Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

June 21st, 2004

Perfect Day
By Dave Micus

If truth be told - odd thing for a fisherman to say - I expected Saturday to be the Perfect Day. Actually, I was counting on it. I had a rather large project at work turn out badly, and it's times like that when you need to get on the water, just you and the fish, and sort things out (like career options). And Saturday had all of the earmarks of the Perfect Day. I launched the kayak two hours before low, my favorite tide to fish, the water was as calm as a Buddhist priest, and the wind, a gale for the past week, was just a zephyr. Conditions were right. Well, almost. For reasons known only to the gods, there were no fish about.

This happens to us all, but it is particularly hard to take when you've not just looked forward all week to fishing but actually needed that defibulator jolt of a fish on the line to get the heart pumping again. And while I've had many great moments fishing without fish, I had to, after my debacle at work, confirm competence in something. But it wasn't to be, and after a few hours of paddling around Plum Island Sound, I conceded defeat.

Sunday I awoke a bit latter than usual and even, blasphemy, toyed with the idea of just sleeping in. A glance outside showed that conditions weren't optimal - a moderate breeze rippled the water and the murky sky looked ready to spew rain at any moment - but I believe the fish gods reward diligence (or lunacy, as the bride perceives it). Wasn't the world record striped bass caught off of Atlantic City in near hurricane conditions? So I dragged my sorry self from bed and lugged the kayak to the boat ramp.

And, easy for a fisherman to understand but impossible to explain, there was that something in the air; magic, for lack of a better word. The ocean tide seemed to whisper, "sit back, relax, and I'll guide you." How could I resist? I abandoned myself to the flow of water, and she took me past a recently sunk old wooden cabin cruiser whose bilge pumps must have failed; past the moored lobster boats where there always seem to be bass holding, attracted, I think, by old bait washed through the scuppers; past the yacht club with it flotilla of opulent vessels that never seem to leave their moorings. All of this is familiar; I've fished here a thousand times. But the tide and I continued to the edge of the Sound, approaching the point at Plum Island, and then Ipswich Bay. After that it is open ocean.

Now I felt a pin prick of panic. I have never been this far in the yak and the water here can be violent, particularly at the river mouth. Am I being lured to ruin by the Sirens' song? A glance at the shore confirms my trepidations aren't unfounded; there, the skeletal remains of an old coal ship, its wooden ribs and keel jutting from the sand, is being exhumed by the tide.

But the water still moves ever so gently, murmurs "relax," and with a few soft swipes of the paddle I am on the shore. I beach the kayak and, rod in hand, walk up river.

I usually fish the other side of the river. It is easier to get to but much more difficult to fish. The side I'm on, if accessed by foot, requires a very, very long walk from a beach parking lot, and I usually won't make the commitment that this long trek demands, fearing that, after all of that travel, there might be no fish and I've wasted a good part of the tide. But today access is effortless, and I've been promised fish by the wind and tide.

And they are true to their word. This side of the river is a sand beach with a steep drop-off; perfect fish habitat. I use the Gartside trick of casting, then walking with and at the same speed as the current as I strip in the streamer. The effect is of a baitfish swimming across, but caught in, the current, and the predatory stripers can't resist. I reach the end of my beat, catching four strippers and missing that many more. I walk back to where I started and cast, walk and strip. Four more fish.

Again and again I repeat the mantra-cast, walk and strip. Each time the result is the same. It seems like this could go on for eternity, and I would be perfectly content if it did, but then the tide changes and, abruptly, it seems, it ends. The shift in tide sighs, "it's time to go," and I launch the kayak and leisurely paddle with the incoming tide past Ipswich Bay and Plum Island. Now I'm back in my home waters, Plum Island Sound, and I glide effortlessly, wishing that all travel could be just like this, no noise, no pollution, no effort. As I arrive at the boat ramp I think, for just a moment, that it is over too quickly; but then realize, no, it has been the Perfect Day. ~ 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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