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Tight lines, Ralph

May 20, 2010

Great structure

We learned of our dear friend’s death today. Ralph fished the surf for striped bass and he and Tony were tight from way back. In recent years they got together to fish the night surf, cruising the miles of beach north and south of Nauset, in the hunt for big stripers. They hooked plenty of fish, but also snagged some valuable time together.

Ralph was very smart and well-informed on so many subjects. We rapped about Russian garlic and zucchini blossoms; duck eggs and homegrown turkeys; scallops and steamer clams. He put a new turbo in my Saab and explained all kinds of technical import car stuff that made my mind go numb. He helped clean our guns when the Ruger or Remington were acting funky.

We drove the beach tonight with our minds filled with memories of Mr. Constantini. We stopped at a hole down around number 6 on the Inlet side. I saw around a dozen turns lift off the beach and linger over the shallow point on the north side of the bowl. A few dove, and when one came in over us, I could see a sand eel in its mouth. Then a few more came in with sand eels. We made a fire and offered up a white wine toast to Ralph, then I took my rod to the shore and made a few casts with a chicken scratch bomber following a squid fly dropper.

I didn’t get any hits in the surf on the bar or in the deeper water, so I went back to the fire, made a few s’mores, chased a deer mouse around the beach with the two-year-old and watched the evening sky deepen. Tony tried a few casts on the bar and came back to chase the toddler, who was dancing around all over the damp sand. He handed me his outfit, which is also a 8-foot St Croix rod with a Van Staal reel, but his plug was a black and silver Rapala swimmer with a white deceiver fly dropper that looked exactly like the sand eels the terns were catching. “Match the catch” is the surf fisherman’s equivalent of “match the hatch”, the freshwater fly fishing mantra.

I took a few casts and hooked my first surf-caught striper of the season, a beautiful fish with gold in its stripes. I had to chase the baby halfway to the inlet to show him the fish, and then we sent it back into the sea. I could have stayed there until dawn, but the tide had already turned a few hours earlier, and the kids were tiring of the wind. We put out the fire, loaded the buggy, said goodnight to the mouse and took one more long look at the calm surf rolling in under the twilight sky. It doesn’t sound like a memorial service, but for us it was, and I know Ralph would understand. Tight lines, Ralph, catch you later.

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