It takes a lot of work to keep things simple.
It was barely 3 a.m. when Ryan Dubay pulled into the deeply rutted West Island Town Beach parking lot in Fairhaven, Ma. His headlights turned the heads of a dozen guys already milling around their trucks or lightly dozing inside cabs. Bed lights lights sliced apart pieces of a cool morning, partially illuminating kayaks reposing on trailers and carts. Ryan was anxious to set up shelter from a sun ninety minutes out, unload a blank leader board and markers, confirm the Port-A-John placement, display donated prizes against a rusting guardrail and most importantly, get people on the water.
Managing his 4th Annual Yak Patrol Kayak Clash is no simple feat. Considering 65 fishermen and women were on the way to fish, cast for prizes and most importantly, support his annual donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and its Jimmy Fund, some heavy lifting was part of the fun.
As daylight peaked around a striped tower, fishermen paired up to help each other get boats to the beach. Hobie, Feelfree, Ocean Kayak, Wilderness System, Eddyline; all the big names were there. They were carried or carted, Eddyline being the exception due to it’s lightweight design, through an ill-conceived, insufficient, torched out section of some ugly guardrail likely intended to prohibit late night beach buggies.
By days end, there were a few scratches in the plastic, unwanted momentos of an otherwise pretty stretch of beach.
Forecasted cool northeasterlies arrived with a shaded sun, followed by no wind at all. When the tide paused, seas relaxed to an almost mirror finish, affording opportunities in all compass points. There were fluke by the red bell, schoolies along the rip, the occasional bluefish on the surface, a few scup here and there, plenty of sea robins to go around the island and sea bass everywhere. After some prospecting, teams and crews spread out while fish came to the baits.
Ryan is a leukemia survivor.
He has amazing resilience coupled with a deep appreciation for Dana-Farber, who afforded him a bone marrow transplant and likely saved his life. It’s not really that simple, Ryan doesn’t make a big deal of it and he works hard producing an event to repay a personal, emotional debt.
So each year he invites his friends to keep life balanced and help others who are where he has been.
Tom Houde was there.
He seems to be anywhere there’s water.
Talk about balance, Tom caught a pile of black sea bass before racing home for some important family time.
Jeff Amberson and that wicked push broom of a mustache worked some sandy bottom where tides met currents but both sides were equally scattered with a few schoolies so off to the east he steamed, into the shadow of a tall ship. He returned a few hours later, finding the same schoolies on a different tide, interested mostly in poppers and anything splashing the surface.
Next generation Eric Amberson was lightning fast in his sleek red Hobie. He could turn on a dime and make way towards terns swirling overhead diving for sand eels or disappear whenever Brian Hall fell back into Taylor Swift stories.
Even the terns turned away then.
Tom Adams, complete with his signature white hat, white shades and Old Glory on the stern, headed south for the bell as well with the hope of finding big fluke. Although he landed a limit of sea bass, there were no winner doormats for him.
Andrew Cravin was there, shaded by a Red Sox hat and dark glasses. He has an easy, agreeable style.
He catches a lot of fish.
He’s a quiet ace of a fisherman.
Recognizing Ryan’s dedication to fighting leukemia and his solid commitment to their brand, Feelfree US donated the grand prize of a Feelfree Lure II two person kayak. In the early hours she was tight with fruit, water and granola bars to keep troops fed and full of energy for so much paddling and pedaling. By early afternoon she was cleaned out, ready for sea trials and a new owner.
That’s when fireman Brian Hall raced up the beach, waving a tattooed arm and a big flag of a fluke, cutting it close to cut-off time. Whispered scuttlebutt swirled about how he landed such an impressive fish only when out of sight of the flotilla and on his ultra-light setup mind you, as he produced an impressive 6.08 pounder.
Victory, with a new kayak for his personal fleet, was surely his.
Then came Corey.
Three Belles Outfitters fishing team member and RIDEM biologist, Corey Pelletier seems to have fishing’s magic touch and personality to match. A savvy social media guy, there’s a load of pictures out there proving his prowess on the water. Not about to let Brian throw cold water on his day, he delivered a slab of a flounder weighing 8.66 pounds.
Brian stepped back, head bowed, accepting defeat and a solid second place.
Corey stepped forward, head high, accepting a Burger King crown and first place finish.
Standing tall in front of his new Feelfree Lure II, his first act as King was to find someone to carry it home for him.
Ryan’s positive outlook inspired donations of a Malone kayak cart, Chinook PFD’s from Northwest River Supplies, Saltwater Series lures from Al’s Goldfish and soft baits from Rad Fish. Almost four thousand dollars was raised for The Jimmy Fund.
There’s room for more kayakers next year.
He’ll print more t-shirts.
He’ll get there at 2 a.m.
He’ll rent two Port-A-Johns.
He’ll gladly pay more towards his debt of gratitude to Dana-Farber.
It’s pretty simple for Ryan Dubay.
He’ll clash with leukemia every year until it’s crushed.