Each spring and fall, millions upon millions of birds fly from or to their breeding grounds (depending upon the season, and the hemisphere) to or from their wintering grounds. Most of you know this, and you know it as migration. What you may not know is that prior to these migrations, they get restless. This “migratory restlessness” was called zugunruhe by the German behavioral biologists who first described it. You can actually measure this through an ingeniously simply device called an Emlen funnel. The Emlen funnel is just a funnel, lined with paper, and containing an ink pad at the bottom. A bird placed in this funnel will jump, repeatedly, in the direction it desires to fly. Clever experiments using Emlen funnels and artificial lights were what proved that birds can navigate using not only a time-compensated “sun compass”, but also the stars of the night sky.
I’ll be moving soon, and I guess I’m experiencing my own bit of zugunruhe. I’ll be leaving the Buckeye State in just a few weeks, to relocate to the Hoosier State. (English Jonny thinks I’m moving to India, which is not surprising given the appalling geographical illiteracy of those from England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdoms. He also thinks India is still a British colony.) I’m busy packing and while I haven’t found myself jumping repeatedly towards the west, I’ve disabled my account on the Ohio fishing forum and have started to map driving distances from my soon-to-be Indiana address to local fly shops and carp flats.
The move is necessary because, as it transpires, unemployment does not pay the bills. And I’m excited about the move for a variety of reasons. But it is bittersweet because it likely means that my saltwater fishing opportunities are going to be very limited for the foreseeable future. I didn’t have any here in Ohio, of course, but I came here knowing it was temporary. What I didn’t know was whether the next move would put me closer to or farther from the ocean; now I know.
I’ll miss the stripers most of all. I love bluefish as well, but stripers – and by this I mean the real ocean-going stripers – well, they’re something special. They’re handsome, sometimes very big, and always enigmatic. There’s a culture surrounding the striped bass that’s something worth experiencing. When I was fishing for them several times a week, I would arrive each Tuesday and Thursday morning at about 3:30 am to fish the same spot, during the herring run, with Augie. We’d fish until just after sun up, and then because I, unlike Augie, had a job, I’d head off to work. By 2:00 pm I was so exhausted I was worthless at work, and it’s probably not unreasonable to suggest that I largely squandered the opportunities at work during that period. Usually we fished this spot alone, but sometimes we’d see old One-Eyed Jack, Jimmy, or Jimmy the Plumber. Jimmy the Plumber was a plumber, but I think Jimmy was unemployed. Jack had only one eye and always wore bright yellow boots. That’s how we knew it was him, because you really couldn’t see how many eyes he had from across the river, particularly in the dark. When, one morning, I arrived simultaneously in our spot with another fishing buddy, Augie accused me of giving away the spot and never spoke to me again. Stripers do that to people.
It’s hard for me to come to grips with the possibility that stripers will not be a major part of my life for the foreseeable future. I can’t really put it into words, so instead I asked the late Waylon Jennings to record a song for me. This particular song was just one of many gems on his fabulous 1975 album “Dreaming my Dreams”, most of which was recorded for me and the stripers. This particular song, like most, contains many metaphors that may be lost on the casual Culvert reader, so in addition to linking some audio, I’ve provided the lyrics below, with annotations.
"The Door is Always Open"
Saw your picture in the paper (1) and I see you married good (2)
And I know that he (3) can give you all the things I never could (4)
But I know that he can't give you what you need most of all (5)
So the door is always open, and the light's on in the hall (6)
Yes the door is always open and the light's on in the hall
And you know that I'll be waiting, if you ever come to call
When night falls (7) on that mansion (8) and you're lying in his bed (9)
When he begs you for attention (10), will you think of me instead?
When he reaches out to touch you (11), is your face turned to the wall? (12)
Well the door is always open, and the light's on in the hall
1) "Fly Rod & Reel" magazine, et al.
2) You’re still large, with stripes
3) English Jonny
4) shrimp flies
5) an 11 inch, black snake fly
6) I’d like to catch you again
7) a good new moon tide, preferably
8) the Culvert
9) yellow kayak
10) dead drift
11) sets the hook
12) or jetty