I only fished with Randy Julius one time. It was on Cape Cod, and it only lasted a couple of hours, but it was such a good experience I have savored it for years: Late morning in East Sandwich, maybe 200 yards from the beach, on a tidal creek, fly fishing for striped bass, or “stripuhs” as we called them on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Randy and I grew up in the same town, East Bridgewater, but we never fished together until that day, maybe 20 years ago, when he drove me, my brother and my son to Scorton Creek, or, as Randy called it, “Scawt’n Creek.”

We had more than East Bridgewater in common. We had an affinity for fishing and writing. I had left town in the 1970s after college to work for The Sun in Baltimore. Randy had made a career of the outdoors, writing about fishing and hunting for the Brockton Enterprise. He was also a gifted wildlife artist and musician. My mother used to clip his Enterprise columns and mail them to me. When I bugged him to take me fishing, he was generous with his time and knowledge. He had a robust love of nature, an authentic lust for the outdoors, and he was an affable fellow who instantly made me — or, I get the impression, anyone — feel like an old friend.

So we went to Scorton Creek on a summer day, and the tide had turned. We hiked over dunes and through some marsh grass to get to a big bend in the creek. The tide was really moving out now, and I think it was about 11 o’clock when I heard Randy shout, “Cast upstream! They’re swimmin’ backwards with their mouths open.”

I had fished for stripers, or rockfish, in the Chesapeake Bay, but never in such fast-moving and shallow water, so I didn’t quite understand this order at first. But here’s how Randy explained it: The stripers had chased bait fish, mostly eels, into Scorton Creek on the incoming tide. Now, with the tide headed out and the water in the creek dropping, they were swimming backwards, or sort of sideways, looking to gorge themselves on eels that were also headed out with the tide. 

It worked. I cast a large chartreuse crystal bugger upstream, into the frothy outgoing tide, and hooked up almost immediately. We both caught fish, but I can’t recall how many now. I know that one striper was in the range of 28 or 30 inches. It was exciting to catch them in fairly shallow fast-moving water. This whole experience lasted about two hours before we had to head home. I continued to bug Randy about fishing, summer after summer. But we never connected again. For all the reasons you can imagine — bad timing, family responsibilities, the weather — it just never happened.

The last time we communicated, in early 2017, he said he hadn’t been fishing much because his 18-year-old boat needed a lot of repairs. “My few trips have been in a kayak,” he wrote, “which is great when the fish are in easy paddling distance. I also have some good shore fishing locations as well, depending  on when you’re here. Give me a call when you are up this way and we’ll get out fishing somewhere.”

I invited him to come down to the Chesapeake for striper fishing or to go trout fishing with me in the great rivers of western Maryland. “The places you mentioned down your way sound great and I’ll keep that in mind for the future,” Randy wrote. That was the last time we corresponded.

Now comes news of his death. I read his sister-in-law’s wrenching, beautiful post about it, and just as I feel profound sympathy for Randy’s wife and family and all who knew and loved him, I envy them for the time they got to spend with him. I wish I had had more of it. God rest his soul.

“So we beat on, boats against the current . . . .

11 thoughts on “Randy Julius: Stripers swimming backwards

  1. Hey, Stranger. This is a wonderful tribute. I may be able to get the Enterprise interested in using it, if that’s OK. Can you email me? Ken Johnson (The guy who tried to lure you back home a very long time ago)

    Like

  2. Hi Dan, Thanks so much! Great tribute! Made me “puddle up” of course… but it also made me smile with the memory of him calling the fish during a lull …”Here stripa, stripa, stripa …Here stripa, stripa, stripa” He sure did know how to find them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dan,
    Maureen Boyle forwarded your column to me and I shared it to my Facebook page. It has meant so much to me. Your words are beautiful. Thank you from my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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