The sun was beginning to inch over the horizon when we approached the otherworldly expanse of the Brewster Flats. A sense of mad anticipation swirled through my gut as I recognized the vast lunar landscape of receding tidepools and exposed sandbars that stretched out into the distance, luring fishermen into its hallucinogenic trap.
My deranged associate, the Swede, was behind the wheel, eyes narrowed, with a grin that stretched across his face like a razor. We’d come loaded with a cooler, graphite rods, reels, fly boxes filled with crabs, Clouser Minnows, and a bag of unidentifiable substances waiting to propel us into that disquieting dimension between sanity and incoherent ramblings about the fish we were about to catch.
The striped bass: a sleek beast of a fish, a siren of the sea, beckoned us to wade waist-deep into the Atlantic at the ungodly hours, armed only with our fly rods and a cocktail of chemicals for courage. This was not a game for the faint of heart. This was fishing on the edge, a hallucinogenic quest in the deceptive tranquility of Cape Cod Bay.
The flats were empty, the only other living creatures being the low-lying gulls and the nervous crabs that skittered away from our stumbling advance. The sun began its ascent, turning the sky a mix of purples and pinks, a psychedelic dawn.
By then, the Swede had started on his stash, “See that?” He’d say, pointing at a ripple in the water that could as well have been a monster from the deep or a figment of his enhanced imagination. We cast our lines, the rhythmic swoosh of our fly rods slicing through the cool morning air. The gulls screamed, the waves crashed, and our flies danced on the water’s surface, imitating life, imitating bait. With the audacity of a bird hardened by many a storm, a seagull attempted to snatch the Swede’s green and white Clouser mid-cast. “Back off, you feathered demon!” he howled, shaking his rod with defiance.
I didn’t say anything, choosing instead to lose myself in the ritual of the cast, the retrieve, the false promise of a bass on the line. The world around me seemed to blur, leaving only the swath of sand, the hypnotic rhythm of the sea, and the sharp tang of adrenaline and madness in the air.
Amidst this, there was a sudden and jarring tug on my line. My line snapped taut, rod bending under the weight of an unseen aquatic beast. A swirl of water and flash of silver… the bass was on. My heart pounded with the rhythm of an acid-rock band as the reel screamed in protest. We battled, that striped leviathan and I, as the sun rose above and the waves carried whispers of former voyagers.
When I finally beached the beast, the Swede dropped his fly rod and let out a triumphant howl, echoing over the flats and causing a few seagulls to scatter in terror. He fell to his knees beside the bass, his hands shaking as he removed the hook. That beautiful creation of Mother Nature lay there in the wet sand, sides heaving, stripes shimmering in the light. I released her back into the water, the sea swallowing her up as though she had never existed, free to live another day, and so was I.
The rest of the day passed in a daze of schoolies, laughter, and sunburn, and as the tide began to creep back in, we found ourselves sitting atop our cooler, sharing a bottle of bourbon, staring out over the battlefield that was the Brewster Flats.
“Fear and loathing,” the Swede said, raising the bottle towards the darkening horizon, “That’s what this all is.” I nodded, my gaze fixed on the incoming tide. “And striped bass,” I added. He chuckled, taking a long swig, “And striped bass.”