- November 23, 2022
Fish long enough and you’ll experience nature in a variety of ways — unfamiliar, unexpected, and unbelievable. The osprey we found in the Chesapeake Bay couldn’t get out of the water; its sodden feathers restricted flight. It was desperate. I’m not sure to what extent an osprey’s brain functions, but that bird had to be
Fish long enough and you’ll experience nature in a variety of ways — unfamiliar, unexpected, and unbelievable.
The osprey we found in the Chesapeake Bay couldn’t get out of the water; its sodden feathers restricted flight. It was desperate. I’m not sure to what extent an osprey’s brain functions, but that bird had to be relieved we came along. The boat’s approach signified survival, not danger. There was determination with every stroke of its wings as it paddled closer. Grasping the net frame with curved claws, the bird let itself be lifted from the water. Its talons remained locked in place for the boat ride, only letting go to step onto the cement dock. Although the entire incident took 10 minutes, it has replayed in my memory movie theater for hours. It was incredible.
We now jump ahead four years to 1998. Rory and I are once again fishing for striped bass with Captain Norm. This time on the Chesapeake Bay’s Susquehanna Flats. It is a chilly May morning and heavy fog limits travel. Capt. Norm slowly navigates from the Havre de Grace Launch out to the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Within a few casts, we begin to catch three to four-pound stripers.
The fog is stubborn, and determined to confine our fishing. Nature is unhurried, especially for anxious fishermen. For several hours we continue to catch small bass by making repetitive drifts below a railroad bridge. Almost every cast produces. Even during periods of good fishing, you sometimes want more. I am hoping for a big striper for Rory — so is the Captain.
The sea of seemingly impenetrable moisture finally lifts. The process was painstakingly slow. Captain Norm revs the engine of the center console and comments that we’ll find big fish near a certain green buoy. We are on our way.
The boat ride to the hot spot is short. For more than an hour we go fishless. It is time to change strategies. I switch to a sinking line and a black Lefty’s Deceiver. The next two dozen casts produce only one small striper.
The Captain assures us that this is the place to be. Even at 13 years old, Rory demonstrates unwavering patience. He trusts Capt. Norm and seems perfectly willing to endure the inactivity for the opportunity to catch a sizeable striper.
Suddenly there are birds — hovering, circling, diving, raucous — birds. Their appearance betrays the presence of feeding fish. In an attempt at escape a spray of frightened baitfish showers above the surface, scattering like shattered glass. The stripers continue to attack from below, herding the bait to the surface and feeding in noisy, explosive takes. The water is a flurry of activity from birds, bait, and bass.
The stripers are big, and close. Without instruction, Rory delivers his fly toward the action. Nothing happens. On his next cast the line tightens with strong resistance. He is hooked up. The fight is a tug of war — one of give and take. Rory tries to pull the big bass into the boat; the bass tries to pull Rory out. Finally the fish is within grasp. Capt. Norm lifts the trophy striper from the water. It pulls the scales down to the 20-lb. mark.
I am happy, Capt. Norm is happy, Rory is happy. The young angler wears an ear-to-ear grin.