Al Campbell, Field Editor

June 21st, 2004

Blues, Albies and Dramamine
Charlie Place

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!" ~ Charlie

About Charlie:

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.

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