The other night at a cocktail party I found myself listening to a fellow named John Coleman, an impressive young man, maybe 32 or 33 years old, tall and lean and with a face obviously tanned by the cold winds of winter and the reflected rays of January sun. Coleman was not drinking, at least not right then, and he was talking about skiing. He had just got back from a week in Canada.
I listened, but to me snow is strictly for the penguins. I was about to move to another group when Coleman asked me, "Do you ski?"
"No," I said. "I fish."
"Oh? I have never understood why anyone would like to fish," he said, with a half smile, looking at his shoes and shaking his head slowly. "I guess I never had enough patience to wait for the action. Skiing is action. Skiing is using your body. Skiing is a challenge. You get a sort of spiritual satisfaction, yet it's a sensual thing."
He stopped for breath, I think pleased. I was about to start a rebuttal when my wife grasped me forcefully by the arm and said we had to go. We went.
That was a week ago. Tonight as I sit by the window and watch the snow swirl outside and listen to the wheels whirring as some poor soul tries to free his car from a snowbank, I strain to think about snow and skiing and John Coleman, but mostly I think about fishing. If there had been time that night with Coleman I would have explained my liking for fishing something like this:
First off, let me tell you what kind of a fisherman I am. I am strictly a salt-water man. Oh, I have, in my early years, presented the fly to the allegedly wary trout. And I have fished a good many lakes of the United States and Canada for bass, pike, walleyes, pickerel, perch and panfish. For the last 10 years, however, I have concentrated solely on salt-water fish. I do most of my fishing from the shore and, except for occasional jaunts south, my fishing is confined mostly to the surf on Long Island's south shore in the summer, and in the fall to the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound.
I guess my fall trips epitomize why I fish. October on the Connecticut shore is a wondrous time of year. The beaches are deserted. The equinoctial storms have pretty well blown themselves out, and most days the water is flat calm. Along the shore behind the stony beaches the leaves on the maples and oaks are turning; far out on the water a workboat slowly chugs by—the scene is one of peace.
And, of course, in October the bait fish start their migration south along the shore. The striped bass school up and follow the bait fish.
Most fishermen swear that dawn is the best time to fish. I am not convinced this is so, but I go along with the theory because I enjoy getting up at 4:30, putting on my fishing clothes, drinking a cup of hot, bad-tasting coffee, gathering my waders, rods and knapsack and slinking out silently so as not to wake the children. I enjoy the loneliness of the hour's drive on a parkway almost empty of cars. By the time I reach the toll booth at the Connecticut line the sky has begun to lighten and I can see the trees outlined against it. The toll collector generally says good morning to me. I have found that even the most irascible people are glad to see another human at this time of the morning.