7 Years ago, my friend Douglas sent an email to me and another friend just before our yearly fall fly fishing trip to Cape Lookout NC and a special place called “the hook”. I re-read it last night and wanted to share it here because it’s just awesome and much more fun to read than some boring business related blog post. In fact, when I am old and thinking back on my life, I bet I won’t wish I had written more software or been in more meetings or made more business connections or been involved in more stuff that may have made me more successful but didn’t really make life any better. I bet I’ll think about family and friends and outings like these…
LETTER TO THE GROUP GOING TO HARKERS WITH “TEAM POTTER” 2007:
So many things in life let us down: our internet connection goes haywire, all 4 tires on our cars do not make it 50,000 miles, customers forget about the concept of loyalty, and our pets don’t live forever. But fellas, the calendar does not let us down. Fall is here and we all know what that means. To fanatics like us, thinking about a North Carolina fall does not conjur up images of a Southern Living magazine cover with rustic barns, trees fading from gold to burn orange, and breezy blue skies. Nope. Fall doesn’t remind us of leaf piles in our yards for our kids to play in. Fall does not probe us to consider our third quarter standings and quotas at work. Not that. Fall means cooling water temps at the coast. Fall means bait being herded into constantly moving balls of motion. Fall means it is time to dust off the vise and tie up a few small baitfish patterns to fill up the fly box. Fall means it is time to grip the cork on the 10 wt and stash the spinning rods until next summer. Fall means insane oceanic migrators creating whitewater that would make a class 2 rapid envious. Yessir, fall means albies – busting albies!
Walking out of Potter’s back screen door on the first morning, what do we see?
Mist dancing above the surface of Taylor’s creek, dock in the foreground, and steam coming off of that fresh cup of coffee. The sun is still hiding but has allowed a few beams to begin to light the sky. A jones brothers and a whaler are moored to the dock pilings, resting before racing each other out the inlet. Gear bags are velcro’d shut and rods are stacked up on the back porch lightly dewed from the night before. Wild ponies graze out of focus in the background, blurred by the storm-battered trees on Carrot island. A distant quick flash of white light from the east just below the clouds is where we are headed. And what we have been praying for is staring down at us – a flag barely fluttering in the gentle northeast breeze: a promise of fair seas and false albacore on the feed.
Making our way towards the end of the dock, what do we hear?
Water gently slapping against dock pilings and barnacles as the tide charges in. The sailboat at anchor just north of Potter’s house rattles the rigging on its mast. An ignition switch turns and an outboard roars into the quiet morning. A combination of duck boots and sperry’s shuffle down the splintered dock boards as we begin to load up. Foul weather gear rubs against itself as we walk- a reminder that it will keep us dry and warm when the whitecaps crash the party later in the day. Bags of ice shatter into coolers and are locked shut. Battery switches click on, and our voices begin to express our anticipation and excitement for what the day may bring. The vhf radio crackles. Bow and stern lines fall on the dock. No fly reel drags have begun to sing the song of fine-tuned friction when an albie sounds for freedom. Yet.
Stepping aboard, what do we feel?
We feel the strength of an outboard vibrating the deck of the boat. We feel the stability of the ground and dock give way to the constant motion of floating fiberglass. Hopefully our sea legs will quickly take over. The grabrail and steering wheel are cold to the touch. We consider putting on one more layer of fleece and a toboggan before the boat planes out in the cool morning. Inside we feel nothing but anticipation. Anticipation for a day off the clock ; freedom from emails, cell phones, co-worker interruptions, and finding solutions. We begin to second guess the chosen fly we have already tied on to the end of our tippet and which inlet to run out of. We feel excited to try to take our place at the top of the Cape Lookout food chain. And we cannot deny that we feel tired and a little dehydrated. Our reunion and game of throwing insults went into the wee hours last nite after a great meal in downtown Beaufort. Too many glasses were filled and emptied with bourbon drinks and too many empty longnecks were sent to the recycle bin. But that tinge of exhaustion will not halt the enthusiasm this morning. Nope, today may be the day for our best personal record albacore. We are ready to enter the competition just outside of Barden’s Inlet. The competition is not between anglers or boats, but each angler against each fish. Individual anglers dueling for sport and individual fish fighting for their lives! Ultimately connected by a thin, clear length of line, controlled by thin walls of graphite.
Idling past the docks, against the tide, and towards the sunrise, what do we smell?
The aroma of Weston’s fresh cup of black coffee is soon overpowered by outboard exhaust. No it doesn’t smell great, but fortunately that internal combustion bolted to the transom will help as we recklessly race from flocks of screeching birds, to schools of fleeing bait, to saltwater transformed into foam by feeding false albacore. We smell the slight must on the collar of our jacket. This jacket does not sport the odor of new apparel freshly purchased from a store, but a hint of the outdoors, sweat, man, time, and fish slime. As we idle to the end of the creek, we pass the menhaden factory and a cluster of seabirds squawking in a tangle of liveoaks. The birds and the old factory reek of digested bait. We are encouraged that the birds will once again find the bait today, showing us where the false albacore are dining. Today is not the time for chasing the tides and the sharp smell of pluff mud and burping oysters in the marsh and creeks. The redfish are free to push, wake, and tail at their leisure. We are headed to the deeper clearer waters where the Atlantic meets the sand. Where the fat alberts roam.
The throttles are pushed opposite the boat wake and each boat jumps on plane. What do we taste?
Our tongues recognize the taste of that last sip of morning caffeine and droplets of dew blown from the bow. Salt spray frosting the gunnels remind us that wooly buggers, mountain streams, and 8” rainbow trout are a million miles away. Unlike a more gentile type of fly fishing, we want to watch our rods bend to the cork and feel the reel handles abuse our knuckles after we strip set a clouser in the mouth of a false albacore. Moreover we each taste success. We have all juggled our calendars, stacked miles on our vehicles, saved up boat gas money, put off work priorities, retied knots, and hired childcare to plan for this moment to motor towards the inlet right now. We are successful to be here chasing false albacore. We are successful to hide from life’s responsibilities for a couple of days. We are successful to be together.
See you at The Hook..