The angle of the sun. The nip in the morning air. The slight rustle of the drying leaves in the trees. Every year, the onset of the Albie season is seen, felt, and heard.
Wait, you’ve never caught one before? Well, get your ass out there and book any guide you can find who isn’t in the middle of a bender. Chase the Albies around Rhode Island, Montauk, Long Island Sound and catch them continually, until your triceps burn. Do this a few times if you have to—rinse it from your soul. Then try your hand at the true madness. Do some Albie fishing from the shore.
The shore Albie tribe is easy to spot, even from a distance. Anglers, at times, seem to come to resemble their prey. The striper dudes are usually stout, with bags under the eyes the color of cigarette stains, from the wee early hours demanded by their quarry. The albie angler is slimmer, jumpier, their eyes insatiable, flinty. Their rods are quicker. You’ll see what I mean when you get out there.
I started my Albie season this week with the typical bang. I drove through the intemperate, early-morning traffic to a spot out east, one of my favorites. When I arrived, everything looked promising, like the Albie gods might just shine a little light down on me. The seas were animated, but not rough. The wind was blowing onshore. There had been reports of Albies showing in previous days.
I rigged up, climbed up onto the rocks, and stood there for five hours staring over the water. Every once in awhile, I worked out a series of casts, practicing my double haul and hastening the inevitable onset of elbow tendinitis I get every Albie season.
Nothing. No busts. No birds. No bait.
In the sixth hour, I laid down on the rocks, hat pulled over my eyes, my sling pack acting as a workable pillow, and went completely out for 30 minutes or so. The snooze was almost worth the trip out and back. Naps, in some ways, accomplish the same thing we seek while fishing—that total, if fleeting, clearing of the mind. I drove back home, drowsy from the nap, and hungry for another shot.
I will persist, of course, because that’s just what you do during shore Albie season. You try to keep an ear out, on your online and offline social networks, for where the fish might be. You input all of that information and mix it around a bit with your instincts, and hatch another plan. You inevitably experience that sinking feeling a few hours into your next trip, when you see nothing but untroubled water once more. Then you try again. And again.
And then it happens one day, seemingly out of nowhere. You see the pod of Albies slashing through the panicked bait. You hear the squawk of the terns, which dip in and out of the mayhem as if on invisible yo-yo strings. And you make your cast. If you’re lucky, you connect and your knots hold and your mind clears. If you’re luckier still, the Albies come in for another taste and you maybe catch another and another. Each one is earned, and each one is as sweet and as affecting and as fleeting as the fall itself.
Words by Monte Burke