As we head toward the first of many perch holes Dickie knows from decades of fishing out here, Paula fills me in on the cast of characters around us. The guy anchored midcurrent with four lines out is a union-certified mason who knocks down $37 an hour when he's working. When the big striped bass are in, he stops working, even though they're strictly catch-and-release for the next three weeks. He smiles and waves at Paula. He's wearing his white work duds, right down to the apron, stuffed with bait and tackle. "Guy's nuts," she confides, waving back. "Sleeps in his car to save money, then buys fresh lobster tail for bait if nobody's got herring." She nods at three guys in a private boat, one of whom razzes her about catching all the fish. "Contractor. Works hard. Good fisherman. Drives two hours here on his day off and goes through a 12-pack before noon. His brother's worse. He'll do a case." All kinds of wackos are subject to the river's pull. It's not like any of us three is a poster child for normalcy. Dickie, whose hand-tied bucktails are considered the ultimate perch lure hereabouts, once refused a promotion at work because it would cut into his fishing. Paula, who seldom consumes store-bought protein, is a known eccentric. Me, I'm considered scatterbrained and harmless but accorded a certain grudging respect. Not many at my skill level have the brass to keep showing up.