It is the end of the day and the sun hangs low and red over Sengekontacket Pond. The waters of Nantucket Sound are relatively flat due to a southerly shift in the wind earlier in the afternoon, but a few small waves break on the shoreline. Schools of bluefish surface about a quarter mile offshore. Terns follow the schools as they erratically move along.
In the water, David Nash of Edgartown casts for stripers and bluefish. He stands wet up to his knees casting his flyrod. Mr. Nash, 63, wears the usual fisherman garb: a vest, waders and a cap with a light on the brim. His plastic stripping basket is belted to his stomach. On the basket are three stickers: the Vineyard Conservation Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association and the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. Over the years Mr. Nash has been active in all three organizations.
Recently Mr. Nash was honored by Field and Stream magazine as one of three Heroes of Conservation for the month of May. The award was for his work in trying to establish a public-access fishing pier in Oak Bluffs. The pier was recently approved for funding.
Mr. Nash moved to the Vineyard with his wife Robin Bray 10 years ago from Meriden, Conn. He came to the Vineyard to retire but not to stop working.
“We did not move here to have clambakes and go fishing all summer,” he said. “We didn’t move out here to be tourists.”
Mr. Nash was a regulator with what is now known as the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. He was involved in the management of waste and other environmental concerns. What attracted the couple, he said, was their love of nature and the community of naturalists. While he had the expertise to organize and administer, Mr. Nash said he chose to help nonprofits in a quiet way behind the scenes.
“You don’t come here to tell people what to do. Step back,” he said. “When needed, you offer to help.”
Volunteering was new. “When I worked in Connecticut all I did was work. I never volunteered.”
Mr. Nash turns his head and looks down toward the Bend in the Road Beach. “See. There is someone reeling in a fish.”
Flyfishing is a wonderful sport for connecting to finfish, he said. “It is the touch.”
Unlike with conventional fishing which focuses on the rod and reel, flyfishing is all about the touch. With the line in his fingers, he feels the fish take the hook. Mr. Nash uses barbless hooks, which means that it is easier to catch and release a fish.
Without a barb, keeping the fish on the hook is only achieved by keeping the line tight. Fishing is as much an artform as a skill, he said.
“I don’t consider myself a good fishermen. There are so many unbelievably amazing fishermen here. I learn something every time I go out fishing with these guys.”
“I like the five weeks of the fall derby,” he said. “But you can’t beat spring when the striped bass arrive. It is when the water comes alive. Everything is growing, breeding, feeding and migrating.”
Mr. Nash said he and his wife keep a calendar each year noting the coming and goings of the natural world. The calendar is dominated by the movement of the avian community. His wife writes in the arrival dates of the different birds they see. “I sneak in the fish dates.”
The distance of the schooling bluefish is only 200 yards away. The terns dive to where the fish are schooling and surfacing. The low sun illuminates each splash. “This is where my love for birding and fishing merge.”
Mr. Nash serves on the board of the Vineyard Conservation Society and for the last six years he has helped organize its annual beach cleanup. He also helps out at the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.
The Heroes of Conservation award comes with a $500 gift. Mr. Nash said he plans on donating it to the Derby and the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club for their programs for children.
“What I did to deserve the award pales behind what others have done in conservation,” he said.
As the sun sets Mr. Nash said he is already thinking of other places to fish as the season unfolds.
I take home very few fish, he said at the end of the evening. “It is about being out there.”