"Yeehhh! Hoopty poopty!"
I used to carry fish around in the back of my car the way other young men carried a six-pack of Country Club. I'd show Ellis and he'd become truly frantic, waving his cigar. "Yeehhh! Hoopty poopty! Hoopty poopty!"
Later I learned he called everything that was not a sardine filet a hoopty poopty.
Frank hooks a bass. I put my anchor down out of his way but still near enough to reach the school. I see two powerful boils and cast the bulky fly on a slow loop toward the swirl closest to a piling. In my eagerness I overshoot so the fly tinks against the bridge, hanging momentarily between the rail and roadway. Then it flutters downward and I notice the number 9 stenciled on the abutment above.
The take is authoritative and my response lifts the clearly visible fly line from the water, curving it abruptly as a sheet of droplets limns the fish's first long run. It is not a frenetic battle as the striper stays deep, far from the boat. But I am not inclined to carry out these contests gently and soon the fish is nearby. Once, glowering, it rushes away beneath a crescent of spray only to be turned in a vertical wallow. Nothing in their lives really prepares fish to deal with the relentless harassment of being hooked.
Oddly, I am reminded of the way Walt Mullen always described the playing of a fish. "Then it fooled around and fooled around," he would say. And that is exactly it.
In the boat the striped bass is big. "It's more than 25," I say to Frank. Earlier, we had talked of a 25-pound striper caught accidentally by a man fly-fishing for shad in the Russian River. It seemed that a fish taken by design should receive top honors for the season. Naturally, we each hoped to catch such a bass.
Back at the beach we lay three large fish in front of the CABLE CROSSING sign. "That one's bigger than the 30-pounder I caught on a casting rod last season," Frank says. Getting his Polaroid camera he takes a picture of me with the fish. The photo comes out a minute later looking distant and journalistic. I promise to call him as soon as I weigh the bass. Then I head for San Rafael; he goes off to work in San Francisco.
Later, I call. "It's the big one, isn't it?" Frank asks. "I've been looking at the snapshot all morning."