It seems as if nearly every day something happens
that makes me appreciate the cyber age in which
we live. No, I'm not referring to the new Paris
Hilton videos that are flooding the web, but to
the way we are now kept instantly informed of
important current events. For example, on Thursday
I received an e-mail from the Boston Orvis store
announcing their annual October sale. Many of
their rods would be discounted by 40%, providing
a perfect opportunity to add yet another rod to
the expanding quiver.
I'd been considering buying a 10-foot rod for
fishing from the kayak, as, because of the low
profile, it is difficult to cast any distance
with a nine. The added length would solve a
problem peculiar to kayak fishing, getting
too close to the fish. On the scale of fishing
dilemmas, this is not a bad one to have, but it
can also get tiresome catching fish within three
feet of the boat without having to cast-this is
supposed to be fly-fishing, after all. The
longer rod should translate to longer casts,
allowing me to keep my distance when fishing
blitzes while adhering to the most fundamental
of fly-fishing requirements.
While I had been to Orvis Boston in the past,
the store had recently moved and I had never
been to the new location. And though I grew
up in inner-city Chicago, and have worked in
Boston for the past 18 years, I'm a pastoral
guy at heart and I approach these expeditions
into the city like a job interview, with a
mixture of equal parts excitement and dread.
In a previous trip to Orvis Boston, I had the
misfortune of getting on the subway with three
ex-cons coming from the parole office (they
announced this) who proceeded to intimidate
the entire subway car. Fortunately, this trip
was uneventful, though dangerously short from
a fiscal restraint standpoint.
The new Orvis is nearly as big as their flagship
store in Manchester, Vermont, and probably four
times as large as the old Boston Orvis. "What
a great location," I said to the employee
assisting me with my purchase. "Yea, but not
so good for us," he confided. "Why is that?"
"It's too big. Theft is a major problem." I
was puzzled. While it's a given that fishermen
are liars, I never thought of them as thieves.
"Oh, it's not the fishing equipment," he clarified,
"it's the clothing" which, to me, is the perfect
reason for Orvis to drop their upscale clothing
line and just concentrate on fishing tackle.
Maybe they will come to their senses. I purchased
the 10 foot 8 weight for under $200, and, with
the tip inadvertently supplied by the salesman,
stole a new Patagonia wading jacket on the way
out. Only kidding about the jacket.
I tested the rod the following morning, paddling
to a small inlet that fishes well on the outgoing
tide. The rod performed better than I had hoped,
the extra length allowing me to cast from the kayak
a good bit farther than the standard nine footer.
Now I only had to test it on a fish, but that was
a problem. There were no swirls, no surface feeds,
and no takes, unusual for this spot at this tide.
I scanned the area for fish when, maybe 30 feet
off the port something very big breaks the surface
and explains why there are no fish - a seal. I
have never caught a bass when a seal is present,
and rather than waste time on barren water I paddled
north toward the Rowley River. I haven't gone very
far when there is a tremendous splash behind the
kayak. The seal, I think, has tried to pounce on
the large flat wing I am absent mindedly trolling
behind the yak, but fortunately he missed. I
quickly reeled in, wondering what in the world
I would have done if I had hooked him.
I paddled the circumference of Plum Island Sound,
seeing no fish and only hooking one while trolling,
hardly a fit christening for the new rod. Later,
at home, I scanned the water in front of my house
with binoculars, willing the fish to feed which,
unbelievably, often seems to work. And it works
today; I watch as a bass pursues, and catches,
a small baitfish as it skips across the water,
trying to get away. That's good enough for me;
I grab the rod that is kept strung up by the door,
paddle to the marsh island about 600 yards off
shore, beach the boat, and fish. The rod exceeds
my expectations, easily casting the entire line
with just a slight breeze at my back. I hook a
small bass, and another, and the baptism, though
modest, is complete.
Then, while I'm changing flies, there is a massive
splash about 70 feet off shore. I take a 7 inch
flat winged streamer from the fly wallet, thinking
big fish, big fly, tie it to the 20lb leader with
an improved clinch, and cast where the rings of
the rise are still expanding even though it's been
a good half minute since the fish fed.
I'd like to say that I christened the new rod with
a 36-inch bass, but it wasn't to be. I worked the
marsh bank for another half hour or so without a
bite and decide to call it a day. But a seed has
been planted; this is the third time that I've
scared up a very large fish in this very small
estuarine system. One fish instantly broke a new,
20lb fluro leader. Another flushed, leaving a huge
wake, not 20 feet from the boat ramp in 3 feet of
water as I was paddling in the dark. Now this.
Though unlikely, the romantic in me wants to believe
it's the same fish, my Moby Dick, as William
Humphrey says. And, like Ahab, I vow to catch him,
using my new Orvis TLS 10 foot 8 weight harpoon.
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.