The tide had begun
to change and I floated almost motionless amidst the back eddies of the
reversing Hudson. Prime time for big stripers. When the high tide comes and
lingers for 30 minutes and then begins its retreat, bottom dwellers and
baitfish are aroused, and hungry cows supposedly feed.
schools pitty-patted gently across the river, but I was looking for splashes,
not dimples. I searched the eddies with the streamer, but the next few minutes
produced nothing. The teenagers soon tired of their sport, and I moved back to
fish near the shoreline. My "main men" weren't there, and I moved north
of the 116th Street launching area. I wearily rolled short casts into the rocks
as sunset approached, but the fish were apparently somewhere else, and the
brief strips produced a half-hour void.
The sun finally
dropped into the Jersey bluffs, and I beached the raft near the concrete sewer
outlet. I sat dangling my legs from the concrete, slow-pulling the worn-out
streamer as I finished the day. Then, a final strike! The fish ran downriver.
On my feet, feeling the line through my gloved right hand. Then mono, then
Dacron backing. There was no stopping it. The rod was not jerking, just a
constant double bend. Line burning across my forefinger.
I held the rod
high with both hands at the reel, the buckskinned right hand letting line flow
from it. I put pressure, too much pressure, on the line and the fish, but it
wouldn't slow. The backing began to vanish and I watched as the reel spool
gradually came into view. With only a few feet left, I struck the fish hard,
holding the line tightly, bending the rod behind my shoulder. I heard and saw a
huge boil 100 yards away where the fish rolled. For a few seconds it stopped,
and then with renewed strength moved again. Before I knew it the backing was at
its end. The rod strained, the line held for a moment, then parted at its last
The line, the
backing, the leader, the fly and the cow bass were gone, as was the day.
After a minute of
squeezing a deflating raft, I gathered myself and recrossed the zooming
traffic. I walked through Riverside Park, nervously watching for Thomas or
Maxwell or the teen-agers.
Tired, I leaned
forward as I negotiated the 116th Street hill up to Broadway. I watched three
street kids playing tag—Shorty, Jolly and Black Lagoon. Black Lagoon was
"it." Further up the hill I passed a giant man with a black eye and a
bandage around his head. At the top of the hill was Broadway, and it was there
that the breeze off the Hudson lost its force. And it was there that I
reentered the city of New York, five minutes away from a productive—if somewhat
odoriferous—fishing paradise. As usual, I remembered to take a last deep breath
of the Hudson before crossing the street to climb the five flights of stairs to