The state of North Carolina issued me a fishing license.
Seems you can spend 10 bucks and take your chances for ten days to try your luck at creating a great fish story.
Doug got a license to fish too, and we went halfsies on a long fishing pole, two hooks and a weight, purchased from a swarmy fellah at the local Ocracoke Island tackle shop. When asked what one should use for bait when fishing from the shore in ocean environs, the fish store chap said, "Squid." He reached into a nearby cooler and pulled out a frozen box that contained creatures that looked like the appetizer we had at dinner the night before: calamari.
So off we went, over the dunes and down to the shore, carrying our fold-up chairs, chilled bait and fishing pole, ready for action. As we positioned ourselves at the water's edge, I noticed a man in a yellow baseball cap fishing at a place not far away. You could tell he knew what he was doing. He stood stoicly in the water, casting his line way out into the waves, and patiently waiting.
The ocean is rough around Ocracoke Island. Doug strode down into the water and cast the line out. A few minutes later a wave came along and knocked him so hard that he almost lost his bathing costume. He recovered enough to maintain position while keeping his composure, but eventually the line came in empty.
Fish: 1. Us: 0.
My turn. With new squid on the line, I walked into the water, and with my softball-throwing arm, cast the line out as far as I could. Then a rogue wave hit me and I sat down hard on my butt, like babies do when they are learning how to walk. The fellow fishing nearby must've thought the Village Idiots Convention was meeting in town, and had given its members the afternoon off to fish.
Doug got the first bite. It was a skate, those beautiful flat black fish, round as an apple pie pan, with a thin whip tail. It had beautiful eyes. It blinked. It was nabbed, and looked scared. Doug unhooked it, and with the help of a piece of wood found of the beach, coaxed it back in the water. It skimmed happily back into the deep. I swear that fish smiled.
After a few more casts, I felt two sharp tugs on the line, and knew I had hooked something big. Hoping it wasn't an old boot, or a toilet seat that had been hanging around Davey Jones' Locker since WWII, the catch was the smallest, feistiest fish I had ever seen, clinging greedily to the calimari, which was bigger than it. This fish was white, and had a yellow head, and did not want to let go of the bait. Finally it was coaxed to release its treasure, and was soon back in the water, swimming with the skate, both probably slapping their fish knees in glee, laughing at us.
Have always thought fishing to be great fun, but have to say I am used to fishing in fresh, quiet waters. When I was a child, my father would take my brothers and I to numerous "fishing derby" events, usually hosted by the Boy Scouts, an organization that accepted my brothers as members. 'Cept I was the one who caught all the fish. I think that is because the fish knew I always throw them back.
When I was 16, I went with a high school friend, Zena, and her family, to a place called Six-Mile Lake, north of Toronto. You could only get there by boat. It was so remote you had to make noises when you walked to the outhouse in the middle of the night to scare the rattlers away. Zena's father (known as "Mr. G", 'cause "Grot-Zakzrewski" was a bit long on the tongue for most people) and I were great pals, and we would go fishing. He was originally from Poland, had been from a wealthy family in the old country, lost it all in the war, made it through the concentration camps, came here with nothing, dug potatoes in Maine to exist, even though he was a skilled metallurgist. He and his wife made their way in the U.S., did well, adopted my friend Zena and built a good life.
He and I were like Mutt and Jeff...my 5'10" to his 5' 2". "A-Mare-ica," he'd call. "Come. We go fish." Off we'd wander at 6 a.m., to sit on a smooth, rocked shoreline, catching bass after bass (throwing them all back) as we talked about life and Poland and America and school and his '57 Roadmaster Buick and music and Johnny Cash. He loved Johnny Cash. Eventually we'd sit side-by-side, our feet in the cold, cold water and just be quiet.