Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lake Hopatcong Trolled Hybrid Stripers

Funny how I feel entitled to experience as I imagine it coming. On the way up to the lake, I was in an annoyed, irritated mood, keeping it from my son, but thinking he could sense it plenty, irritated because I didn't get to bed until 4:00 a.m., and didn't wake until 10, the hour I had planned for us to hit the road, and even that plan somewhat of a compromise on my original dream of us having all day after Matt's freshman year at Boston University, though we would still get in eight hours. I have memories of us fishing during summer for eight, nine hours, when we forgot everything else and slowed way down on the lake, comfortable in 90-degree temps, sun on the forehead. Today would be a day just like that.

Well, for one thing, the fish wouldn't leave us alone. Besides that, yes, it was raining, very hard, and the temperature never got out of the low sixties. Soaked almost through and through, despite rain gear that is supposed to work, I was not only shivering by the end of almost five hours, I shook. Matt shivered.

I forgot my apprehensions while driving up, but while catching the first two or three hybrids, I felt too much my supermarket salesman self, as if that forehead of mine so worthy of solar heat was still fixed on the relatively monotonic process of moving product. Not that this is any complaint; I think I've got beyond unease and have embraced my job fully, but the natural world out there, that's a much larger reality than any sort of architectural structure, such as a supermarket that stands on given earth. A reality much bigger than all that is done behind any walls.

So greater dignity is appropriate outdoors.

Over the course of nearly five hours and 10 of these hybrid striped bass--the largest at five pounds, 15 ounces; Matt's biggest five pounds, 9 ounces, most of these fish fighting as if we hooked freighters on the Atlantic, all of them on various trolled plugs--we got well beyond where we came from, thus fulfilling some of that "all day" feeling, though we never sought out Woodport, a range of the lake we haven't fished, not even the Byram Bay area where we like to fish in the spring. I became aware of how the driving rain and chill affected me, but not with the observational clarity I tried to focus, so I just accepted that was no use, although I wasn't dysfunctional, just a little too short on patience for the first couple of hours.

And yet, it had happened. Ever since my son and I caught a number of nice hybrids on an October excursion in 2014, my biggest over five pounds, I've dearly wanted him to catch one at least as large. That trip nearly four years ago seems like yesterday, and yet the deep longing for my son's nice one has endured deeper than we can measure time. I wasn't in anything like an euphoric mood today, or even a relaxed state, but complacency doesn't describe it, either, so I give myself a pass; even though I wish I could have better celebrated the catch, there's time yet for this.

I remember not one, but a number of fishing excursions during my teens in steady rain, on one occasion getting to my destination eight miles distant on my bicycle, and then hiking a half mile or so, not a path, but through the water of the stream dammed at the pond I fished, air temperature at 50 degrees. Was this insanity? No. Unusual stubbornness, yes. I didn't know this then, but by the time I got home on my ten speed--after dark--I was in second-stage hypothermia. All I knew, I was delirious. Very.

So today I tried to compare, not very successfully, my ability during my teens and 20's to deal with weather extremes, compared to me now at age 57. I did conclude that it's harder to do at this age.

A great day. Even when I doubt, as I doubted today on the way to the lake not about the rain, but about the amount of time we might have and our opportunity to go deep into experience, we always seem to come through by getting out of the grind of the ordinary. And it didn't take a high mood for me to do this. We didn't fish until sunset, but going on five hours was fully plenty.

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