A Praying Mantis in Striper Time
BARNSTABLE, Mass., Oct. 8 — We are fishing through a lowery day on Cape Cod; drizzling rain, patches of fog, and a gentle southwest breeze that drifts our skiff silently along the marsh-grass edges where striped bass lurk.
Four of us—my wife Martha, son Jason, daughter-in-law Milena, and myself—alternately toss flies or jigs and are enjoying a steady pick of stripers that range from 4 to about 8 pounds. Small silversides and juvenile bunker have followed the flooding tide into the grasses, trying to escape the cruising bass. Today’s fly of choice is a size 4 chartreuse-over-white Clouser Deep Minnow.
In the midst of all this, I happen to notice that a large praying mantis has landed on top of Martha’s rain hat. This is a big bug, perhaps six inches long, and it sits there among the raindrops facing forward as if to watch the action. There is no panic over the new arrival. We collectively decide to leave it alone to see what might happen next.
As the tide begins ebbing, small groups of stripers start breaking water in the growing current between the small islands. I had hoped to help Milena get her first fly-rod striper and the aggressively feeding fish are a perfect opportunity.
I stop the boat at the upcurrent end of a narrow channel, and cut the motor. Some surface-breaking bass obligingly start feeding toward us. Milena casts, a bass takes, and after a little give and take is flopping at the end of a Boga-Grip. Mission accomplished.
Milena’s happy with the fish but not with my fly rod. “That 10-weight is a telephone pole!” she says, shaking her head. “Why do you need such a big rod?”
I explain that a seven- or eight-weight would do fine for the small bass we are encountering, except for a couple of things. First, I sometimes toss big, herring-size flies for stripers, for which casting a ten-weight is essential. Then, too, a lighter rod just won’t cut it when fighting bigger bass of 20 pounds or more. Fish of that size and larger are always a possibility, even in the shallow backwaters of a salt marsh. Should I hook one, a ten-weight gives me ample pulling power with which to land it in reasonable fashion.
Some hours pass. More rain comes and goes. The mantis remains unmoving, even as Martha moves about the boat and lands her share of stripers.
Ultimately, it’s time. We leave the breaking fish and head for the boat ramp. The skiff is hauled out, plugs are pulled, and tie-downs are secured. Our mantis companion still adorns the bright blue hat. Martha takes the hat off and holds it in some bushes. The mantis crawls slowly away, and we start our own long drive back north.