A keeper but we didn't keep her.

A keeper but we didn’t keep her.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
                           —John Buchan, Scottish politician and writer, 1875-1940

Last Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. Bill and I set out with legendary guide Tony Biski to “fish the rip” for striped bass off Monomoy Island near Cape Cod. If you know what that means, you’re way ahead of me. I learned that “the rip” is an area where the incoming tide hits the sandbar and speeds up, trapping the smaller fish. The big predator fish, such as the bass we sought, wait in the calmer water on the other side of the sand bar where “the rip tide” pushes the smaller fish in their direction. The result: a breakfast banquet for the bass.

Though I am granddaughter of a Croatian fisherman, my gene pool let me down.  I couldn’t remember how to cast with a spinning reel—when do I flip the bail? The last time I held a fishing rod was eight years ago in Patagonia, where I caught and released a 45-pound salmon. That was then; this is now. While I fretted and Tony tactfully offered helpful directions, Bill was catching fish—many, many fish.

If I was frustrated, it was nothing compared to Tony’s distress that I wasn’t catching fish. He worked very, very hard to make sure we caught fish. That involved moving the boat to different areas, watching the birds diving, changing lures, rods and strategies. Tony takes it personally if everyone doesn’t catch fish. I take it personally if I’m not casting well and can’t remember when to flip the bail. Other than that, I have low expectations. Often I don’t catch fish. One of the many corny sayings I’ve heard too many times is, “That’s why they call it ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching.’” My favorite description is from my daughter Sara, age eight at the time, who declared, “Fishing is boring but it’s supposed to be.”

The real charm of fishing is watching the sunrise, admiring the terns, who seem to catch a fish on every knife-like dive, enjoying the water and the spectacular view of Monomoy on a beautiful summer day. The gray seals were both curious and nervous. It turns out we were in prime Great White Shark territory. A shark-tagging boat passed us, we saw floating shark markers and Tony was very careful when hauling in the fish—Great Whites like to snatch fish as they’re being pulled into boats. Can you imagine what it would be like if a Great White leapt onto the side of your boat? That would not be charming.

NOT a Keeper

NOT a Keeper



About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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