I took two more
bass the next day. There was a powerful sense of activity on the shore. Pollock
were chasing minnows right up against the beach. And at one sublime moment at
sundown, tuna were assailing the bait, dozens of the powerful fish in the air
at once, trying to nail the smaller fish from above.
Then it was over
and quiet. I looked out to sea in the last light, the while rollers coming in
around me. The clearest item of civilization from my perspective was a small
tanker heading north. Offshore, a few rocky shoals boiled whitely. The air was
chilly. It looked lonely and cold.
But from behind
me came intimate noises: the door of a house closing, voices, a lawn mower.
And, to a great extent, this is the character of bass fishing from the beach.
In very civilized times it is reassuring to know that wild fish will run so
close that a man on foot and within earshot of lawn mowers can touch their
wildness with a fishing rod.
I hooked a bass
after dark, blind casting in the surf, a good fish that presented some landing
difficulties; there were numerous rocks in front of me, hard to sec in the
dark. I held the flashlight in my mouth, shining it first along the curve of
rod out to the line and to the spot among the rocks where the line met the
water, foaming very bright in the light. The surf was heavier now, booming into
the boulders around me.
In a few moments
I could see the thrashing bass, the plug in its mouth, a good fish. It looked
radically striped and impressive in the backwash.
I guided the
tired striper through the rocks, beached him, removed the plug and put him
gently into a protected pool. He righted himself and I watched him breathe and
fin, more vivid in my light beam than in any aquarium. Then abruptly he shot
back into the foam and out to sea. I walked into the surf again, looking for
the position, the exact placement of feet and tension of rod while casting that
had produced the strike.
One of my
earliest trips to Sakonnet included a tour of The Breakers, the Vanderbilt
summer palazzo. My grandmother was with us. Before raising her large family she
had been among the child labor force in the Fall River mills, the kind of
person who had helped make really fun things like palazzos at Newport
Safe on first by
two generations, I darted around the lugubrious mound, determined to live like
that one day. Over the fireplace was an agate only slightly smaller than a fire
hydrant. It was here that I would evaluate the preparation of the bass I had
taken under the cliffs by the severest methods: 11-foot Calcutta casting rod
and handmade blocktin squid. The bass was to be brought in by the fireplace,
garni, don't you know; and there would be days when the noble fish was to be
consumed in bed. Many, many comic books would be spread about on the
We went on to
Sakonnet. As we drove I viewed every empty corn or potato field as a possible
site for the mansion. The Rolls Silver Ghost would be parked to one side, its
leather backseat slimy from loading stripers.
The sun came up
on a crystalline fall day; blue sky and delicate glaze. I hiked down the point
beach, along the red ridge of rock, the dense beach scrub with its underledge
of absolute shadow. As I walked I drove speeding clusters of sanderlings before
me. If I did not watch myself, there would be the problem of sentiment.