Saturday, May 5, 2012

Game of Two Halves

I was born in Liverpool, a place synonymous with war, ship building, a river ferry, The Beatles and the game we call football. The family business, which neither I nor my father followed, was typewriters, serving and servicing naval ships that carried 40 at a time. At the age of seven my father took me to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. They wear the Liver Bird as their crest, and the first time I went to see them play, walking onto the Spion Kop to the sound of Chariots of Fire, I knew where I was from.

Today we were well beaten by Chelsea, a club with money from London, in the oldest, most prestigious sporting cup competition in the world. Having dressed the entire family in red for the occasion, I can tell you I was depressed by the defeat (I say without bias that they are a hateful club whose players are fornicators, mercenaries and playacting cheats.)  And I knew, as you know, what I needed to do.

The tide was at half out, and stripers were pounding bait [they were not buying bait, but eating it, hungrily] in the outgoing remnants of salt marsh channels but 8" deep. This sight alone was all I needed. It is a spectacle that no trout angler can ever hope to see - fish of the largest trout blowing up in water that doesn't actually cover them. It is the purest magic and much better than anything on television - even soccer.

This is my Culvert. It has healing powers.
Of course, this was all very impromptu: I was merely there for casting practice on the advice of my wife, who'd seen the signs and knew. She just knew. I hit a 13" striper soon after arrival, and I gave a small but satisfied grunt - I was already feeling that bit better. And then I worked my way around the cove through deep mud.

He worked his way through deep mud, this day.

The next fish was bigger, but not huge by striper standards (which is to say it was very large, by trout standards, and if you perceive a bias, it's quite intended). None of them were huge stripers. This is May - we are pounding schoolies; do try to keep up. But the thing is it is also daytime, it is 3pm and quite light. Most of our striper fishing, learned readers will know, is done in darkness. We don't see much. So when, at the final arc of your retrieve, you admire the candor of your fly through the deep under-cut at your feet, you don't expect to soil your waders when a 20" striper slashes out in anger. It's just lovely when a fresh-off-the-tide wild fish does that, you know? You say words that convey the first real enthusiasm you've given off in a week, or maybe longer.

This is what a fish should look like
*Several more like this followed. Casting up-stream into the rough water tumbling from the culvert to splashy rises, or down current into mere inches of salty cut outflow: the stripers thumped on, often at the length of my cast and thus requiring attention, the reel, and that remarkably un-trout like sensation that makes us wonder about size. A real bend in the 9 weight. 

September Shite, after Brayshaw. It works, even when it isn't September or when the water has any shite in it, that I know of.
More followed.
I am glad, for my santity, and for that of my family, that I live near striped bass. In one short hour the defeat was gone and I was left to wonder, all things being equal, if I really give two shits about sports.


* More than 6 but less than 12.


  1. From the jaws of defeat a victory is snatched.

  2. I can almost smell the muck.

    Nice job, and nice post.

  3. My strategy of turning off the satellite so I wouldn't be tempted to watch Man U fold like a house of cards is starting to look pretty good to you now, eh? Especially given Liverpool's prospects next year.

  4. Tom - you're dead right. All that's left for me this year is to see your lot fail, and hope that sparky goes down in the process with QPR. It's a bit like having more kids: despite what I know, I'll be tuning in next season.

  5. Lovely. True roots Culvert content. I've noticed a problem within the Culvert Nation with wearing waders inappropriately. It is May, for christ's sake.

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