By Bob Spiwak
When Ms. Gloria and I moved here in 1981 our primary activity was going to yard sales and auctions. There we met lots of people, and after a few weekends encountered some of the same people we had met and gotten to know. However, after several months of buying or bidding on and winning a lot of stuff we did not need, we decided to go fishing.
We both were experienced, if not capable fisher people. Well sort of. I grew up half a mile from a tidal river across the sand spit of Sea Bright, New Jersey. Across the spit was the Atlantic Ocean. Our family had a small dory and in my younger years, we would fish in the river. We’d bait our hooks with killifish (sardine size) or blood worms and catch flounder and fluke in the depths, and once in a while some surface dwellers.
When I was in my teens my dad sold the boat and I took to surf fishing, the oceanic prizes being striped bass or bluefish. Gloria fished with her dad off the dock in San Francisco.
There is a technique unique to beach fishing: use a huge pole with a huge reel and huge line. Spinning reels had not yet been invented, so there were continual backlashes and getting hung up in our own lines.
But the real joy of the endeavor was to bring a portable radio, half the size of a microwave oven, and listen to music from Ted Husing’s “Make Believe Ballroom.” The apparel was a pair of swim trunks and sneakers. As ultraviolet ray damage had not yet been invented, it was either no sun block, or better yet, a mixture of baby oil and iodine and standing waist-deep in the surf, absorbing hot rays from above and reflected from below. This produced few fish on the hook, but marvelous suntans. It also produced, decades later, a case of skin cancer from which I still have the surgical skin graft scars.
What was new to us was fishing at Pearrygin Lake. Gloria and I had done little trout fishing and we’d heard what a wondrous pastime it was, especially on opening day. So when the day arrived we set out, armed with fishing gear we had been advised we had to have by many people with many differing ideas. If we were to be true locals we had to fish the lakes. We stuffed ourselves and too much gear into my canoe and launched at Pearrygin, rigged our lines as instructed (we’re still not sure about that) and paddled off.
Over time, after being continually skunked, we observed that there were always people across the lake not far from shore who caught fish. This induced me to paddle across, staying far enough away that we were not interfering. Here, my wife and I still disagree: She insists she was embarrassed by how close we hovered to these old guys catching fish. Of course, I dispute this accusation.
I don’t remember the year, but one opening day we got our gear together and headed for the lake. It was a sunny spring day and we were anxious to get on the water. But there was a problem — the lake had a thin covering of ice and there were all these opening day addicts like us rowing, paddling or churning their outboards to open a small section of the large lake for fishing. There were no collisions, and while fishless as usual, we had a good time.
We fished other lakes and once in a while got something. But Gloria tired of sitting in the canoe. So she took to sitting on the beach across from the Pearrygin dock and from that moment she began hauling in trout as I haplessly dragged a line behind the canoe. It was not long before fishermen were asking her what she was using for bait and how she rigged it.
Neither of us fish much anymore, but looking back, those days may have been the finest of my life.