WRITING ON THE FLY
By GEORGE LISET
If you have spent any time on the ocean off the coast of New England or have been fortunate to go on a whale watch, you have probably seen a whale. Having grown up on the ocean towards Cape Cod, I have spent a great deal of time on the water. I had many friends whose families owned boats and many who lobstered.
Early one morning while fishing for blue mackerel off of Boston Light to use in baiting lobster traps, my friend Jim and I were sleeping with our lines out until the action picked up. The ocean was like glass as the sun was coming up. All of a sudden we heard this sound, like an incoming tide crashing against rocks. We both sat up to see a blue whale swim right under our 16’ boat.
We quickly reeled in our lines and anchor as we watched the whale make another pass under the boat. It was hard to tell how long the whale was, but at that point it didn’t really matter since it was much larger than our boat. Having just read Moby Dick, all I could think about was the whale taking us for a Nantucket Sleigh Ride.
A Nantucket Sleigh Ride is the dragging of an open whaling boat by a harpooned whale until it is tired and killed. According to Wikipedia, the length and speed of the drag depended on the type of whale. Finned whales were the most dangerous because they would try to dive many fathoms to pull the whale boat and its occupants under the water.
Since then, I have seen many whales, but not quite so up close and personal. This whole experience was brought to mind on my recent trip to a local pond. My son Reed called me up to let me know that he was heading to our favorite bass pond and that I should meet him at 5. I told him that would work out because I wanted to mow the lawn before I left.
Reed laughed, then mentioned that 5 meant 5 a.m. So I got my float tube and rods packed in the car the night before so all I would have to do was grab coffee on the way. It was a beautiful morning as we met at the parking area and hiked in with our float tubes. We had the pond to ourselves. After we got rigged up we pushed off in our tubes and started working our way around the shore line.
We knew it was going to be a great day when we both caught a couple of 12” bass on our first casts. Our success lasted as we each pulled in a number of nice bass over the next few hours. All of a sudden I heard Reed start to laugh. I look over and I see Reed and his float tube going by me being pulled by a big bass. After I stopped laughing I started chasing after him, kicking like crazy to catch up to him with a rod in one hand and a net in the other.
This fish must have jumped about 10 times, each time shaking its head trying to dislodge the fly. That fish kept on pulling and I kept on kicking and chasing. After what seemed like about 20 minutes, I was able to net the fish. The bass measured out to close to 18 inches. Not having a scale, we didn’t weigh it, but it was big. After the obligatory pictures we released the fish.
Reed told me he didn’t try to muscle the fish in because he was not sure what size and how strong his tippet was.
On the walk back I told him I have never seen a bass give anyone a Nantucket Sleigh Ride before, but having spent so much time on the water, nothing surprises me now.