The Narragansett Surf Casters held their annual “Surf Day-New and Used Tackle Sale” last weekend. A few hundred people braved the cold to check out tables piled high with rods, reels, tattered surf bags, collections of old lures not for sale, books and floor mats. I really did see floor mats. Shopping for gear in a room full of salt deprived fishermen was the perfect place to be on a freezing February day.
Harold Reed of Narrow River Rods was there, with a bouquet of a dozen surf rods, offering that they were the most wonderful and thoughtful Valentine’s Day present. Perhaps in yours but not in my house. A few years back, the Huffington Post wrote that Americans spend more than $17 billion on gifts for their demanding loved ones and that special day. Can you imagine how that kind of money would be a boost to the fishing/hunting retailers? My Lord. A homemade card and a new Van Staal would be a wonderful gift next year. Even a used Van Staal and no card would suffice.
Lots of books were for sale, including a few keepers by Charlie Soares, who was there shaking hands and saying thanks. An old copy of AJ McClane’s “The Compleat Angler” went into my lure bag for a mere ten dollars; quite a bargain for such a compendium. If you’re not familiar, he authored a host of fishing books, a seminal writing may be his “McClane’s Standard Fishing Encyclopedia”. John P. Smith was there looking for old lures along with selling an impressive collection of bargain freshwater teasers. Jeremy Holloway, the cat who landed the fifty on a brand new gifted lure last summer was there, selling off an assortment of everything, represented by a most excellent store front sign magic-markered by his young and clearly talented daughter.
Just this side of John’s Famous Buck-A-Bag Box, there were jig heads for fifty cents, bucktails for a buck, Heddon Tiny Torpedos for two, a sweet blue then white saltatrix popper with a custom, possibly mistakenly, bent treble hook for three dollars, a bizarre cool blue autofly reel for four and a sparse showing of classic green needlefish for five bucks. After that, you were into the big ticket items, like enough Penn Senators to fill a wharf tote, some timeless Garcia reels-ok, I just like getting to use the name “Garcia”- Lamiglas rods, used boots and even a pack of Old Marabou Stainless Minnow Streamers.
In a flash, someone pocketed a rather large multi-trebled worn-out white danny whilst the dealer was busy offering a complementary tale to another potential buyer. Based on the girth of the swiped swimmer, I suspect the suspect walked very, very carefully back to their car, or perhaps someone else’s. No one likes a thief. By the time you reached the rooms warm south side, the summertime smell of chowder and clam cakes would overtake you, luring you back to where you started and the take-out window, where you could start your walk all over again with a warm belly.
The club was started ten years ago by Nelson Valles and 4 other fishermen who saw a need for a specific kind of assemblage because fishing clubs can be tricky. Generally singular of purpose, the focus can change as new people migrate in and older ones retire to fish southern beaches. This group stays true to the mission of surfcasting, getting together on a regular basis to talk about fish, tell stories, sometime the same old stories I imagine, about fish and when there’s time, try to get out and catch some fish. Nelson is a good man and fine photographer; he was kind enough to ring me up before Sunday’s sunrise to discuss a picture swap over some Belmont coffee. I should have been awake, I suppose. Real fishermen never rest and he’s the real deal.
The first fishing club in the states was, and remains, the Schuylkill Fishing Company of Pennsylvania, also known as the State in Schuylkill. Formed in 1732 on the banks of the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia, originally it was perhaps a smidgen more exclusive than today’s. Their devotion was more focused on the finer offerings of Colonial life, like liquor and tobacco with the occasional foray to a river not yet polluted with sewage or tannery waste. In between hosting dignitaries and presidents, they did perfect a most excellent Fish House Punch, that bold concoction muscled up with rum and cognac, sweetened with peaches and cane sugar. Served over a block of ice in a bowl large enough to accommodate a baptism, the punch also served as liquid attractant to the fairer sex who were invited, on particular and limited occasions, to spice up life after sunset. Cheers to the Narragansett Surfcasters for another successful show, for staying true to the principles of philanthropy, for supporting charities like the Jonnycake Center and for remaining a real fishy place to get together.
If you have a moment, the Providence Journal’s Katie Mulvaney wrote a great piece covering local clam dealer, American Mussel Harvesters, who are alleged to have short-paid overtime to a now ex-employee. Robert Belmore has accused “the company; its owner, William Silkes; vice president and bookkeeper, Jane L. Bugbee; and manager, Gregory Silkes, of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act by failing to pay him and others for the 50-plus hours they often worked during the busy spring and summer season”. Huh. Fish dealers can be a hard lot, the fish business in general can be a crusher to those who still rely on trust to get them through a career buying or selling. Getting hemmed up with the Fair Labor folks can lead to scrutiny of all kinds of records, and they can dig deeply. This should be an interesting story to follow as Katie is an excellent criminal justice writer.
Tick tock, The New England Saltwater Fishing Show happens next weekend at the Convention Center. It is the biggest fishing show in the Northeast now and well worth a the price of admission. More information can be found at www.nesaltwatershow.com and yes, after leaving the Surfcasters show, I smelled clam cakes all the way home, which was perfect for a freezing February day.