albies

Fish Wrapped 2017, Part II. The smiles say it all.

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That’s the ace, Tim Roberts, on the left. He only paused for a moment before catching yet another fish.

“Whatever I catch, I’m going to say it was three times bigger,” said 13 year old Tim Roberts.

So begins part two of our year in review, that much-anticipated, semi-obligatory writers holiday crutch, where we succumb to sweet Christmas cookies, Mimi’s salty, perfect antipasto and endless tall cans of Maine microbrew, which easily overtakes any last vestiges of our creative spirit.

Plus, everything’s frozen.

Tim caught a boatload during last summer’s R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association Youth Fishing Camp. Kids’ thumbs may be fast as lighting when LOL-ing but real world skills like knot tying, boating safety and how to read a compass are what RISAA volunteers teach them for a lifetime on the water.

We tipped the camo hat to the man in a camo hat when a Good Samaritan on RT. 95 alerted Captain Jerry Sparks that his trailer hubs were ablaze. If not for the consideration of someone who never gave their name, that situation would have been much worse. “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world,” William Shakespeare wrote. Cheers to the human spirit.

We spoke with Trout Unlimited’s Jeffrey Yates about clean water, “There are significant attacks on things we hold dear,” conservation, “The beauty of conservation is that it cuts across all party lines,” and the power of sweat because, “When it comes down to it, the grass roots, the local chapters, are really the heart of our organization,” he said.

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TU’s Jeff Yates betting his boots wet and dirty

Off to Washington D.C. we went to interview TU’s CEO Chris Wood who helped us understand how conservation organizations are working to protect water, land and some basic principles of respecting our planet. We balanced all that with personal observations on the new presidential administration, which likely was dicey for my editor and publisher.

Five years ago this was supposed to be a straightforward “where-to-find-the-fish” report but clearly, we took off running in all directions and since all politics are local, we brought Washington to Rhode Island on several occasions.

“I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great,” Trump said in 2015 Field & Stream interview, referring to moving public lands out of federal control.

That didn’t work out so well.

Similar decisions followed, like dismantling the Clean Water Rule, allowing Alaskan hunters to use the protection of “predator control” to shoot bear cubs and kill some animals asleep in their dens, green lighting the permit process of a massive, unwelcome ore mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay and the celebrated return of filleting mountainsides to fuel a war against a war on coal, with the bonus of dumping toxic tailings directly into rivers. It was a very, very hard year on the environment.

 

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In the heat of summer we dragged Narragansett Bay with graduate students on URI’s research vessel, the Cap’n Bert. Their work provides scientists with a long look into how local and migratory species and environments change over time.

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URI research workhorse, the Cap’n Bert

We went south of Block Island with Big Game Charters for the day of a lifetime, if you’re a kayak fisherman with no fear and plenty of snacks. We steamed at 22 knots, perhaps enjoyed a breakfast beer and arrived just after sunrise where Captain Brian Bacon tossed us overboard to fish some greasy flat seawater. 

For Jimmy Chappel, Ryan Dubay, Brian Hall, Andrew Craven and Greg Thomas, that day was both an exception and exceptional as the ocean obliged, winds blew fair and waves were welcome diversions.

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Have you ever seen a bigger cast of characters?

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Captain Rene and his favorite ship mate, Dave Henault

August meant Summer was giving way. Captain Rene Letourneau, the Saltwater Edge’s Peter Jenkins and guide Pete Farrell showed us how to know the difference and catch the heck out of bonito and bonita.

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Captain Rene with a sweet fall fish

We checked out the Billy Carr Midnight Madness Striper Shootout and said good-bye to Benny’s. Personally, I’ll miss the sting of second hand Winston’s wafting out from behind bags of compost and topsoil, green plastic turtle sandboxes and tires permanently on sale but most of all, I’ll miss knowing that once through the doors, the fishing aisle was dead ahead. R.I.P. Benny’s.

Benny's Your Favorite Store

 

As tropically depressing Jose circulated his wind and rain, we joined the Hobie team to try a new Mirage Compass pedal drive kayak on Cape Cod’s Craigville Beach then checked back in on celebrity status kayak fisherman Brian Hall and his friend Tom Adams, who unbeknownst to them, were paralleled to a current regulation discussion about munnawhatteaug, “that which manures.” Sorry for that.

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Bob Kolb and the Speedy McSkiff crew find the fish

Happenstance by way of Elisa Conti brought us to the brightest moment of the year when two young and happy fishermen, seven year old Michael and five year old Gabriel Simpson hauled in a really big fish, went back to catch another one and best of all, shared their stories with us.simpsonbros36inchstriper

They are imaginative adventurers, budding comedians and wonderfully silly young kids who love to fish with their grandfather, Bob Kolb in his Whaler, “Speedy McSkiff”.

With their Mom Krista, they also are a Gold Star family. They lost their Dad, Army SSG Michael H. Simpson of C Company, 4th BN, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), a Green Beret with a chest full of pride for his country and a heart full of love for his family, defending all of us.

I feel blessed to have met the Simpson family and hope those boys share more stories in 2018.

 

Army SSG Michael H. Simpson

Army SSG Michael H. Simpson of C Company, 4th BN, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne),

Thanks to all you characters for another fine year of fishing reports, truthful-ish stories and the occasional lie.

In the words of TU founding member Art Neumann, “Take care of the fish, then the fishing will take care of itself.”

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