Sunday, November 5, 2023

11.05.23 Great 18 hours down in O.C....

      I wasn't fishing this weekend. Why go? I've been just what the striped bass need in these times, an angler that is no threat to the stock. I even told Theresa, "If I go fishing this weekend divorce me". I knew this weekend was the Atlantic Saltwater Flyrodder's "Fall Classic" but it didn't fit into my plans. It's been a thing each fall for years. An event held by the club to get members out for some 

fishing and good times. Brad Buzzi, who's club president, works tirelessly, and has for years, to keep the club moving forward, if not alive. He has a small circle of dedicated members who help with the heavy lifting from monthly meetings to get togethers to the fly fishing shows. Kudos and thanks to each of them who keep this going. 

     I had seen some pics of the guys down in Seaside Park where two rooms had been reserved for the weekend. One room was the gathering place where the food and drink were at the ready. About 230 in the afternoon Theresa said she was going for reflexology.......that was after we spent a lovely morning together doing fall and weekend things, like hitting the Columbus and Trenton Farmers Market. I slightly-ever-so-gently mentioned the Fall Classic, and Brad, and Scott, and ....."You should go". Funny thing is she really meant it. And I believed her. In 10 minutes I was gone. 

     I got the lowdown from Scott Stryker. Friday was the first night...nothing going on. Saturday morning was the largest collection of floating vehicles he, and confirmed by Tommy Lynch, has ever seen. There was bunker out of casting range and bass busting through them. Not like last week in Monmouth County busting through them but enough to keep you hopeful. They boys said they saw a few fish caught, but nothing really happening as far as bait and bass inside the bar. The tides are low this weekend at first and last light, so the middays seem to be when it was better. The room at the hotel had been full with about 15 members who stropped by for a visit or a bite, they were gone before I got there. 

     I met the guys at 3rd Avenue and I jumped in Scotty's truck and followed Rick, Paul, and PJ onto the beach. It was perfect conditions and there were hardly any boats, trucks on the beach, or fishermen. 

     We jumped out after looking for a fishy section where cuts and bowls were obvious on the dropping tide. Rich and I are fly only and the other three threw the spinning rods. Scott swam and road tested some of his gliders before switching over to the long rod and tossing out his Beast Fleye which

swims beautifully in the water. Only problem is if there was a bass in the trough it most likely would have been scared out of the water. There just wasn't any bait inside the bars. Paul and his son PJ kept

the fish on the outer bar honest and it was good to have a few spin fishermen around as it's a good gauge to see if there are fish out a ways and out of the range of the fly rod fisherman. I was throwing the two

bunker pattern fly set up blind casting into really sexy water. Compared to Monmouth County the water and structure down here seems so untouched, even though Ocean County has seen it's fill of beach replenishment over the years. But now the beaches are cut up good. No one hooked up and as 

the sun started to set over the bay to our backs it was time to pack up and head to the hotel. Now I had to make a decision. Stay or go. The club had the rooms for the weekend, there seemed to be more fishy stuff showing during the morning, and I never get to spend a lot of time in O.C. or with the boys. 

     Scott dropped me off at my truck and I hit a liquor store in Seaside Heights before getting to the motel. I thought a few Guiness would go down nicely during the evening hang. Well the beers went down easy, the food was good, and the hang was the best part. I had to pull the trigger and make a decision. I stepped outside and into the offcie and called Theresa and she said, "You should stay", and 

so I did. But if I was staying I wanted to fish. The boys were beat from the two-a-day sessions so I was on my own if I wanted to fish. Rich, Paul and PJ headed home so it was Scott, Brad and I holding court. It was mainly talks about fly fishing and fly tying in todays world. We talked of the legends and the current players and where this is all heading to, and who is going to lead it. 

     By 1130 Scott and Brad were ready to call it a night. A few hours later the clocks would be turned back an hour so there would be bonus time on the beach. I made my way outside before heading over the dunes to the beach. It was about 2 hours before high tide and I could hear the surf as I finished up getting ready at my truck. As I did I heard several voices a few trucks away. It was posse of young 

surfcasters who were voicing their displeasure with the lack of a bite for two hours, where they were going next, and where would they get something to eat and drink. It was refreshing to hear. They fish hard and fish alot. I just loved speding time with them and listening to their stories. They know each other but are a mix of Jersey, Pennsy, and Delaware boys. So we parted ways not knowing what the

night would hold. It was the last quarter of the moon and there was plenty to keep the surf lit up. I had to walk a bit reading the water to find where it emptied out and where the troughs were. There were a few spin fishermen out there but most of the guys I ran into, almost literally, were soaking bunker. 

     By 2 am I was back in the room and ready to hit the couch. Luckily there was a spare pillow and blanket and I fell asleep quickly before setting the alarm for 5 am. Around 4 am Brad's bladder must have been calling and I heard him so I got up, it was as good a time as any. But I needed some coffee. I knew the shittiest 7-11 ever opened was up in the Park so I made the quick trip. To my surprise Betty and Nicks was opened, and it was a little after 4, and there were customers stocking up on fresh 

bunker from the big white cooler. The coffee I got there never tasted so good. I hit the beach and found the conditions a little more manageable and easier to read. I was confident I would get bit. I had 

changed over to my black two-fly set up and walked deep into IBSP to find a bowl not occupied by guys and was to my liking. One guy had a bigger fish on a bunker chunk that flipped off in the wash, that just ruined his day, but it gave me hope. As first light arrived more anglers started to show and I could see 

the tail lights of the beach buggy brigade start to make their way onto the beach. Then Scott called and asked me, "What the F are you doing?", as it was go time. So I double timed it back to the motel and jumped in Scott's truck. Rich had already headed up for the early scout and we would find him easily. 

     As soon as we pulled onto the beach we saw a pod of bait and a bluefin, like no doubt, or it was the biggest albie in the ocean, breach the water next to a boat that was moving in. Tom Lynch was just ahead of us and after a quick scout he made a move into IBSP as that's where most of the boats seemed to be heading. We had some near us 

and you know how that goes. One boat stops, then another, and then there's twenty. If you look below by clicking on the image you can see the flotilla right outside the Manasquan Inlet, and to the south the fleet was building off Barnegat Inlet as well. We fished for a bit and watched a guy who was steps away

from Route 35 hook and land an over-slot bass that got the full sand breading and photo shoot before being released back in. That fish was also on a fresh bunker chunk. So we stayed a bit after and watched 

the economy-is-bad selection of some of the finest fishing boats out there. My favorite are the ones with trips or quads in the back that like to cut in between the fleet and the beach surfing the bar heading south on the gas. Our new plan was to hit IBSP and ride it for a while looking for signs of life. It was more 

boats on bait from what we could see from the beach. We saw the Big Mohawk, a Belmar head boat, down deep into IBSP so I wondered was going on, or not, up north. We just drove and then stopped and 

got out and watched for a bit. We saw one center console get a little too close to the bar and go up and sideways when the swell carried him in. It looked real sketchy there for a second but he motored out and was safe, tucking his tail and retreating into the middle of the boat crowd. 

      We had had just enough of fly fishing this epic Jersey fall run so we made for the exit to get back to the motel to help Brad break it all down and cleaned loaded up in his truck. He had to wrap all this classic stuff up because it's bucktail processing season and the International Fly Tying Symposium is next weekend so he needs to have plenty of stock for the show. And Brad, if you read here, remember my black!