Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

October 11th, 2004

The New Rod
By Dave Micus

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

About 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.


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