Friday, October 31, 2014

10.31.14 I will always remember Halloween 2014......

     Epic. Amazing. Any word you want to describe it would work. I finally had THAT day. The best day of striper fishing I have ever had. Halloween October 31 2014 will be a day I will remember for a very long time. 


      I started out before light on the rocks. The wind had shifted NE and created lots of waves and whitewater. I fished fishy water without a bump. I left again a little dejected, but I had become used to it. I stopped by Asbury to see if anything was doing and it was more of the same. I ran into Judy who was standing with her kayak crew and I voiced my frustration with fishing for me as of late. I hadn't caught a bass since September 16th. It was getting old. 
     I decided to bite the bullet and head north to a place where the fishing has been real good. Lots of fish and lots of guys. They said the fish had been coming in and they were sometimes in the wash and within fly rod distance, so I went. Now this stretch isn't my favorite, long beaches without groins or breaks leaving sweeps left and right which are tough with the fly rod. 
     This mornings NE had the water moving left to right and as soon as I got to the beach I knew I didn't like it. Guys up and down hooked up, dead bass on the beach, and no rocks in sight. 

     A few guys I knew said the fish had just come through and were heading south so I picked up and went to the birds. I settled in and fished trying to get my fly over the waves breaking at the bar. The birds were over the bait, which was butterfish and small weaks and or bunker, and guy after guy hooked up. I got frustrated again, and soon left feeling that this just wasn't fly rodable or I just couldn't get it done. 
     As I traveled towards my house down Ocean Ave I called a friend Bob and let him know the fish were in the places I had visisted. He had been fishing there the last few days and had caught it when it was good. I made a left on a popular stop and pulled to the water.......and then it got good........

     I said, "Bob, how come I can never catch it when these fish are up on the beach?".......and then I looked up.......and said......"Bob, I don't care what you are doing, get here, there are fish blowing up in the pocket." Before I hung up I asked him to not call anyone, asking "Please just let me have this for a while." 

And I did.

     I was so excited I let a cast go from the top of the wall and retrieved in.....nothing.....second cast.....I saw the mid teen bass blow up on my fly, I was in, now I had to get down to the beach. 

From then on for about 45 minutes I landed bass to 20 pounds. It was surreal. There was one other guy on the other side of the groin in just about as much glory as I was. I continued as the bass chased

the bait practically onto the beach in the pocket. I think my longest cast over the next hour or so was 30 feet. The fish had the bait on the run and they went up and around the groin and back into the pockets on the other side, we just kept moving with them and hooking up, again, and again, and again. I lost as many as I landed, lost meaning good solid chases and turns or missed hook ups. I was in heaven.

     Word must have got out because guys started to show and dead bass started to hit the sand......I had my taste of heaven being all alone and now it was different. I decided to leave them biting to go find my own fish, again. I finally had a good case of bass thumb, one just like the spin angler sharpies have had for weeks......I was proud of my thumb. 

     In the end I landed 16 bass to 25 pounds (41 inches) and left there shaking before heading back to my home spot where I put one more back into the water. I have to thank Andrew Warshawer from Andrew's Custom Flies who sold me the fly I used today. I went out today with one rod and one fly and they served me well all day.

     Between all my stops and all the guys and I saw I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how many fish went back into the water. Yes, there were bass taken, but I didn't see one person leave with two fish, and a lot of big ones went back. I will say, it is disturbing how many fish I have seen being caught and kept on the boats. I think the surf guys get the whole striped bass "problem" and are taking active steps to do their part to help save them. 

I hope to experience what I did today some day in the future, even if its in a year or two, it was that good. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

10.30.14 Quick trip out before heading back to even ground.....

     Had Steve out for a half a day trip. Started out with wind against tide and sloppy conditions looking for bunker and any signs of bass or blues. Drove around a bit before heading across the pond and settling in on tons, I mean tons, of birds working over a rip that had a mix of blues and schoolie bass mixed in. Worked it for a while before the slop and chop won out over Steve's stomach and legs.
     We called it an early day and hope to get out another time in slightly better conditions. It was a tough morning, not only for a first time saltwater fly rodder, but even for someone who enjoys fly fishing in a washing machine.

Monday, October 27, 2014

10.27.14 Hate the stand around and wait bunker blitz fishing......

     It feels like spring out there, and looks like it too, both on the water and on the beach. Tons of boats, tons of adult bunker, and tons of anglers out standing around and on cell phones.
And, like they say, 'If you can't beat them, join them."

     This morning I sat with some friends as we watched bunker pods passing north to south along the beach. Boats were out in full effect and we commented on each's tactic as they approached a pod, and cursed them when they cut off the bunker from the guys on the end of the groins.

     With a NW wind, flat seas, and gin clear water....its pretty much a wait and see kind of fishing opportunity, especially with the fly rod. There were three good fish caught, and released this morning, a 21, 25, and 29 pounder, all on snagged bunker. Kinda hard to compete with that throwing a Kinky Muddler on a fly rod.

     I made my way out to a groin when the crowds had dispersed waiting for the bait to move in and get caught up in a pocket but that never happened. Either way it was a beautiful day, even though my skunk continues, with my last bass caught was September 16th. That's over a month less the 9 days I was at Montauk, I'm ready to go tight real soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

10.26.14 The first good push of bass has arrived......

     Got out this morning after sunrise and was surprised to see I was late for the party. Bunker for miles left to right, tons of boats right up on the groins, and anglers dotting just about every rock tip you could see.
     So there's life here now, actually it showed this week, with most catches coming for those taking the long walk up north. But today it started to spread down the Jersey Shore. Now, don't get your hopes up just yet if your a fly fisherman. Its mostly a large bunker bite with most snagging and livelining bunker for big bass, spring bass, 20-30 pounders. For me it was throwing flies near the bunker that was traveling into the rocks, but without a bite. I saw a few cocktail blues caught but no bass. A little north this morning a 35 pound fish was taken from the rocks on a snag-and-drop bunker.
     I looking forward to the smaller bait invasion which will pull the bass onto the beach. Also the west-northwest wind needs to swing around, and then things should get interesting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10.21.14 Not yet.......

     With weather on the horizon I gave the end of the flood tide a shot. Beautiful conditions but no signs of bait, birds or bass. Thinking following the moon on Thursday might get the bait moving. There's some fish off of New York so maybe that's the first push to start this later than normal fall run. I'm not worried, sick maybe, but not worried as there is plenty of time left in fall 2014.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10.19.14 Orvis 301 invades IBSP......

    So awhile ago Orvis Marlton fly fishing manager Andrew Hamilton asked me if I would be interested in doing an Orvis 301 class in the saltwater. He figured he'd get a few people from the store and we'd go fishing. If we got some interest, fine, if not, we'd go anyway and just fish.

Who knew what it would turn into.

In the end we had 20 students from the Orvis Marlton, NYC, Plymouth Meeting, and Downingtown stores come out for the day. It just grew and grew and grew. Now we had a party.

We met at the bathing pavilion at IBSP and after some introductions we got everyone set with flies, stripping baskets and gear and I gave talk on reading the water, about striped bass, and how to fly fish in the surf. Luckily I had lots of help from Orvis employees on hand, fly fishing manger Tom and Cody from Plymouth Meeting Andrew and Phil from the Marlton store.

The students were eager to get started so I had to try and not talk to much and overload them with info. We had great conditions even though there were big swells from an offshore huricane. But the west wind and outgoing tide played in our favor.

Most were crossover trout fisherman so quickly they learned about fishing in bigger surf, casting into waves, and LINE MANAGEMENT! It was fun to watch first timers go at it, and know that they would be doing it again on their own.

We had a great mix of people, from father and son, to a lone woman, to a very talented and passionate 13 year old. It was all straight 9 foot rods but Bill brought out his 14 footer to throw bigger flies out a mile.

In the end, we didn't catch a fish. Which is more about current conditions of the fishery and timing then for a lack of effort.  (continued)

     Everyone was great. but two students stuck out. Tom, below, is hooked. He picked the snottiest point to fish and got wet, stuck in the sand and knocked down....always getting up with a smile and loving it.


     And then there's Cameron, a sweet 13 year old boy, who took up the sport on his own and is hooked. It is so refreshing to see young kids get into out sport. And can he cast and double haul.

     I talked, they listened, we fished then took a drink and snack break and they fished some more. In the end we went over 4 hours before we ended for the day. Again I have to thank my helpers who were great to me and the students. Afterwards the Orvis guys and a few students went and set up shop at a table at Klee's talking about the day and fly fishing in general. Couldn't have planned the whole day it any better.

Friday, October 17, 2014

10.17.14 Give it away Friday.....

     Yep. give it away Friday. Two person pontoon boat perfect for fly fishing with a platform and built in stripping basket. $2300 new w/o the its $600 with the trailer.

First call takes it   732.261.7291

10.17.14 Getting bait ready for tomorrows Orvis 301 saltwater class....

     Just gearing up for the Orvis 301 saltwater outing tomorrow morning at Island Beach State Park. Lots of people coming out to give saltwater fishing a shot. Should be a great day, west winds look good, might be kinda swelly, and hopefully there's a fish or two looking to eat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

10.14.14 Great night at Central Jersey TU.....

     Great night talking saltwater flyfishing and stripers with the folks at Central Jersey TU. Great crowd and a great place to hold a TU meeting at an American Legion with a bar on the first floor. Very active chapter with a really cool fly shop that they set up for members to purchase flies at each meeting. Love sharing my passion with other passionate anglers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10.14.14 The insanity continues.....

     "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" - Albert Eintein

     That was me out there again this morning, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Einstein may have been talking more about life than fishing, but it applies. It is funny how we think that by continuing in life without making hard choices and changes that things will be different. It just doesn't happen that way.

     I realize now, through a period of reflection and maturity, that change can be good. It might be painful, and upset an already upset apple cart, but sometimes you have to flip the cart over and start to reload it apple by apple. That change for me, starts with an acknowledgement that my thoughts and actions may be skewed, and may have been that way for a long while. I think I have held onto "my plan" for to long in my life and it hasn't served me well. Recently I have changed my thoughts, changed my plan, and made changes in my life, that in the long run, will serve my family and I better.

     So, to relate this to fly fishing, because I have been accused of being too open and honest and personal on this blog, today I changed up. I started before sunrise, throwing a popper into the skinny water, went to a Snake Fly for a bit, and them tried large bunker fly....all with the same results, nada. But even though the results in the end were the same, it felt good to step out of my comfort zone, and it left me feeling better that I tried something different, but in the end I left knowing that the fish just weren't there.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10.12.14 Skinny water fishing and pickin' pockets with great guys......

     Fall is in full effect in north western New Jersey. Today I mixed things up a bit and had Mike and Ed out for a full day on some New Jersey trout streams. We started out the day with a stop at Effinger's getting the boys hooked up with waders before hitting the South Branch of the Raritan. The town of Clinton was in a perfect-fall-day full effect so I of course snapped the above image of the historic mill. The only thing that was a little troubling was there was just no water....anywhere. 
    We moved up river and hit some spots before grabbing lunch and settling in at the Ken Lockwood Gorge. After a stroll we found some water and Ed managed his first trout on the fly rod when a rainbow grabbed his nymph out of a shallow run. 

     After making our way back down to the truck we took a ride to the Musconectcong in the search of some more water and it wasn't there either. We stayed for a few hours and Mike went tight twice but couldn't set the hook quick enough. In the end it was a great fall day on some empty, in both water, anglers and fish, water with some great guys. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

10.11.14 Things changed for the better but the fishing didn't improve......

     As predicted the winds went NE and were kicking making the high to ebb tide waters big and very bassy. Fished for a few hours, pretty hard, without a bump. Most of my work was done on the south sides of the rocks and in the pockets. Not much in the way of birds and bait but they could improve over the next day or so.

Friday, October 10, 2014

10.10.14 Nice morning out front....and a great night at Orvis Marlton

     Got out at 5am with the waning gibbous moon lighting up the beach and the water. West wind and an incoming tide had the water flat.....and relatively lifeless. Fished up and down the beach and on the rocks without a touch. Jumped in and fished with Leif who always seems to find the fish even on a slow day, but not today. As the sun came up a combination of rain bait and peanut bunker was nervous and tight to the beach but we couldn't connect. A wind switch and some waves and good white water should really get things going.

     Last night I traveled down to Orvis Marlton to kick off their Orvis Days. Great crowd and lots of interest from the trout-to-salt group. Several signed up for the Orvis 301 class we are running at IBSP on Saturday the 18th. It is shaping up to be a good group with folks from NYC, NJ, and PA signing up.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

10.09.14 The skunk continues on a brisk pretty morning.....

     Got out before first light and found Lief releasing a small bass he caught in the wash. I had a feeling the fish would be there and I might shake the skunk thats been on my back. I fished up and down the beach and jumped on the rocks tossing a Snake Fly to kind of flat and boring incoming tide water. A few sprays of rain fish or spearing was all that I saw without a swirl or tail slap behind them.
     Yes, there's a catch of bass here and there but it is really scary slow out there. I talked to my buddy who guides in Montauk and he said the albie bite is still hot but the bass haven't showed as of yet. It really is sad that we haven't seen a consistent arrival of bass in September and now October when a fish a two a day is usually the norm.

     This evening I will be at the Orvis Marlton store kicking off their fall Orvis Days. Come on by and say hello and grab a bite and pick up a few things for the fall run, which is looking to be a little later this year than last. Its always a good hang there and a great meet and greet. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

10.06.14 This photo really made me realize something about myself......

     This is about as cool as it gets. When I saw this photo this morning on Facebook I wished I was back in Montauk and wondered if I would ever make it into a picture like this. These are Montauk's best fly fishing guides......and for a week I found myself in their company both in the bar and on the water. They are Jim Levison, Brian Goulart, John Tondra, Jason Dapra, Vinny Catalano, Brendan McCarthy, Paul Dixon, and Andrew Derr. Looking back, and especially after seeing this picture, I realized I didn't just go to Montauk to fish for albies and striped bass........I went to try and belong and fit into a picture like this. I also realize that even if I were to have stood in for the above pic, I, myself, wouldn't have felt like I belonged. That may be in my head, and it may be a little over analytical, mixed in with a little low self esteem and self worth, but that's how I feel.

      Yes, I brought my boat up to "The End", fished pretty hard for a week, and caught and put some guys on some nice fish, but in the end could never enter the fraternity of Montauk guides, yet, because that comes with years of time on the water and back on the docks. Its also something that just evolves and happens, you can't force it or just arrive and try and be a part, and fishing is just a small part of it.

     I had known these guys before I went out and they have always been great to me, and they were great out there, especially Jason Dapra, who continues to be out there fishing hard everyday. Since I have returned, work and fishing has been slow, my Friday boat trip for last week re-scheduled due to the poor fishing.....not that we have to catch....but I have done enough no-fish days with this client so we took a raincheck. 


     Since being back from Montauk I have done what I always do......walk and fish the beaches and rocks, usually alone, really not looking to catch a fish, but searching and "fishing" for something else. It's now I realize why I never really care about catching a fish, in fact, sometimes, the catching gets in the way. That above pic of the guys really moved me, made me realize one of the biggest reasons why I continue to want to guide and be a part of something, to be accepted, to just be. But the funny thing is, I'm just using fly fishing as the vehicle in the search for the meaning of my life.

     My life recently has been a series of ups and downs, some of which I have shared here on this blog. I am getting divorced from my second wife of four years. I live in a house by myself and am setting up my own house and new life. And, I have reconnected with a love from my past that has shaken my core and really put everything in my life into perspective.

     As always I do a lot of deep thinking......and all of the things in my life, at this time, are coming together and finally making sense. That has been the culmination of years of good and bad decisions and choices, weekly therapy sessions, and self reflection and eye opening experiences like going to Montauk. My life is like the tide, I can't control it, it just ebbs and floods everyday. 

So, maybe one day I will make it into that above picture, and maybe I won't, either way I will be okay.  I am starting to feel okay in my own skin, wherever, and whoever I am with, and thats pretty cool.