Editor’s Log: Opportunities You Just Don’t Pass Up - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: Opportunities You Just Don’t Pass Up

I met Pat Abate at least 15 years ago.  I was an overconfident kid, hoping he’d agree to carry the wooden plugs I was making. For those who don’t know, Pat was the original owner of the famous River’s End Tackle in Old Saybrook, CT. I knew some of his backstory before setting foot in the store and the lore that I had read in this very magazine put him at legend status in my mind. However, if Pat knew I thought of him that way, he’d find some way to brush it off with a lighthearted joke, like he always does.

Over the years, Pat has called me to conduct seminars at the shop and at Connecticut Surfcasters Meetings and I think I’ve said ‘yes’ almost every time. Earlier this year he called to ask if I could come and present at their October meeting and asked if I’d like to fish with him afterwards. That was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss.

After the meeting, I followed Pat through backroads and neighborhoods until we finally stopped at an inconspicuous gravel parking spot. He said, “We’ll suit up here and leave your car parked right where it is.” This routine of suiting up in a safe location was a common practice in my own fishing and I knew it meant we were going somewhere sensitive. When I hopped into the front seat of his vehicle he said, “We’ll be doing a little trespassing, but I’m guessing that won’t bother you.” We both laughed and took a longer drive to one of those private side roads with a ‘no trespassing’ sign posted about every 15 feet. When we saw the first sign, he pointed to it and said, “Don’t worry, that’s not for us!”

After parking in what I like to refer to as an ‘invented parking spot’ we hoofed it quietly down this private road with the towering black silhouettes of homes on both sides, very few lights were on. Finally the water appeared in the light of the half-moon and a widening rip was visible as an inky stain on the surface of the silver water.

As I surveyed the scene and considered what to throw, Pat made a cast into the rip and hooked up almost immediately. I have to admit that a twinge of worry rippled through my thoughts, ‘what If this is one of those nights when things just don’t go right for me?’ The next 45 minutes of casting were fish-less, for both of us. Then Pat said, “Any time you want to leave that’s fine with me, you have a long drive ahead.” And that’s when I realized that we were both pressing, I wanted to be my best self as a fisherman in front of someone I knew to be a great angler and he wanted to put me on fish and the fish weren’t cooperating. This was a calming moment for me. We stuck it out.

While we casted, I started asking questions, one that I really wanted to know the answer to was, “What’s your secret? You’re in your 70s and you’re still trespassing through private neighborhoods in the middle of the night to catch stripers, how do you do that?” He tried to answer with a joke, “Well, I just think it’s more fun if your trespass.” But I pressed him, so he switched gears and said, “It’s just too important to me. There’s something about it that makes it special and I just want to do as much of it as I can.” I pressed him further, “Why can you still do it and so many others that are 10 years younger than you just can’t physically do it?” I asked. “Well, you have to stay in shape!” He offered.

I chose to read between the lines on that one, yes, staying in good physical shape is going to go a long way toward keeping you in the game, but I think maybe there’s a mental aspect to it too that keeps pushing us out there. It’s an unwillingness to shut out that inner child, welcoming the curiosity, welcoming the obsession. Surfcasting (really fishing in general) has been described as a lifestyle, but I think it’s closer to an identity marker, it’s something we love about ourselves. It’s something we’re happy to talk about with anyone who’ll listen. I know I’ve been like that since age 8, obsessed and excited to share; curious and thirsty to know more.

As the tide continued to run out in front of us, I finally hooked a fish and it felt like a pretty good one, it came off. Then it happened again and that one came off too! By the end of the night though, I had landed two solid fish probably 15 and 19 pounds and we had maybe 8 or 10 fish landed between us. I don’t think I will ever forget that night, but that memory will endure because of the conversation and inspiration that comes from sharing a tide with someone you look up to. And I sincerely hope that we’ll fish together again, soon.


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