Chesapeake Outdoors By C.D. Dollar
Vol. 9, No. 37
September 13-19, 2001
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The Last Cast
The thin line unfurled and extended to its full length behind me, casting a narrow silhouette against a plum-rose horizon. Flashes of energy lit up billowy clouds growing more menacing by the minute. Then came rumblings that echoed across the evening sky, low and throaty.

Count the time between. There was still time. Now the fly, propelled as much by the law of physics as by a desire for perfection, lurched forward … then splashed softly in quiet water.
Quickly the fly and the line, both weighted to sink to depths where fish might be holding, were whisked away by current driven by an ebbing tide. It was, I announced to myself and the herring gulls resting nearby, my last cast, one final attempt in a long series of repetitive yet surprisingly therapeutic efforts to land a fish. To that point, my success quotient was marginal.

Still, the last cast is an essential part of fishing because it represents a final opportunity to land that special fish. The odds of this happening, in my experience at least, are astronomical; akin to winning Powerball or another such manufactured pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But like those who play such games, we fishermen are also convinced this one is the one. So, even in the face of an approaching thunder-boomer bearing down the Bay, we toss that fly, lure or chunk of bait one last time.

We do this at least 50 times. Because as all diehard anglers know, the proverbial last cast is a misnomer. It doesn’t actually mean the final cast; rather it’s the fishermen’s equivalent of that childhood refrain “just five more minutes,” which we hollered when we wanted those wondrous moments of the dimming day, during the last languid fleeting days of summer, to last forever. These ticks of time can’t go on ceaselessly, of course, but even well into our adulthood, we try to stretch them out as long as we can.

Despite the long odds, we cast anyway because sometimes we hit the mother lode. It’s these rare moments that fill our blood with that additive juice that drives us to make one last cast. Several years ago, in this same spot, I threw a rattletrap on my last cast and landed a 32-inch rockfish that pulled like a freight liner.

On this stormy night, where I beat the storm back to the dock by a New York minute, my last cast was an anchovy pattern thrown on 6-weight fly gear. My reward was a fat 16-inch scrapper of a rockfish brimming with wild vitality. I won’t tell you that both experiences brought an equal adrenaline rush because that would be just plain silly. But I will tell you that catching a fish on the last cast is the reason my last casts get longer every season.

Fish Are Flourishing
The final results of this year’s young-of-the-year rockfish survey won’t be available until later in the month, but Department of Natural Resources fisheries experts anticipate 2001 yielding a “dominant-year class.” The surveys, conducted every July, August and September at 22 sites, help resource managers here and in other rockfish states determine management plans for stripers for next year. Scientists use a four-foot by 100-foot seine net pulled just off the shore to trap and count yearlings. A recent pull at Tyaskin off the Nanticoke River yielded about 30 young rockfish in both July and August. Officials said the Nanticoke numbers are historically in single digits.

Fish Are Biting
The search for legal rockfish and sea trout has improved and is getting better by the week. Cooler air temperatures has fish moving into fall feeding patterns: working shallows, schooling up on bait and feeding more aggressively.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly