Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

May 23rd, 2004

MIASMA
By Dave Micus

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

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.


Previous Dave Micus Columns

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