It is 5:30 on a foggy Wednesday morning, and,
even though I have to go to work in an hour, I
am out on Plum Island Sound in my kayak, fly-fishing
for striped bass. I live on the Eagle Hill River
where it dumps into the Sound, and I have the good
fortune of being able to awaken, get my gear together,
and be on the water within ten minutes-if I forgo the
bliss of morning coffee.
When Carl Sandburg wrote, "The fog comes in on
little cat feet," he wasn't referring to fog like
this. Visibility is no more than ten feet in any
direction and I can literally see individual droplets
of condensation hovering in the air. While I have
fished in foggy conditions hundreds of times, usually
it is ephemeral, wispy and light, and like vague memories
stays just beyond reach. This miasma is tangible, as
if I could take a handful and put it in my pocket. The
water is as smooth as glass, and, by reflection, gray
as the fog. The overall effect is claustrophobic and
magical, like I'm floating in the clouds, and I half
expect to arrive on the shores of Brigadoon
at any moment.
Fish are feeding everywhere, but individually,
not in large schools. When fishing from the kayak
you need to use the same energy expenditure v.
potential benefit equation that the bass do when
chasing bait. Just as a striper wouldn't swim a
hundred yards to eat one small silverside, you
shouldn't paddle a hundred yards to catch one
schoolie (which will be gone by the time you get
there anyway). And now I'm fishing not by sight
but by sound and smell (yes, you can often smell
when fish are feeding), which, on the water, in
the fog, is an inexact science at best. I judge
the current and the drift of the boat, pick a
likely spot and wait for the fish to come to me.
Soon I'm sharing my 20 X 20 fog-enclosed microcosm
with feeding bass. I'm not sure what they are
feeding on, but it is something that is floating
near the surface and doesn't move very quickly,
shrimp or maybe crabs, because the rise form is
trout-like, delicate surface swirls that leave
an expanding ring on the water as opposed to the
big splashes when stripers are hitting bait fish.
I tie on a shrimp pattern and fish for them as I
would trout; wait for a rise and then put the fly
right in the center of the ring. The bass hit
almost instantly, and I pick up a dozen fish in a
little less than an hour. None are very big, but
that doesn't matter. What does matter is that I'm
here, experiencing something that is, I hesitate to
say, almost spiritual.
I check my watch and, regrettably, it's time to
head in. The fog is still deep, and I can't see
where I am or going, so I paddle until the bow of
the kayak nudges a crab trap buoy. A commercial
crabber, hunting green crabs to sell for bait, has
lined the center of the entire channel with his pots,
one every ten feet, and though I have been cursing
him all week for what I consider a breech of fishing
etiquette, I now am grateful. The buoys guide me
like runway lights on an airstrip and lead me to
the boat landing.
When I get home my wife is at the kitchen table
drinking coffee. She looks up when I enter and
I can see that she's been worried.
"I can't believe you went out in this fog!" she
frets. "You need to be more careful!"
I think for a moment. "I need to start bringing
the cell phone with me," I say.
"Why?" she questions, concerned that something happened.
"So I can call in sick at work from the kayak," I answer.
"You're an idiot," she says with conviction. ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.