No matter what you call them — rockfish, stripers, linesiders or any of a host of other names — the striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is perhaps the most popular gamefish targeted by recreational anglers on the Atlantic coast. Moving up and down the Eastern Seaboard with the seasons, most of the largest of these fish spend their summers in New England before moving south in early winter to the waters off North Carolina. Then, from late winter into spring, a migration of epic proportions begins.
I like the heft of the analog world, where real objects have weight, texture and patina, and where touch and feel have currency and value. A world where things are built to last and built to be fixed. The worn, taped handle on a surf rod; the pitch and roll of your boat as it shoulders the first wave in a rip; a good knot tied at midnight, wet with saliva, pulled tight, trimmed close but not too close, no chance of slipping.
I sat on my front stoop on one of the first legitimately brisk mornings this winter admiring a caterpillar that had coiled itself into the cinnamon roll configuration a caterpillar assumes when a giant hand suddenly descends to pluck it from a leaf pile. This species — I grew up on the name “woolly bear” — has black segments at the head and tail, and a rich brown section in between.
Match the hatch. Yet another three-word morsel of alleged angling wisdom rendered more or less inert by overuse. My brain barely acknowledges the phrase anymore, skips right over it the way it does articles and other bits of grammatical sinew. And so it loses whatever strategic insight might once have lived in it.
I learned an important lesson this past fall. The fact that I’ve learned this same lesson numerous times over the 20 or so years of my more focused fishing energies in no way diminished the jolt of the realization. My old friend and fellow deckhand Keith Reynolds used to punctuate his “fish school” sermons on the steam from Connecticut’s Thames River out to the grounds in the Race with this line: “If you want to catch a lot of fish, fish a lot.”
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Tim Coleman died May 3, in Weekapaug, R.I., doing what he loved to do best at that time of year: scouting the salt ponds and outer beaches for spring striped bass. He was an exceptional saltwater angler and a prolific writer. Thousands of readers lost an advocate and authentic storyteller for fishing in the Northeast, and anyone fortunate to have known Tim lost a good friend.