Fishing and weather can be complicated.
In the wake of a lethargic swirling post-cyclone tropical whatever, waters have largely cleared and the fishing has finally turned back on. Stripers, blues, sea bass, scup, fluke and racing hardtails are feeding in the face of changing waters and shorter days. From The Sakonnet to Watch Hill, there are striped bass and blues to fight with spinning gear or on the fly but the best lure just might be a couple of characters.
Very early Friday, Rene Letourneau trailered his 2001 Mako south to Newport with occasional fishing partner and total character, Dave Henault. Rene charters his boat, Dave runs a tackle store; both jobs require specific people skills in very different circumstances, which explains how they offset each other. Under the cloak of a lagging late summer sunrise and light fog, they launched from Fort Adams; once past the sweet low mahogany lines of an idle skiff, they motored south for the boulders and reefs. An ebbing tide made for clear water throughout with Hermine’s last throws whitewashing the rocks and shoreline. Bait was everywhere. Perfect Atlantic silversides flashed and common terns gobble them quickly. Blues raced to the sur
face and disappeared in one beat. It took only a few minutes for Dave to reel in the first fish. Rene made the calls.
Captains can be complicated. Rene Letourneau is a straight shooter and is a captain’s captain: he’s in charge, he knows his gear and he’ll tell you where to stand. His quick directions come from 14 years of running a boat that’s also a business because fishing for fun is one thing but when a client steps aboard, Rene is guide, instructor and coach. Mostly coach. Like those great college football coaches who wear out their sod cleats running sidelines, yelling, encouraging players to keep focused, Rene is always on, keeping lines in and rods bent.
“Go! Go! Go!” Rene yells as soon as he sees birds marking bait and you haven’t made a cast yet. One thing about great guides is that they can’t help themselves but give instruction and even if you think yourself an old salt, it’s best to listen and accept. Rene keeps his boat spotless, wipes the deck as fish come aboard and requires that you don’t fall overboard, which really isn’t too much to ask. He’ll stop you before you step on your fly line, tell you that you’re reeling too slowly or to count to ten before retrieving, even though he knows you saw how deep the fish were on his machine a few moments prior. You do this because he knows his fish and experience trumps your stories. Rene makes you think differently about your fishing while he’s doing your thinking.
Quickly Dave was on, again. And again.
Dave’s been blessed with an unmistakable baritone grumble and a natural skill for catching. Throwing a big fat blue over white crippled swimmer or scouting the bottom with a pink Hogy epoxy jig for sea bass, Dave was always after the fish. He didn’t let reeling in an angry eight pound bluefish slow his stories or observations and Rene didn’t necessarily appreciate it coughing up a half-digested stomach. People who chase fish are complicated. Two nice stripers came aboard from a nine weight with sinking line leading to a close imitation silverside in between Dave catching everything else and quickly the locker was full of bluefish meant for smoking.
“Pull ‘em up!” said Rene. Dave made another cast. I was fishing with The Odd Couple. Friendships are complicated. The birds had moved on, taking the fish with them. Wise men understand “You don’t leave fish to find fish” but with a color machine full of nothing, it was time to make a move. Even leaving a spot is complicated. They steamed east along the beaches and cliff walks of our well-to-do eastern not-really neighbors, noticing how no one flew American flags. Birds were absent and the screen was bare near Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge so after a look at the Sakonnet River, they about-faced, heading southwest to a piece of ledge where they drifted through more blues and bass.
Back at Brenton Reef, the tide change brought in warm offshore waters, streaked and silted brown. Long waving stretches of the Bay’s mouth were awful and thick, creased with algae, smudged to the bottom, enough to shut down the fishing. Waves falling in the rocks were red. There were no more fish. Fishing can be complicated.
Back to Pawtucket they went, where even backing into your driveway can be complicated by a neighbor’s poorly parked disaster of an SUV riding half the curb with a city mile of parking spots fore and aft. With boat washed, cooler filled and hands shaken, it was back on the road to plan the next day’s fishing and mix a bluefish brine. Smoking fish is not complicated; you just start with an early rise, the right captain and enough characters to find the fish.
This piece originally appeared in the Southern RI Newspapers. © 2017 todd corayer