What happens when you don’t know what you’ve caught? You smile and be thankful.
Rarely do all the stars line up for me on a day of fishing. The days when all the elements that make an incredible day of fishing come together and you catch a giant.
The sun bleached sand of Massachusetts tidal flats are relatively unknown to most who seek sightfishing adventure. If you didn’t know any better, as you are poled across the flats, you may think you were in south Florida or the Caribbean chasing shadows of tarpon. In fact you’re not as these crystal clear New England waters soon reveal the dark back of striped bass.
Just two days prior I was driving up the Atlantic coast with my boyfriend, Jake, to a striped bass fly fishing tournament held by Cheeky Fly Fishing. The tournament dawned raw east coast cold and wet weather. With little action we found ourselves at the Sand Bar among other weather-beaten fishermen from all walks of life for the tournament results.
After mingling at this quintessential Massachusetts watering hole we found ourselves seated across a table from one of the most influential and inspiring people we’ve ever met – Dean Clark. Dean is a warm souled, Massachusetts native who is an educator through experience, conservationist, and as enthusiastic about life as they come. Little did I know over the next few days we’d develop a strong connection and friendship with this passionate angler. Lucky for us we were able to hook up with Dean two days later for some time on the water.
The day was defined by huge schools of cruising fish unwilling to eat. A seemingly endless line of fish swam past all morning, turning down whatever we offered. Hundreds of casts were made through the slight offshore breeze and hundreds of flies denied. After changing our flies repeatedly, I chose a fly that stood out to me. I noticed another group of fish coming toward the boat so I quickly finished tying the knot. Another cast and another loose line. Still the fish had not been spooked. I took another hopeful cast followed by several sharp strips and finally to my surprise the line came up tight, locked. She was quickly into my backing and frantically crossing the flats in search of an escape. After trading line back and forth for nearly 10 minutes she finally became tired. As the leader neared the tip of the rod a small wake from a passing boat revealed the profile of the fish that I had been fighting. I realized at this moment this was not an average striper. I tried to play it cool but couldn’t keep my composure. The fish was soon landed, and what ensued were hugs, high fives and photographs that captured this epic moment. The huge striper quickly regained herself in the water as she was released. I took a moment to step outside myself, look around at the people and my surroundings and realized this was one of most amazing moments of my life.
At the time it had never crossed our minds that this might be record-book fish. A friend recommended that we look into Women’s fishing world records. The official women’s world record striped bass caught on a fly rod is about 27 pounds. It quickly became evident that had we “officially” taped and weighed the bass that I caught, it would have broken the current world record. But rather than having that record, I am happy to know that the amazing fish is still swimming today.