Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

November 15th, 2004

The Fishing Hole
By Dave Micus

I, like most anglers, learned to first appreciate the delights of fishing at a small pond. I grew up on the south side of Chicago surrounded by steel mills, and there weren't many places for a youngster to fish. Carl, a family friend, would take me and my brothers over the border into northern Indiana to the two-buck pond, a small body of water on a fallow farm so named because the owner charged two bucks per rod to fish. We mostly caught bullheads in the pond, to the extent that they may well have been the only fish in there, but they were plentiful and I still look back with a pang of guilt when I think how many I left on the bank to die with no intention of keeping them. Why do boys do that?

Carl was a great fisherman, one of those anglers who would fish in a crowd and be the only one who caught anything. He was an ex-con who as a young man had served five years for armed robbery, and he developed in the penitentiary what the Inuit call quinuituq or deep patience, the ability to wait for long periods while maintaining concentration. In prison this talent probably kept him alive; on a pond, or the lake or the ocean, it helped him to catch fish when and where others couldn't. A four by eight cell also taught him to appreciate the outdoors, and I've never met anyone who loved fishing more, though my dad was a very close second.

That was long ago. Now I fish the Atlantic Ocean, or at least that portion of it that abuts the shore in and around Cape Anne, Massachusetts, a rather large fishing hole, to be sure. But the secret to fishing the vast, featureless ocean is to dissect it, and I still have my pond. It is a sand beach off of a marsh bank that fishes well two hours either side of low tide and is only accessible by boat. At high tide it is completely submerged. The name given my fishing hole by cartographers is Third Creek, because of the three saltwater estuarine rivulets that converge there, but the locals know it as triple creek.

I call it Key West.

Partly I do so to allow me to talk about this spot without others knowing where it is, but mostly because, at dawn on a bright summer morning, it is as beautiful as any place in the Keys; beautiful as any place in the world. The sky goes from dark gray to flaming orange to bright blue; the sand from purple to lavender to vivid white. The water, protected by Plum Island and as smooth as glass, melds from black to dark green to aquamarine, and sparkles like a diamond cutter's floor.

The only fishermen on the beach who I don't bring are the snowy egrets, powerful portents of the good fishing to come. Occasionally a guide will linger off shore, watching me for signs of bass just as he would watch birds or bait. He pilots a powerful flats skiff complete with poling platform, a beautiful, but impractical boat, as poling isn't necessary and site fishing for bass in the true sense, that is, seeing the fish in the water at a distance, is impossible. But it probably adds to the experience for his sports, and he is courteous, unlike other boaters, inexplicably hell-bent on getting God-knows-where as fast as they can and ruining what I am here for-no, not fish, but tranquility. But that usually isn't a problem; I always fish Key West at dawn, when, the yahoos are at home, I not only have the beach but the whole ocean to myself.

My favorite way to fish the beach is to walk with and parallel to the tide, casting a large streamer and stripping it in as I walk with and at the same speed as the current. The fly looks like a baitfish fighting to swim cross current, irresistible to the bass. When I hook a line-sider, I land the fish, back up ten feet, and fish that area again. On the outgoing tide the rows of footprints in the sand, each one below the previous, marks my progress; on the incoming the water covers my tracks, destroying the evidence.

But sometimes the bass are in 12 inches of water right at the creek mouth, snatching baitfish as they are washed out by the tide. Then I move down the beach and cast parallel to the shore, throwing short 30 foot casts instead of 80s, aiming the fly right at the mouth of the creek and letting it wash out to the waiting bass like fishing for trout and always exhilarating. When hooked in the shallows the bass rip line through the surface when they run, and if you hook a big one it is a bit like bonefishing. Once fishing the shallow creek mouth before work, I took six bass in less than thirty minutes, the smallest of which was two-feet long. And even when I heard the blaring horn of the 6:30 Newburyport to Boston train at the Federal street crossing, warning me that I had fifteen minutes to make it home if I were going to be on time for work, I stayed. Work would have to wait.

Paddling to Key West by kayak is always a chore, as, no matter what the tide, it will, for some portion, be against me. And I know that sounds like the old timer who complained about walking miles to school, "uphill both ways," but imagine a Y, with the tide coming or going from the leg, Key West on one branch, and the Eagle Hill River, where I launch, the other. You can see that if I'm paddling with the tide on the Eagle Hill River, I'll be going against the tide when I paddle to Key West. And vice versa.

I'm not complaining, though. A strenuous paddle, or two bucks, is a small price to pay for a fishing hole. ~ 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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