Notes On the 50th Derby (Part 4)

By Nelson Sigelman

Celebrities Have Fins Too
The marriage of what's-his-name to whose-she-what's-it, the opinions of this one and that one concerning the trial of you-know-who, rock star sightings at the airport, and movie star meandering on Gay Head beach seemed important to some, but I was happy to be lost in the Derby. Besides, the only celebrity I was interested in meeting was overweight and had fins.

While all the world was concerned with a Vineyard celebrity wedding, Lori Vanderlaske did not attend any cocktail party or swank reception. She went fishing instead and met a Derby "celebrity."

Lori, one of the Island's accomplished fly fishermen, has what Tom Wolfe described as the "right stuff." She stands in the water and gets wet as opposed to standing in a boat. There is a difference there, particularly when you must rely on your feet and the distance you can cast a fly for any opportunity to entice a fish to actually eat your offering.

Lori was fishing alone about 10 p.m. in a spot that she promised to describe to me when we are both old and roll-casting from rocking chairs. She said she had been catching some bass but her line had been bitten off previously and opted to use a trace of wire for a leader connection to her fly. Lori described the strike as "like a friggin' freight train."

Lori talks like a fisherman, too.

Lori said the fish took off so fast she thought she had on a nighttime false albacore, a novel idea to be sure, since many a daytime fisherman has speculated as to just where those daytime speedsters go at night. Then, she figured she had a striper. All alone she says she talked to herself a mile a minute, "Gee whiz, holy moly," as she took a few deep breaths and played her fish. After 15 minutes she slid it up on the beach in the moonlight. Lori says when she pulled the fish up it looked like a big, fat bass. Then she put her light on and found herself looking at an 18.69-pound bluefish - a phenomenal catch on a fly rod and one that would take over the shore grand lead, beating out all the all night squid dunkers, eel soakers, and plug poppers.

Lori says she looked at the fish and, when she realized it was a blue, said: "Hello, winner." Then she sat down too stunned to move. However, it is unlikely there were any whoops or yells; Lori is too cagey a fisherman for any display that might attract attention during the Derby to a spot holding big fish.

Lori says she was just lucky but luck didn't put her out on the beach alone in the right spot with a trace of wire; or give her the skills to keep the fish from breaking off during 15 minutes of nerve-wracking runs. You need to be good, too.

I asked Lori if she would have preferred to party with her bluefish or schmooze with Tom Hanks and the rest of the celebs at the "big" wedding.Lori says, "The bluefish, without a doubt."

The Island attracts its share of Island and off-Island paparazzi and "get-a-life" celebrity hounds. It is nice to know that at least during the Derby some people still have their priorities in order.