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Catching the Big One

Last spring, my friend Missy called and asked if I would like to take part in an Osterville Anglers Club fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event called the Ladies Shoal Troll. Missy—who falls hook, line, and sinker for lots of good causes—asked if I wanted to come along for the fun. “You can write about it for the magazine,” she said. “You don’t have to actually fish. Just come!”

How bad can this be, I thought. Cruising around on a nice summer Saturday morning with a boatload of fun women captained by a cute guy? “Sure,” I said to Missy. “I’ll do it!”

The first glimmer of reality came when I heard that we had to get up, on my day off, before sunrise. When my alarm woke me, it was dark out and pouring rain. I sank back into my pillow and thought, “Oh good, it’s raining. We won’t go!” This relief was quickly followed by the realization that fish—obviously—don’t care if it’s raining.

I gulped down some coffee and dashed through puddles to the dock in Osterville where our resourceful captain, Scott Swaylik, and his dad, Dick, waited for their crew to appear. The crew (some dressed in flip-flops and short-shorts) crowded on to Scott’s 28-foot Mako center console boat, the First Nichol.

After some quick instructions, we headed out of the harbor in the near darkness. By the time we cleared the cut near Dead Neck and Sampson’s Island, the all-female crew in the open cockpit were soaked to the skin. We huddled together and tried not to think about warm beds left behind. Breakfast. Saturday mornings with nothing to do.

Someone finally asked where we were headed. “Nantucket!” Captain Scott said with a jaunty grin, warm and dry beneath his boat’s hardtop roof. We grimaced and huddled closer. We were out there all alone, just us and far away in the distance a flock of birds, diving and hovering over the water, busy catching . . .fish.

Scott and Dick, experienced fisherman with long reputations for reeling in big ones, headed towards the birds. “Okay ladies,” said Scott. “Everybody’s fishing!” I demurred. Said I had to write a story. Take photos. “Nope, everyone fishes,” said Scott firmly. Soon I was planted in the stern of the boat, a large plastic belt around my waist. A big fishing rod was put in my hands, anchored in the belt.

“This is how you jig,” said Scott, showing me carefully how to whip the rod back and forth over your shoulder before letting the lure (colored an appropriate pink to honor the fight against breast cancer) fly. I braced my feet and give it my best shot.

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