Seven Miles and Beyond

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: John Doble 

The East end of the Cape Cod Canal with an angler fishing in a ray of morning light. Photography by John Doble.

Along the famed Cape Cod Canal wait dedicated surfcasters, and among them, two men stand out.

“My uncle Jack bought land in Mattapoisett just before going off to war in Korea. When Hurricane Carol came through in 1954, it picked up an entire house and dropped it right in the middle of the street by Uncle Jack’s property. So, my grandfather went and bought that house for $50 and moved it to Jack’s land,” laughs Ed Doherty. “Eventually, Jack came home and built his own house right next to that one, and my family kept buying land around Mattapoisett. It became like a Doherty-Flynn compound, and that’s how I fell in love with the area.”

Doherty counts himself lucky for the serendipitous events that led his family to the region and that his wife, Joanne, also loves Mattapoisett. He has become a regular around town, known widely as East End Eddie, his pen name, for his love of fishing the East End of the Cape Cod Canal. In fact, since his retirement from the court system after a career spanning almost four decades, Doherty can be found along the Canal almost every morning—usually 2 a.m., but sometimes 3 if he sleeps in. “I think I’ve stood on every rock along the Canal by now,” he jokes.

Sunrise looking at the Railroad Bridge

In 2018, Doherty decided to put his experiences surfcasting along the Canal into a book that he titled, “Seven Miles After Sundown,” and he enlisted the help of local photographer, John Doble, to illustrate his story. The two men, friends for years thanks to Doble’s career as a Bourne Police Detective and Doherty’s lifetime appointment as Clerk Magistrate of the Wrentham District Court, belong to a unique community that meets along the Canal day in and day out to fish, take in the incomparable sights, and most often, to escape the stress of everyday life—“Canal Rats,” as they’re called. “Seven Miles After Sundown” is an homage to that community—complete with personal interest stories about the fishermen often known only by their first names or nicknames, East End Eddie’s classic humor, and Doble’s astounding photography.

“Being out along the Canal at first light and watching the colors change…there’s nothing like it. Many times, I’d have to put the rod and reel down and pick up the camera,” says Doble of how he first discovered his passion for photography. “Now, I never leave home without my camera.” 

The Sagamore Bridge with a barge under tow

Fishing the Canal is in Doble’s blood; he’s a third generation visitor to the seven miles he deems “the greatest place in the world to catch large game fish from shore.” And, Doherty agrees: “Normally to get to water that deep, you’d need a boat,” he says. “I find surfcasting to be an exciting challenge—more old-fashioned and without the fancy electronics that fishing from a boat would provide.” As Doherty states in his book, the unique trials that the Canal’s setting provides can become addictive. He writes, “Even when you are not at the Canal it is sometimes hard to get fishing out of your head once you have experienced the excitement of reeling in and landing a nice linesider…Like John Doble once told me, ‘The tug is the drug!’”

Doble can often be seen riding what he has christened his “Canal Cruiser”—a bike whose destination is so frequently the Canal that the moniker is more fitting than simply “bike”—from his home just up the road in Bourne down to the sacred fishing spot. In fact, many of the Canal Rats ride bikes, rigged to hold their rods and gear, along the Canal to search for fish breaking along the shore—one of the many factoids that Doherty shares in his book. But, Doble’s Canal Cruiser has one extra piece of equipment: his camera. “I think what I like best about my photography is just being there, watching the sun come up over the bridges and the reflections it creates off of the Canal,” says Doble—a sentiment that flawlessly captures the beauty and serenity that the Cape provides to so many, especially along the unique waters of the famed Canal. “A lot of people look at the sunrise and forget to look behind them,” he cautions. “To see what the sun is doing out toward the west—that’s often the most breathtaking part.”

The almighty striped bass.

In a handwritten note scrawled inside a copy of “Seven Miles After Sundown” sent to Cape Cod Life, Doherty writes, “Catch a big one!” signing the exclamation, East End Eddie. Even in that short message, his love for fishing (and for the Canal) is evident, and as you turn the pages, Doble’s photography artfully captures that same feeling. 

In this photo portfolio, enjoy shots by John Doble demonstrating the reverence and respect for the famed Cape Cod Canal (and beyond) that has kept him, his family, and a whole community of dedicated fisherman returning morning after early morning, for generations. 

“Seven Miles After Sundown” is available on Amazon and at many Cape Cod locations and beyond including Titcomb’s Bookshop, Sandwich and Isaiah Thomas Books, Cotuit.

More of John Doble’s photography can be seen at johndoblephotography.com

Explore more photo portfolios HERE.

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.