My daughter had a day off from school today and I wanted to go look for albies, so I tried to make walking around on a jetty sound as fun as I could while I urged her to put a sweatshirt on and wear shoes (for once). She bought into my sales pitch and soon we were heading south and pulling into the dirt lot where my little lady jumped out of the truck and immediately found 100 fascinating things in the first 19 seconds; a monarch fluttered by, the smell of beach roses, a seagull that wasn’t afraid of people… among many others.
When we were on the jetty she was taking the most anfractuous path—from one side to the other, then the middle, then back again. Looking in every hole and crevice until she got the idea to look inside those drilled holes—I’m not sure if they’re an remnant of blasting or if they’re used to make controlled cracks when the granite is quarried. But before long she we was laying down at each hole and putting her ear to it and then imitating the sound. I was surprised by how many different sounds she found—from a seashell-like whooshing, to a sloshing like carrying a too-full tub of water, to a haunting-yet-almost-musical whirring. Being 7 looks like a lot of fun.
As I shifted my focus to the water, I made two immediate observations… the first was that the anglers already interspersed along the jetty were mostly chatting and sitting down, not a good sign. The second was that there were huge schools of peanut bunker showing as dark, glittering patches in the slightly-stained water. They too seemed to be feeling a lazy vibe, also not a great sign.
As the patches of peanuts flowed past, I would stop and place casts around them, but it quickly became evident that this was nothing more than practice placements for a day when there were actually gamefish present! Lila watched and tried to remember to stay away from my casting-arm side while I launched my half-ounce Crippled Herring into the empty sea. “Catch anything yet?” Lila asked with a devilish smile that told me she knew full-well that I had not. She turned and looked back into the harbor, “why don’t you ever cast over there?” She asked.
I told her that, when things were right, I did cast on that side. “I’ve seen albies, bonito and stripers over there many times,” I told her. She walked over and looked back at me, squinting in the late morning light, “Let’s try.”
How could I not oblige her? My chances seemed no worse than casting out into the ocean where all those relaxed peanuts were enjoying a day of not being eaten. So we turned and cast the other way. Within a few casts I hooked a fish. I handed her the rod and she cranked in a 5-inch snapper bluefish. Lila said it was, “beautiful”. Two casts later, we caught another. Then another.
She asked if she could cast and I had to say no, a fly fisherman was flicking feathers behind her and a sailboat was anchored well within her reach, I could just see that little tin caught 16 feet off the deck in the sail. Some guy in a captain’s hat yelling at me through his cigar.
So we compromised, I cast and she reeled. Five casts later she had not hooked up, so she asked me to try, I hooked up right away. The same scenario played out two more times. “Why are you getting bites and I’m not?” she whimpered. I explained that I was keeping the lure moving at a consistent speed, pointing the tip of the rod at the lure and watching it, to make sure it was wiggling and not spinning. I watched her face contort into a grimace of provoked thought. She tried harder and I watched a few snappers follow and bump the tin—but she didn’t hook up.
I told her that practice is important in everything and you will rarely encounter anything that you can just do automatically. She processed my words, but then dropped to the jetty to listen to the – more important – sound of another hole in the rocks. Maybe practice is important, but so is not taking every single nuance of fishing so seriously. I learned that today.