Notes On the 50th Derby (Part 2)

By Nelson Sigelman

The Madness Begins
"Help! I'm stuck in my waders and I can't get out," I joke, as I try to extract my foot from my waders.

My friend Jared finds this extremely funny and we laugh in the manner of delirious people sharing a joke. His laugh has a slightly crazed edge to it. And why not? It was just after sunrise on Sunday morning and, for the second time since the derby began, we had left the comfort of our homes and spent the entire night fishing.

We wouldn't return until later that morning after spending fruitless hours casting to elusive bonito and false albacore at Cape Poge gut. And it all seemed quite normal - even to my wife.

I hadn't planned to fish hard until the last few weeks of the derby, thinking I would forestall that single-minded attitude that begins to see the entire world in terms of fishing: what the tide is doing, what direction the wind is blowing from, and where the fish might be. That pre-derby resolve lasted until Jared called and asked if I'd like to fish the start of the derby last Wednesday morning.

I made my preparations for that first night of fishing like a British Grenadier preparing for a campaign, but I had better provisions than any soldier ever carried to the Khyber Pass. I packed away three Milky Way candy bars, two plain doughnuts, one apple, two sodas, two juice boxes, a bagel, and one chicken sandwich with a thermos of coffee. By the start of the derby at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning Jared and I were casting away on Chappaquiddick.

Edgartown school principal and derby President Ed Jerome was also out there fishing with his father. As I drove by, I stopped to talk and suggested the kids might have an easy school day of it. Later Ed would land a big striper and be the first to weigh in a fish for the 50th derby. He would also apply some new math and creative rationalizing to his sleep schedule.

"Lets see," he explained to me, " I took a nap before we went out, got in about 3 in the morning, slept till about 6, got to the weigh station about 6:30 so I'd be first. If you total it all up that's about seven hours, which isn't so bad." Only a fisherman could say that to another fisherman and keep a straight face.That first night of the derby, Jared and I stopped to talk to Chip Bergeron about two in the morning. Chip said he'd only been catching schoolies and was going to try another spot. Later Chip would end up in the spot we'd been fishing and climb into his car for a nap, only to be waked up by the sound of breaking stripers, while we napped undisturbed further up the beach. Fishing success in the derby owes much to positioning. You need to position yourself in the same place as the fish. A great deal of fishing time and theoretical energy is expended trying to do this and sometimes it all comes down to fate.