The roosters began crowing at 4:30 in the morning this week, and with the bedroom window open it sounded as if they were perched on the roof outside. If there is anything redeeming about a backyard flock that wakes you well before dawn, it is that they can get you out of bed at an hour you might not otherwise be up and about.
So it was Wednesday. Because I was up anyway, I took a short spin to the beach. I had seen the swirls and tail-slaps of striped bass on a previous dawn. That morning, they had not shown any interest in anything I tossed at them. A friend with whom I swap fish stories had suggested that the fish might be feeding on what is called a worm hatch, which is actually a breeding swarm of various marine invertebrates.
Whether they were or not, I did not have time on Wednesday to tie on a pink fly of the sort that supposedly will catch bass during a worm hatch. Instead, I removed a surf lure that I had left on my St. Croix rod and clipped on a yellow Bomber, which tends to work well in the spring. The feeding movement of the fish was apparent on the nearly glass-calm water. Four or five tries, and I was into a fish and glad that I had grabbed a rod with a bit of backbone.
I have always tried to keep in mind the admonition on a bumper-sticker that was seen around here on commercial fishermen’s trucks some time ago. It read: “Don’t play with your food.”
In theory, a stout rod and solid reel will bring a fish to the beach quickly without too much physical damage and able to survive if released. Lighter, supposedly more sporting tackle makes that less sure. This fish would go 31 inches and just under 10 pounds and be destined for dinner.
After a few more casts, it seemed as if the school had moved on, and I noticed that mosquitoes had found my forearms. No matter, I had my fish and there was no point harassing any others, which would just have to go back into the water anyway.
A truck with a couple of guys heading out clamming came by, and in the distance, I could hear the outboard motor of some baymen setting off to lift fish traps. The lights down the beach were switching off as the sky got brighter. I headed for home and the morning’s first cup of coffee, my first bass of the season in hand.