Perhaps the best thing about our sport is that there is so much more than simply the size, weight or species of a fish that goes into its “value,” to us as anglers. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer larger fish to smaller ones, and some species (striped bass, bluefish) over others (rocks, docks and bottom).
But it’s the story behind a fish, the effort that went into catching it, and maybe even the odds against it being caught at all… that give it so much personal value to us.
Growing up, I was fortunate in that my extended Irish family all chipped in and rented a house on Cape Cod for a couple weeks every summer, and at about age 12 I fell in love with the Brewster Flats.
On the flats, at low tide, an angler can wade out 3/4 of a mile and fish a deep channel that runs between two sandbars for a period of time before the tide returns.
When I was 21, it seemed like, for all intents and purposes, it would be our last family outing on the Cape. I’d be off to intern at Field & Stream in the Fall, and the real world would start.
I’d waded the flats every day for those three weeks that weather would allow, walking the mile and a half round-trip to fish during low tide. On some days I was lucky, and I’d catch and release a few schoolie stripers or small bluefish on the circle-hooked sand eels we’d use, but on many I was skunked. The walk alone is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever taken, so there’s no wasted trip on the Flats. The hermit crabs, sand eels and horseshoe crabs remind you of the You who came to the ocean for the first time, the You who was fascinated endlessly by all of these small wonders.
As luck would have it on the last day of our vacation, the local Brewster tackle shops were out of fresh sand eels, and I’d busted my 7’6″ G. Loomis Greenwater rod the day before.
All of which meant that I’d be fishing with artificials and using a 6’6″ spinning rod meant for freshwater.
Just as the tide was about to push me off the flat, as it rose to a level that would prevent safely walking the distance back to the beach, a 17-pound striped bass hit a Texas-rigged pink Hogy I was skipping over the top of the channel. At the time I was more “relishing” a last few casts than I was actively trying to catch a fish, which of course made it all the sweeter when the Hogy exploded from underneath.
On our last day of family vacation, on one of my final casts, after running out of bait, the largest striper I’d caught in more than seven years of wading those flats every summer religiously… decided to eat.
I’m fairly confident that, no matter what I do for the rest of my life, that fish will always hold a special place for me, because of all the circumstances that surrounded its being caught. I know we all have that fish, for us, and I’d suspect that yours is neither your first or your biggest, or even your most exotic.
I’ve loved fishing magazines for as long as I can remember, and I want to start one with your help, for that reason as much as, if not more than, any other: It’s the stories that matter.