After the session
for the day, my uncle spirited us to Sakonnet to think upon the verities of
nature. For us, at the time, nature was largely striped bass and how to get
them. But the verity of a fat lady and 11 sailors trapped in the bell jar of my
Uncle Bill's court fought for our attention on equal footing.
I hooked another
bass at the end of a long cast. Handsome: you see them blast a plug out at the
end of your best throw. I landed the fish as the sun fell.
I was here during
the hurricane that made the surf break in the horse pasture across the road
from the house. Shingles lifted slowly from the garage roof and exploded into
the sky. The house became an airplane; unimaginable plants and objects shot
past its windows. The surf took out farm fences and drove pirouettes of foam
into the sky. My cousins and I treated it as an adventure. Uncle Bill was our
guarantee against the utter feasibility of the house going underwater. And if
it flooded, we knew he would bring a suitable boat to an upstairs window.
Late that day the
hurricane was over, having produced delirium and chaos: lobster pots in the
streets, commercial fishing boats splintered all over the rocks, yards denuded
of trees and bushes, vegetation burned and killed by wind-driven salt
My cousin Fred
and I stole out and headed for the shore, titillated by looting stories. The
rocky beach was better than we dreamed; burst tackle chests with more bass
plugs than we could use, swordfish harpoons, ship-to-shore radios, marine
engines, the works.
this lovely rubble like a pair of crows, we were approached by the special kind
of histrionic New England lady (not Irish Catholic like us, we knew) who has
got a lot of change tied up in antiques and family objets that point to her
great familial depth in this part of the world. She took one look at us and
called us "vile little ghouls," which rather queered it for us, neither
of us knowing what ghouls were.
I kept fishing
after dark, standing on a single rock and feeling disoriented by the foam
swirling around me. I was getting sore from casting and jigging the plug.
Moreover, casting in the dark is like smoking in the dark; something is
missing. You don't see the trajectory or the splash. You don't see the surface
plug spouting and spoiling for trouble. But shortly I hooked a fish. It moved
very little. I began to think it was possibly a deadhead rolling in the wash. I
waited, just trying to keep everything together. The steady unexcited quality
of its movement began to convince me that it was not a fish. I lifted the rod
sharply to see if I could elicit some more characteristic movement. And I got
it. The fish burned off 50 or 60 yards, sulked, let me get half of it back and
did the same again.
I began to
compose the headline: LUNKEROONY FALLS TO OUT-OF-STATE BASSMASTER. " 'I
clobber them big with my top-secret technique,' claims angler-fl�neur Tom
McGuane of Livingston, Mont.," etc., etc.
The bass began to
run again, not fast or hysterical but with the solid irresistible motion of a
Euclid bulldozer easing itself into a phosphate mine. It mixed up its plays,
bulling, running, stopping, shaking. And then it was gone.
When I reeled up,
I was surprised that I still had the plug, though its hooks were mangled beyond
use. I had been cleaned out. Nevertheless, with two good bass for the night, I
felt resigned to my loss. No I didn't.