Thursday, November 30, 2023

11.30.23 "Yeah, I threw your F'in fish back".....

     So today was the first time I almost came to blows with a guy on the beach. No doubt a local Prozac Pro-Staffer and poacher, who keeps illegal fish and sells them. It was a scene. I had a vision in my 

nearly disassociated brain of crushing his skull with my heavy DSLR camera. I kept thinking of the scene in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace crushes the soldiers skull with a block of wood attached to a handle. More on that later. 

     So this may a bit long but for me it's worth telling the story if it were to be my last outing of the year. Yeah, I know about the whole Quit thing. But I was off today and it has been good up and down the Jersey Shore so why not. I heard yesterday was lights out and stupid fishing just about everywhere, if you were at the right place at the right time. Now I run pretty much solo with hardly any phone numbers in my Contacts so I'd have to find my own fish if I wanted to catch. There's no spot burning here this time of year so I'll tell my story. 

     I didn't want to see any trucks on the beach. Didn't want to witness muggings or any bad behavior. That's funny, and more on that later. So I started before 8 o'clock in Bayhead. I didn't think Monmouth 

County would be good and I didn't want to do the Route 37 Seaside thing so this was a good starting point. I got dressed and made my way over the dune and was happy to see the birds up and at um. There weren't many guys out so I walked and walked but stopped short of going all the way to the inlet, where a bunch of the birds were working near the beach. Hey, it's been that good, why chase birds? 

     I fished for about an hour and saw one fish caught on my way out. It really never materialized while I was there, it may have went off at some point, but not for me. It's funny when you talk to guys who tell you "Bay Head went off this morning", but wait, I was there? So you never know what happened an hour before you get there or an hour after. 

     I wasn't going deep south and I knew the next town south wouldn't have trucks on the beach so why not hit Mantoloking. I was lucky to find a parking spot and I saw a guy who I met one of the last times I was on IBSP. "Bro are you just getting here?", is not a line you want to hear. Yes, it went off, from 6-8, tons of bait, big and small, and tons of bass, big and small as well. 

      When I walked down I could see what could be described as a crime scene. Bait all over the beach where the tide line ran up the scarp. Little bunker, mid sized bunker, and huge bunker as well. 

      There were birds off aways kind of to my north and I wasn't chasing nor getting all up in a crowd so I stayed put. Guys made there way into the fray and I'm not sure if fish came in under the birds. 

     I picked my spot and blind casted, something I hate to do when I'm into a birds, bait, and bass mode. Not just blitzes, but signs of life in front of me. I always know there are stragglers but I just can't. Me and another older guy spend some time talking about yesterday on this beach. "I stopped counting at 25". "You would have done great". "I'm still tired". Game, set, match. While he made some last casts the 

birds started up with purpose and I questioned wanting to leave. But I wasn't going to sit and wait for a spinner fall hatch that may or may not come. As I walked out I found one of the 9-percenters rolling 

around in the wash. I'm starting to believe that as recreational anglers we do kill 9% of the fish that we catch and release. These days I'm seeing more bass bones rather than the eyeless carcasses of >31" fish.

     I wasn't going south, although I thought about hitting Brad's house in Normandy for a peak, but that would have sucked me in. I didn't want to go home from Seaside so I thought why not check north of the Manasquan Inlet. I hit Sea Girt, then looked as I drove through Spring Lake, and into Belmar. Belmar was the scene of a hot bite last night and at one popular avenue about 20 guys were standing near a groin that had some birds out front along with a  boat or two. 2 guys fishing, 18 watching. Later. 

     So I hit Bradley Beach. It was getting close to dead low, about two hours left on the ebb. It was me and an older guy in his Rockport's just waiting for something to start up. "You should have been here yesterday afternoon". "I lost count". Okay...... But then the birds who were sitting on the water took 

flight and there were bass underneath them. Holy Jesus, this is going to happen and I found my own fish. I made my way out onto the second story high groin and waited with great anticipation. It 

was a high perch but still plenty of access to get down and release the fish that I was going to catch. It was a little sketchy on that last far and high rock especially when that wind kicked in out of the SW. 

It wouldn't be a problem to fish from there, just don't fall. That would be ugly and a scene. I had left the other guy on the beach as his footwear wasn't made for the rocks or the water. As the birds got closer I was psyched, and just like that it died, but not before my new friend got one a bottle plug. He had  

casted out to nearly the distance I was fom the beach. It was just that quick. And it was over. Soon the birds returned hovering farther off the beach. I wondered if that wind going SW pulled the bait and bass off and  it be just like a today, and not a yesterday. 

     It was about 3 o'clock and my long afternoon plan was to hit the Dixie Lee bakery in Keansburg. I would just drive and stop at some spots and get there before they closed. My first stop was Deal and I found a huddle of guys, and a lady, fishing in the remaining water around one of the outflow pipes. There were peanuts trapped by the tide and wind and there were small bass on them. I inched my way 

closer and made some casts before questioning the meaning of my life, "Do I need to sneak in there to catch some 24" bass?", really? So I moved on but not before breaking out the camera and snapping a 

few pics of the bait being harassed. I had the partial view more north of birds in the distance so I jumped on the groin to take a look. Well, I found the birds, and the guys who stayed put in Monmouth County today. Hours of good fishing as the bass were mauling peanut bunker, like real good. I wasn't 

going to walk up there into the fray and I didn't want to be a fringe fisherman hoping to get some table scraps. The fish have been eating for days and already had a big lunch so with that I took the walk back

to my truck Phillips Ave. I contemplated taking my stuff off for a comfortable ride north but I thought let me just check the next three towns before hitting Route 36. As I drove I called Leif who was stuck at work. I told him about my morning and he shared his son's outing this morning down in Seaside, a fish there and then nothing for the effort after a long walk from A 23 to the north jetty. 

     And here's where it gets good. So I was pulled over as I was talking I see a few birds over the wash. There's a few guys fishing off to my right but it's like a nothing, just some guys fishing. There were a lot of birds off a bit so I thought maybe something would happen. I told Leif I would fill him in as it was getting close to his quitting time at work. 

(Taken later than when it went down)

    I make my way to the north side of the large outflow pipe that splits the Long Branch beach. To my surprise I looked down and saw a large bass laying all breaded up in the sand. I was alone. I walked over and placed my rod down next to it to check it against the tape marker on my my rod, it was about 32-33" by my eye. I could see a guys head on the other side of the pipe and yelled, "Yo, is this your fish?". He answered, "No". This is not a case of someone trying to be a tree hugger, bass rescuer, or striped bass size police. It's a fish laying on the beach with no one around. So I reached down and picked it up and made my way into the lower water. Once I got the breading off it started to get its mojo back. I was happy to be saving this striped bass from the death by asphyxiation or getting his eyeballs eaten out by the birds. And I was happier when it "swam away strong". Job well done, or so I thought.

     Just then things started to go off. I stripped out some line and readied my cast. Then I heard, from a guy standing on top of the pipe, "Where's my fish?". "What the fuck, who touches another guys fish?". "What?". I yelled back. And then things went sideways. He comes down all fired up. "I waited all day for that fish". "Do you know how much you just cost me?". "Who touches another guys fish?" "You might as well go home". "You're not fishing here". I went on to tell him "Yeah, I released that fish". And for some reason I engaged him and explained it was an over-sized fish, no one was around, and I had asked the closest guy if it was his. So yes, "I threw your F'in fish back". And I walked away and down the 50 feet to where things were going good. At the styart of it all I was more interested in taking pictures than catching some fish. My only wish was that there was better lighting to capture it all.

     So after a bunch of pictures it was now time to get into them. There were some nice fish in there. But here comes my buddy, still fired up. He walked in the water in front of me and that continued all the way down to Pier Village, which is blocks away. My blood started to boil. I still had my camera in my hand and that's when my vision started to blur and the thought of swinging it to meet his skull ran through my mind. He was a mess. A saltwater starter kit for a rod and an assortment of Rattle Traps and Ava's was what he brought to this party. At one point he went away and when I made a cast here came the Rattle Trap right in front of me. "You might as well leave", he said. Do I call 9-11 or take that swing? I went on to make more pictures. I am disappointed in myself as a story teller that I didn't take a picture of him in front of me, like I needed it to complete this story. Maybe I thought the picture would be of him laying in the sand gasping for air. I could see other guys kinda following and keeping an eye out as this debacle continued. And with that he made a cast and hooked up. What he did was cast a mile and foul hook a bigger fish, which he eventually broke off and had to retreat back to his buds and his bag for another lure. It was all over. 

     The bass were in the wash as the tide flipped to the incoming. The bass were on fire and it was perfect fly rod fishing. While I may have missed some good fishing dealing with my chromosomed challenged friend, I took that time to keep my finger on the trigger and capture the moments.

     The sun was setting and the wind, which felt like it was coming more SSW, then SW, was kicking up a bit making casts a little difficult, but it was manageable, because they didn't have to be very long. I have to say, my blood was still boiling, but I felt better when a guy came over and said, "That guys an asshole. He keeps illegal; fish and sells them", adding, "I should have called on him before". 

     By then the birds had dissipated a bit and the beach was clear except for a few guys. But then as I made my way back to the pipe, and hoping for another encounter with my friend, I saw the birds going good on the south side of the pipe. 

     Even with the escaping light the water was clean so they had no problem seeing my fly. On one cast I was doubled up and during the two-fish fight the second one popped off. These fish, probably ranging from say 25" - 35" are jacked the F up. The water is cool, just above 50, they are on the feed, and they are full and feisty, even the smaller schoolies. As I unhooked my last fish there was a guy making his 

was north and I asked him to snap a quick pic. Just a beautiful and healthy and for me a perfect sized fly rod fish and the incoming waves made the fight just a little for fun. I left them eating and I'm sure the 

bite continued into the dark. Outside of a near homicide I had a great day. Putting in the time, finding, or just running into, my own fish, and bringing a bunch to hand made for a great day off from work. IF, this were to be my last day of 2023 I would be good with that. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

11.29.23 Great "Tie for Trenton Pie" night"...


  Tonight was a real treat for those that attended the monthly Atlantic Saltwater Fly Rodder's "Tie for Pie" night. It was held at The Shady Rest in Bayville, co-owned by a guy you may have heard of, Bob

Popovic's. He had the outdoor bar set up as an impromptu fly tying room and the dozen and a half guys that attended got a Bob presentation, some Trenton Pie, and then a chance to belly up to the table and tie along side one of the all-time greats in this sport. Okay, homage paid, and well deserved.

     Bob talked about his early years and his fly design, how he studied baits in depth in order to design suitable imitations, and showed videos of baitfish, bass, blues, and fly anglers catching fish from Montauk to the Jersey Shore. He told us the story of his favorite fish of all time. It was a June or July 

day in Island Beach State Park to meet up with a friend. As he waited he saw a trio of bass patrolling the trough. He made a sight cast with his crab fly, the one he ties with the extra long legs, and hooked and landed his most memeorable and favorite bass ever. His favorite fishing of all is sight casting to striped bass witrh crab flies. Luckily a guy he knew was there and able to capture it all on video. Check out the footwear. I don't think he expected to have stumbled into those bass that day, and in order to unhook and release it, the New Balances had to get soaked. Sometimes thats just the way things go down. 

     After his talk I followed Bob back into the kitchen where he held up his end of the bargain of the "Tie for Trenton Pie" night. I watched him make four pies, two fra diavolo and two traditional, for the 

boys, there were no girls, to enjoy. Bob's been making these Trenton Tomatoe Pies since the 1950's when he parents had a restaurant in Trenton. If you haven't had one of Bob's pies put it on your list, as well as a trip down to the Shady, especially in the early summer when the roses are in full bloom and the outside bar is open. 

        After he finished his shift at the pizza oven Bobby just took a seat at the long table and fell right into the gang. There was no show, no lesson or instruction, just a guy tying flies with like minded and obsessed people. Those in attendance tied up what ever fly they wanted while Bob stuck to his 

Jiggy flies that mimic sand eels, which depending on who you talk to and from what beach, the bass are chewing on now. I watched as the guys tied and Bob as well. With each tie he would study it, caress it,

to ensure things laid down and looked just right. It was a good night for those that made it. I remember Bobby telling me about the early days of the Atlantic Saltwater Flyrodder's club when the meetings were held, WEEKLY, at his house. It was first come first sit as there were usually more people in attendance than available seats. Guys stood and watched if they could. I can't imagine people in todays world being able to commit to something that runs weekly, outside of a mental health therapy appointment. While it was a good time for all, I was most glad for Bobby. The Shady is like his home, well it has been at times. And we were like those early club members who came for some 

knowledge, some inspiration, some practice, some good food, and good times. Bob said at the last monthly meeting, "Keep the doors open", so that new blood can have an opportunity to meet new friends and learn and grow in the hobby of fly tying and the sport of fly fishing. So if haven't joined the ASWF come to a meeting, or join another club near you. You'll be glad you did. Thanks for putting the night together Brad and Bobby, job well done.  

    And yes after Monday's super a.m. swell and blow out tide and missing a good afternoon bite I logged the day down as Quit #1. Well, that didn't last 24 hours. You see I was going to the Shady, and I would be down that way anyway, so why not at least check things out. A 30 mph west wind on a blow out tide with air temps just above freezing.....perfect. So I got down to the bridge before 230. I drove 

into IBSP after a stop on the outside just to make sure I didn't pass fish to find fish. I drove down to Area 7 and took the hike in. The sun was already getting low and I was freezing after the walk so I knew if I didn't see anything I would be done and just way early at the Shady. Sitting at the bar drinking a Guinness didn't seem like a bad alternative. 

     I walked around a bit and saw the birds going back and forth along the bar but not stopping for anything. I made some casts into a bowl that had about a foot of water in it. It was real low, but water 

was on the way. As I stood there in the tracks I first saw Gerry go by, thanks for stopping (lol), and then Andrew from Orvis. He'd been there all day and had fish when they went off a few hours earlier. He said it was a shit show because as soon as the birds came in or someone hooked up the trucks just bee lined and mugged whoever the lucky angler was. He offered me a ride to drive and fish and I was all in. It was cold and I was cold even after just the short bit of time walking down low on the 

beach. We would stop and see if the birds were doing anything and Andrew's phone would ring when his posse would fill him about what was going on in other spots...nothing. We could see way up north a there were some birds, well a lot of birds, so he dropped me off at my truck and we headed up. There were birds, a few trucks, and a few anglers, for about a minute and a half. 

     The fleet of trucks came out of the park and drove north to the amusement pier. The birds were out a ways but they never came in. The anglers that did stop and fish mostly came and went, although I did see two spin guys hook up after casting something about a mile and a half out. And then the birds 

scooted north and it was over, all 5 minutes of it, and out a mile. Do I wish I got one? Yes. It would have been a good way to end the year with a fish in the books coupled with a great night in Bayville. Some of the guys and gals out there put a long and cold day in, and I get it, you gotta get it in when you can. But for me, I'm done, this is officially Quit #2.....for now.