Match Farber was no fisherman and neither was I at age 13. But somebody said flounder were in off the trip of Long Islands Bar Beach, where Hempstead Harbor spills into muddy Roslyn Harbor.
Somehow on that sunny spring morning 20 years ago the prospect of a flatfish at the end of a stretch of course line seemed infinitely more appealing than Mr. Hotaling's first-period English lecture. Anyway, we knew how to real but not how to catch fish. This was education.
So we hitched a ride down the old Glen Cove Road, past fancy waterfront estates and the elegant Swan Club. We finally came to a rotting old shack out on pilings in the shadow of the Long Island Lighting immense generating plant.
"Rheingold," said the sign in the window. "Bait and tackle" said another.
We took out a short-term lease on the world's heaviest rowboat there. We bought two hand lines of green twine wrapped around sturdy square wooden frames. We got a box of two dozen nightcrawlers and some hooks and sinkers. The bartender showed us how to rig up hooked a thumb out toward the sound.
"Anchor near the channel and put your lines on the bottom," he said, or words to that effect.
It was pro forma in those days to share the rowing one manchild per oar. We sat side by side and pulled at the heavy oak oars, inching through the rush of incoming tide, two very happy kids.
When we tired we stopped and heaved out the anchor. We played out line and fastened the bitter end, then waited for a reassuring lurch as the mushroom bit mud and the boat swung true.
Then we began to fish, two innocents entering the domain of finny creatures in a dark and watery world.
I can't remember who got the first fish or how long we waited but somehow I can still feel the bump and wiggle of that first flounder strike in these older, calloused hands.
I do know that time stood still, that clouds soon covered the sun and a chill east wind sprang up, and that we kept catching flounder that day until we ran out of worms.
I demanded that we get more. Mitch gave in fitfully and we rowed back, bought a dozen, then turned around and rowed out again. By the time we'd reestablished ourselves the sun was sinking low and the chill wind had grown bitter.
"Too much," said Mitch in his infinite 13-year-old wisdom, "of a good thing."
So we quit without wetting a line and hauled ourselves home. My final image of that sweet day is of Mitch trundling up the rockety gangway to the barroom with the unused box of worms. Somehow he got the guy to buy them back.
All this is by way of introducing the fact that flounder season has arrived, and while it's more than a hitchhike away, Washington anglers are within driving distance of perhaps the finest flounder fishing anywhere on the East Coast.
The prime spots are Chinoteague and Washapreague on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 3 1/2 and 4 hours away respectively.
On Thursday an old fishing partner and I partook of Wachapreague's early flatfish arrivals, drifting minnows down the endless marshy channels with Capt. Hugh Neely aboard the "Buffy II." a charter boat.
It was a rough day, with a cold west wind building and finally driving us off the water just after noon.
But the first of the flounder were there and we hooked and landed nine, the best a three-pounder. A spectacular Thursday night dinner.
While the comforts of Neely's big motorboat were most welcome and much appreciated, truly satisfying flounder fishing for me still involves a heavy rowboat and a little personal mental maneuvering to find out to outsmart the fish.
Both Chincoteague and Wachapreague offer rental skiffs and the flounder season seems to last forever. It will be best from now through June, then pick up again in the fall, but in these waters you can catch a flounder anytime for the next six months.