Publisher's Note: Al is taking a couple of weeks
off - a well deserved holiday from his weekly column. We
think you will enjoy Charlie!
I was quietly sitting on my deck, day-dreaming
about starting a business that would allow me to
quit my day job and fish my way around the world,
when the telephone interrupted. The caller was my
good fishing buddy, Jerry Bass. "Charlie," he said,
"I just called Ernie. The albies are in. We're
going in a couple of hours. You want to go?" I
was reluctant to stop thinking about my ticket to
financial freedom, but darn, he said albacore. I
met Jerry and Ernie in a commuter parking lot that
is on the way to the marina and quickly loaded my
gear into the back of Jerry's red truck. Both
Jerry and Ernie had already landed a few of these
"footballs with propellers" as Ernie calls them a
few days before, so I had to listen to them tell
slightly embellished albacore fish stories all the
way to the marina. It wasn't all that bad, really.
It was either listen to albacore tales or Jerry's
country rap tape played and sung by the Carma Mojo.
You can get Carma Mojo tapes three for a buck in
the Dollar Store. Anyway, I was hoping to have some
reel singing accounts of my own by the time this
trip was over.
It wasn't long before we were at the marina. We
hurriedly loaded our gear into the boat and motored
out to a well-known albacore swim by. Jerry slowly
maneuvered the boat into the best position to cast
toward several large rocks. If there were hungry
fish around, we knew that they would chase the tiny
baitfish close to the rocks and trap them there. The
tiny morsels would then become disoriented in the surf
pounding over the weed-covered boulders and that would
make them an easy lunch for swimming predators.
Ernie quietly lowered the anchor. We waited. After
a few minutes Jerry picked up the dreaded spinning
rod and cast a hook-less bright orange, wooden plug
into the surf around the hidey hole. The plug landed
with a loud plop, and he began a fast, splashy retrieve.
A hefty bluefish charged the speeding lure and with a
vicious strike drove it three feet into the air. It
tumbled back into the surface foam with a splash.
Another blue took a violent swipe at it immediately.
Ernie and I grabbed our fly rods as Jerry hurriedly
reeled the scarred decoy back to the boat. Luckily,
we were ready for this toothy encounter. We had rigged
up two fly rods apiece, one for blues and one for albies.
The bluefish rig had a foot of Teflon coated steel
leader attached to the fly. You can lose a lot of
expensive flies due to a bluefish's sharp cutting
teeth if you don't use a steel leader. You can lose
fingers too if you are not careful.
My blue and white Lefty's Deceiver landed a few inches
from the salt-sprayed boulders. I let the four-inch
feathered fake sink, and then gave it a couple of
twitches, imitating an injured bait fish. A blue
slashed at the fly. I set the hook hard. The
startled fish shot by the bow of the boat. I held
the rod high trying to keep the fleeing fish away
from the anchor rope. It cleared the angled line
and bolted for the open ocean. My fly line was
gone in seconds and I was staring at white twenty
pound test Dacron backing leaving my reel in a blur.
That is the exact moment that you start wondering
about the knots that you tied and hoping that you
were not tired or lazy when you tied them. The
tethered bluefish stopped about fifty yards from
the craft and began to frantically shake its
tooth-filled head. A minute went by and I couldn't
make the determined warrior move. This fish had
chosen to stand its ground rather than to run and
jump. I glanced over my shoulder at Ernie. He was
fighting one too. I looked over the other shoulder
at Jerry. He had decided to stay out of the fray.
Two people in a boat, each with a big fish on are
enough. Three is a circus. Finally the tough blue
started to move parallel to the boat but refused
to give me back any line. I leaned back on the rod,
putting as much strain on it as I dared. The
stubborn fish finally gave me a foot, then another,
then started moving slowly toward me, still shaking
its head and rubbing its two pounds of knife like
teeth over my fly. Any minute I expected this finned
bruiser to make a run for it. But it didn't. A few
minutes later the tired twelve pound blue lay in
the bottom of Jerry's boat. I kneeled down and
untangled it from the net, then removed the barbless
fly that had fooled this great game fish. Then I
leaned over the side of the boat and hung on to
it by its tail, until it regained its strength,
and swam away. When I stood up I felt it, a queasy
feeling in my stomach. I ignored it and moved to
the back of the boat and sat down to check my fly
and leader. By this time some albies had moved in
and were chasing the frantic bait fish. The water
boiled as the small fish rushed to the surface and
leaped into the air to avoid being eaten by the
possessed albacore. I quickly put my bluefish rod
in the rod holder and grabbed the albacore rod.
Suddenly, I had that funny feeling again. There
was no denying it this time. I rushed to the side
of the boat. Gross!
Minutes later Jerry had an albie ready to land; I
grabbed the net, slipped it under the green striped
football, and swung the ten pound tough guy into
the boat. I quickly handed the net to Jerry and
was back hanging over the side. Jerry is a nice
guy. After he released the tired albie, he offered
to take me back to shore. My stomach said, "Say yes
you fool, "but my mouth said, "No, I'll be ok."
Ernie hadn't noticed. I could have been Cindy
Crawford in Victoria Secret underwear. Ernie had
albacore fever. Jerry and Ernie had a great time.
They caught three or four fat Albert's apiece and
a blue fish or two. Me, I know the side of Jerry's
boat better than he does. Since that trip, the one
nautical term that I have memorized is..."Dramamine!"
Besides hosting the FAOL Chatroom on Tuesday nights,
Charlie Place writes a monthly fly fishing column
called "On The Fly" for On The Water magazine
which covers fresh and salt water fishing in New England.
In February 2004 Charlie's column won The New England
Outdoor Writers Associations 2004 writing award;
Best column in a magazine. Often his stories
are about fishing with Ernie Boutiette and Jerry Wade
his two best fishing buddies.