I recently had the pleasure of hosting Big Mike, Mike Jr., their good friend Jeb and Jeb’s son Matt on a charter. Jeb and Matt arrived the night before the trip. When we met, Matt came over to me, thanked me for the opportunity to try for his first striper and shook my hand. I was impressed, not by the polite greeting, but by the fact that Matt is 7 years old. His father is obviously teaching him the value of manners and, as we discovered on the water, hard work and perseverance.
The next morning at 0500, Big Mike and Mike Jr. arrived at my house. We piled into my truck and headed to a fogged-in Bourne Marina. We splashed the boat and were soon headed toward Buzzards Bay, running on instruments. There was a pretty good crowd of anglers fishing near the Mass Maritime Academy, most of them in boats without radar who were simply waiting for the fog to lift.
As I worked my way through the flotilla in the narrow cut near Hog Island Channel, I saw this year’s leaders for the 2011 Darwin Award—2 guys in kayaks in Hog Island Channel among the boats in zero-visibility fog. Now, I’m all for pushing the limits to get fish, but these guys were speed bumps waiting to happen. They were next to impossible to see, and barely showed up on my radar, even though is was tweaked for bird-finding. I was concerned enough that I made a Security call on VHF 16 to notify other boats in the area of the potential life-threatening situation. Even the Coast Guard took notice of the call and requested more info, presumably to send out someone to remove the “hazard.”
Shortly after clearing the crowd, we found fish, and had them pretty much all to ourselves. We chased the birds with the new Raymarine HD radar while keeping an eye out for incoming boats. Jeb was working the fish over on the bow with the fly rod. Big Mike was slaying them from the stern with spinning gear. Mike Jr. was alternately serving as lookout and casting spinning gear with Big Mik
Meanwhile, I set Matt up with a special rod that was appropriate to his size— a 6′ Ugly Stick with a Shimano Spheros 3000 loaded with braid. Jeb and I gave Matt instructions, but Jeb told him that if he wanted his first striper, he was going to have to earn it the hard way by casting the lure and landing the fish himself. Matt assured us he was up to the challenge. Fortunately, last year’s bluefish trip on the Riptide had prepared him well.
Matt meticulously oriented the bail so the line would reach his finger for the cast. Then he flipped the bail and looked over his shoulder to make sure of what was behind him. Then, with a mighty swing, he would toss the Rapala X-Rap 30 or 40 feet. While we had fish all around the boat, the short casts made it hard for Matt to consistently get into the fish. But life is hard, and you have to overcome difficulties if you want to succeed. That was today’s lesson.
After everyone else had landed several fish, Matt hollered “Dad!” as a big striper slammed him to the gunwale. With the rod butt tucked under his armpit, he struggled to lift the tip as the fish took line. The fish dug deep, but Matt hung on tight, cranking when he could to gain line. After 5 minutes, we peered into the water to see what was giving Matt such a battle. We were all a bit shocked by the size of the fish. The bass was pushing 20 pounds. When it got close enough, I grabbed the leader and got a thumb on the fat lip of the bass and brought it over the gunwale, sparking a chorus of cheers and a round of high-fives! Matt was beaming from ear to ear as he marveled at a fish that was nearly as long as he is tall. Meanwhile, Jeb looked like the proudest father on the planet. He leaned over and congratulated Matt and told him that is what hard work and persistence is all about.
Since the fish was hooked in the gills, we kept it for dinner and took the time to get some great pictures of father and son with a fantastic first stripe
Hoping to get another “first” on the boat, Big Mike took some time with Jeb’s fly rod and landed his first striper on the fly. This is significant, because Big Mike likes to torment fly anglers any chance he gets. We all took great pleasure in snapping pictures and teasing him as he flailed around on the bow with the 10-weight like a crippled gull with a busted wing. But with the lesson of the day being persistence, Big Mike stuck with it and landed a nice legal fish on the long rod.
The rest of the day was spent running around the bay chasing birds and fish. The mid-morning bite was not as strong as the early bite, but we managed to grind out a few fish from every spot we hit. By early afternoon everyone was spent and we called it a day. Final tally was 50 to 60 fish for the boat and several “firsts” on the Riptide. A few bluefish even managed to make it into the mix. The lures of choice were Rapala X-Raps and Storm Shads. Flies of choice were herring patterns early, and olive/white Clousers late. The water temperature was mid-50s, and there was heavy fog all morning.
Overall it was another fantastic day on the water. I was thrilled to be a part of Matt’s first striper and Big Mike’s first fly-rod bass. I got to fish with my dad earlier in the week, and on t his trip I was able to help 2 more sons fish with their dads. This is what guiding is all about!
Please share your comments below.