Settlers’ Landing, Long Island: The tidal creek that flows in and out of the large body of water that is Three Mile Harbor is a narrow channel. Forty feet at its widest point and holding fish at most stages of the tide. It’s one of my favorite places to sneak in an hour or so of fishing – armed only with a light spinning rod and the smallest of lures. And it was last Sunday, cool and breezy after a cold front had passed through, that I drove there mid-afternoon to do just that.
But two other people also had the same idea. I assumed they were husband and wife but it matters not. They, like me, were intent on catching fish. Now I’m not one of those territorial anglers who become grumpy when someone decides to fish within a hundred yards of me. In fact I often enjoy the meeting with others and the conversations that follow. But last Sunday that was not going to happen.
The happy couple looked as though they had walked out of the pages of an Orvis catalog. Immaculate clothing with all the right labels; expensive sunglasses, he wearing a new fishing weskit (vest) with numerous pockets and flaps, and both sporting matching baseball caps. I felt hopelessly underdressed in my old shorts and a polo shirt that I generally reserve for mowing the lawn. I looked down at my feet and smiled at my elderly water shoes that cost ten dollars in a local store. But at least my sunglasses looked the part, even if they cost a fraction of what these budding fisher-folk had paid for theirs.
Their rods were clearly brand new and half-decent (if a little on the long side for such a narrow water.) But the reels were oversized and, because I could see the cast clearly at a distance of fifty feet, loaded with too heavy a line. I guessed twenty pounds or more. But then came the lures. Huge metal spoons and colorful tubes were produced from a large tackle box, which they proceeded to cast into the flooding tide with great sploshes and deep ripples. And when they caught nothing after a few retrieves they would change the lure for another one. And another one. And so it went on for half an hour. At one point the man turned to the woman and announced “Everything my father knew about fishing he passed on to me.” By now I had stopped fishing (the disturbance to the water was a little much) and was sitting on the sandy bank enjoying the spectator sport and eating an apple. They caught nothing except long strands of sea grass, and eventually he announced that there were no fish to be caught. They packed up and left – and walked past me without so much as a glance. I put that down to my shirt.
I finished my apple and resumed fishing. Did I catch anything? Let’s just say that I did – and it was more than the number of fish offered in the gospel I had read that morning.