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There is a sandbar at the northeast corner of the Robert Moses Bridge where fish sometimes pile up as they enter and exit Fire Island Inlet in New York. The sands change from year to year, but when the point is long enough, wading to its end allows you to cast long casts into the shadow line between the second and third bridge abutments, into deeper water where the fish like to hang out.
But fighting stripers there is no joke. It’s chest deep in water and the bass forces you to shift your feet over soft sand that could crumble beneath you. A slip will fill your waders.
A few years ago, a fish almost got me. We were catching every pitch, every bass over 30 inches. Most of the night struggled under my grip, and one of the treble of my chartreuse dart sank deep into the meat under my thumb.
I could feel the sand moving under my boots as its weight threatened to throw me off balance. Having no time to grab my pliers, I did the only thing I could: wedge his head against my chest and snatch the hook from him. Sometimes I wonder if the risks we take are for the fish or for the moments of clarity that come when it feels like our lives are on the line.
I pulled my plug after this trip. It hangs from the mouth of a replica mount in my basement, a keepsake from one of the best nights I’ve spent in the water.