the Shark Bar was completely exposed thanks to the extra pull of the super moon. It rose from the flat water like a huge gray whale-back groomed perfectly smooth from the ebbing tide, and I would have first tracks. The scene was positively bucolic, but I didn't have my camera because I was keeping it simple. Or because of the fog produced by the generous Margarita(s) I had imbibed the night before at a landmark establishment where I had spent (misspent?) much of my youth; I forgot.
As I walked out to the tip of the bar and on into the water, the activity became more vivid and adrenaline began to replace the surreal ambiance. Terns were diving, cormorants were dipping, and soon fish were breaking. I kept walking. Eventually I could see they were Bluefish. I began casting and retrieving but to no avail. I walked out a little further but could not draw a strike. There was so much bait available the fish could afford to be a little selective. But the water was warm and the sandy bottom was easy to walk on and I kept moving, knowing I would have to get close to a breaching fish to cajole him away from such a smorgasbord.
I only had the one lure, but plenty of time and absolutely no pressure to catch a fish. I was now up to my waist in the water and fish were now breaking behind me as the water filled in the trough between the bar and the reef. I decided to sight cast to rising fish rather than "call" them with hurt baitfish sounds of my plug. I kept the bail of the reel open and my trigger finger on the line.
Within a few minutes a fish broke well within the reach of the ¾ ounce decoy tied to my line. I lofted the Scooter to the ring in the water and tugged at it the moment it hit the surface, and then it disappeared. I had almost forgotten how much fun it is to bring a fish right to your side when you are standing in the water. Water which is now up to my chest and completely covering the bar, time to go.
I kept the little bruiser to smoke, and strapped him to my bike rack. I got some pretty funny looks as I rode home through the neighborhoods and town in wet clothes and a flopping fish bungeed to my bike. What a great start to summer!