Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008


Well, I failed to continue writing here throughout the fall season. I am not sure why. But it had nothing to do with a lack of fishing or being out on the water. The season was quite good to me. It wrapped up like this:

Several days of large bass in the rips of Duxbury and Plymouth and eventually some very large blues came in and stayed. The pogies were thick and easy to harvest for livelining, or in Joel's case, for dinner (!) [more on that some other time]. But as the season drew to a close I had one more good opportunity for tuna.

I went out on four or five tuna trips this season. A couple out of Duxbury where we saw the fish but couldn't hook any (and viewed amazing whale displays), and three with Jeff Smith out of Wellfleet. These were productive. The first of these three was amazing and produced Joel's first tuna. We each hooked up and landed at least a couple fish, lost just as many. Second trip with Chip Cornell was a skunker. Weather was poor and fish were thin and spooked. We covered lots of ocean, saw some, had a few shots, but nothing. So to remedy this, Chip and I joined Jeff again over Columbus Day weekend and ended up hooking, landing, losing, fighting more fish than we could physically handle...spin and fly. This was the best day of fishing yet. And I am going to write my account of it soon (as promised).

But right now I am short on time. It is 20 degrees outside and soon I will be bundling up to head out on the water to harvest oysters. It is supposed to snow and sleet tonight and tomorrow so the shellfish need my attention today.

It is also 2009. So the next blog page will be developed in the next week or so. Also will be putting together at least one more that focuses more on the waterfront here (akin to Marty's Nantucket Waterfront News) where I'll share some photos and video of the bay throughout the seasons.

All for now. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shaky Hands


August 29, 2008

This story is about the 2nd annual Duxbury “One-Fly” Tournament.

I hate tournaments. The men milling about, grasping for testosterone-boosting tales to tell, trying to look professional, like they’ve been doing this longer than the other guy…and such. Then off to the water to kill every fucking fish they can find, including sharks. The shark tournaments are the worst. Hundreds of them get slaughtered, like fish, and thrown out with the trash because they weren’t big enough for the trophy. I assume the trophy fish also get thrown out in many cases.

But I need to admit, if that is the right word, that some tournament fishermen are true sports fishermen and don’t attempt to needlessly kill fish and sharks. I am not one of them because I really don’t like the traditional tournaments and what they do to both the image of fishing and the fish themselves, never mind the whole ecosystem. So I don’t participate, and really, I want to let you know that I am aware of how smug and pompous these two paragraphs make me out to be. They are smug and pompous, just the right subtitle that should be tacked under most fishing tournaments. So there.

Well, really what I wanted to write about mostly is the fun I had with my friends, and newly acquired friends, throughout the planning and implementation process associated with this one-fly fishing tournament. But let’s just get a couple things straight at the start. First, you’re allowed to use two flies, so I reckon we’ll need to vote on a new name for next year’s tournament. Also, the tournament’s prizes are worth less than the underpants you are wearing right now. Lastly, the tournament is designed such that if we were to hold one every day of the year, we would probably increase the striper population by driving most other fishermen out of the bay while hooking magnitudes fewer fish than Santa, thus saving the species from its impending collapse. Hmmn?

The tournament rules and regulations are too dull to ensure that you’ll keep reading this piece, so I’ve left them out. But basically it is all about getting the biggest striper on one fly pattern throughout the day….but you get two flies to work with, which is why it is called the one-fly tournament. We form teams of two and mix everyone up such that each boat has conflicting yet complimentary interests: you team with someone on another boat AND with who you’re fishing with (for the boat prize) and for yourself (to get that spiffy jacket that could be used for picking up chicks at the Winsor a couple hours after the annual beach party ends, unless the winner is a woman who then, of course, could pick up a wide variety of eager men at the Winsor at any of the 4:30 pm opening times).

But first there is the planning process, sometimes more fun than the actual event because geez, getting 47 emails each afternoon is truly an ego boost (until you read each one of them) and you get to vote on crazy stuff like how to officially measure the fish, what plaid designs should be considered for the coats, how many bottles of Mt. Gay Rum will be necessary, who the hell is going to provide the dinner fishes, and such. Right now you think I am being sarcastic, and I am, but with a smile because all this stuff is fun and we’ll keep doing it every year.

The tournament itself is also fun, if you like to fish under a radioactive scorching ball of reacting hydrogen. Yes, that’s right, we fish mostly throughout the midday on this one – gotta make things tough on ourselves. Last year it was on a Saturday which added several additional handicaps to the mix: fourteen-thousand Grady Whites, a few dozen jet-skis, and lots of sailboats. This year we did it on a Friday to make sure we’d avoid these distractions and compete only against the commercial striped bass fleet. And this we did.

I can’t report on anyone else’s tournament experience, just my own. Rob Fawcett and I fished hard and sober all day long. We hooked stripers and blues and eventually lost our two flies to end up throwing sluggos into a cool rip at the end of the day for an amazing array of keeper bass and blues. Just like last year. The flyfishing was fun until we witnessed J. Nash, within the first half-hour, land a 36 incher in one of our popular spots. A sight that immediately crinkled my manhood while boosting his. But we all had fun and by 3:45 I am betting that all entrants were thinking more about rum and tonics, oysters, and the cheese plate than getting cut off again by the exquisite bluefish. By 5:45 this was proven true by the parade of cars and trucks that descended upon the Nash barn (his wife and kids gagged and tied to chairs in the cellar) and quickly devoured the food and beverages like termites in a rotten stump.

We carried on throughout dinner which consisted of amazing stripers and tuna (mine sat unwanted in a lonely blue/white cooler in the driveway) and other fixings. We handed out the awards, munched on cookies, drank more drinks. Then the best part of the night drew upon us and one by one, the jokes (most of them embarrassingly dirty) bloomed to the point to where the final one told, the last joke of the night, curled the group up into quivering, spasmodic adolescents. It was a good one.

But seriously folks: the one-fly tournament was one of my summer’s highlights, even if it really isn’t full of blood and gore. It is full of guts and good times and I will remember each one for the rest of my days. I think that is the ultimate intention.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dig, Joel, Dig!

August 21, 2008

*Photos provided by Capt. Jeff Smith. Permission pending. (www.finaddiction.com)


It had to be done. My brother-in-law, Chip, and I spent a morning off the Cape with Jeff Smith last summer and, of course, we hooked into some nice tuna on spinning gear. Our rewards, and stories, were shared with Joel, who by then had the bug to make it happen at the next chance. So earlier this year he pressed me for some dates (all mostly agreeable) and he pulled the trigger to hire Jeff out for another trip. This is the trip we took today.

Tuna fishing, as I’ve learned, is quite an art. There are many, or that majority, who rig themselves up to their necks in big boats, expensive trolling gear, and full bars. I’ve done all that. The style more appealing to me is to head out with spinning gear, find them, and cast to them. It is harder, for sure, and some people won’t want to put in that much effort. Good for them – keep trolling.

The story is this: last night we left a party being thrown at my own house to get at least part of the way to Truro, our point of departure. Joel and I arrived in Chatham and couldn’t resist a GnT at the Squire to at least look at the clientele, and this was done and it was pretty good. All kinds, and good GnTs (I highly recommend the bar at the Squire). Then to my mother-in-law’s house where we would depart for the Pamet in a few hours.

The morning was perfect. Only a bit of a breeze coming out of the north. Jeff met us at the dock and, after a slight delay, we made our way out through the rolls of the Race and into the more quiet waters of the Bank. This was a perfect morning; clear, but some seas and Jeff felt that this was better than smooth water. Plus it kept a few boats back in port.

We quickly rigged up and took position. There weren’t any fish surfacing in our area, but the birds and the location were what our guide felt would be the indicators. Joel was up in the bow with an unweighted Sluggo and I was in the stern with a weighted RonZ.

I want to report that it was my first cast that caught the first fish, but really my first cast was a practice one; I was trying to get a feel for the heavy braid that I had not used in about a year. But Jeff had indicated that he’d found them down around 50 feet and I asked him what he thought the count would be to get the RonZ down to them. Twenty to 25 seconds was the answer. So that next cast, the second one, was it. I counted perhaps to 15, cranked the reel about 3 times and felt a sudden, very strong strike followed by a run that screamed off about 200 m of the braided line.

It didn’t stop.

Fish on, I said. And soon Joel’s laughter and eager support was audible. My first fish of the day screamed as it removed a lot of line off the reel and this made me remember how long and painful it can be to land a tuna with attitude. Meanwhile Joel’s line began to sing and he was on his first (ever) bluefin tuna. This was a big event. I heard \a few howls of pleasure and excitement from the bow. Soon Joel and I were darting around the boat trying to keep our lines apart as both fish circled the boat in opposite directions. We managed to keep them free and clear of one another; we’d already have had much practice doubled up on fish. My fish was out a decent distance and I began to tire, but the fight wasn’t as long as I had thought it would be – perhaps 40 minutes. In the end it turned out that the fish had managed to tail wrap the line after shaking the hook free. It was only one wrap and hadn’t damaged the fish at all which made it an easy release. Meanwhile Joel’s fish held fast and slowly, after over an hour, Joel’s strength eroded to the point that he needed a little help. So, being rested and able, I quite reluctantly took the rod and powered the thing in. This fish was nice – measured out to 54 inches and was probably between 110 and 120 pounds. The photo session was politely brief, the fish bled, and into the box on ice.


OK, so we’re almost done with the story. Jeff continued to get us to some gooey areas where we just knew the fish would be (at least, Jeff needs to get the credit for sniffing out these spots). We hit a nice zone where Joel and I did manage to hookup again. What I insisted was a dogfish or small striper turned out, instead, to be a good sized tuna that must have been swimming toward the boat until it realized it was hooked. At that point the reel went spinning like a tornado and I had to goose-hop around the stern to keep the line from being cut under the boat. Ultimately the fish tailwrapped after about 20 minutes and released (quickly). Soon Joel was on another and he relived the first fish’s fight, though a little easier. This fish was landed, revived, and also released.

After these two fish we were physically tired and satiated. A large tuna was in the box, and we were on the way for some bluefish. Bluefish?!?! Yes indeed. See, some of us actually like the fight and the taste blues and the day was getting on. So we did this and it was fun. A few drifts along the Race, where just about every Cape tourist seemed to be, and we had our blues (with Jeff’s help).

The fish was dressed back in Wellfleet and we hurried to get back to Duxbury to have our celebratory pint or two at the Winsor House. The bartender’s mouth watered at our fishing stories so Joel ran out to the truck and soon returned with some sashimi slices for her. Might as well share the wealth.

Next up: The 2nd Annual One-Fly Tournament (and all those big fish we caught before it started)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Next Up: Joel Gets His Tuna (so do I)


I haven't had the time yet to gather my thoughts to write the next report. So keep checking in. I'll have the topwater tuna stories up in the next day or so. It was the nutz, in case you're wondering.

John

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Media

Here are some additional low quality pictures and video from Saturday's trip (see report below).


Ah yes, back at the ramp for all to see.



This swivel-less snap gave up the ghost the second that Joel landed the corker in the boat. He had opened the fish's mouth and an assemblage of metal junk, including the hook, just fell out. Lucky.



A case of moral relativism:

Happy - Joel
Unhappy - Fish




All that fishing made us a little hungry. Joel took a bite of this poor, unhappy bunker then tossed it in the water for yet another keeper.

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Some vid clips:


video
video
video
video

Monday, August 18, 2008

All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes



Saturday, August 16, 2008

I don’t even know how to start this one. But here it goes, right to the point: Joel joined me on the water and landed his largest striper (or fish, for that matter) ever. Here’s how the story goes…

It had been a so-so summer for me and Joel in terms of fishing together. In previous years we would already have several days of wild fishing stories under our belts by mid-August. But this year was different. Partly due to our schedules and partly due to the marginal luck we had had so far. Early season outings were dampened by poor weather or mediocre tide conditions. Then there was that streak of bad luck due to having Dave Grossman on board to photograph us. Dave was worried that he’d become the banana in the boat, but that changed when finally I took him out to witness an orgy of keeper bass on the surface. Maybe Joel was the banana.

But anyway, a day finally surfaced free for both our schedules and I was happy about that. Joel and I have a blast fishing together. We tend to go all out and we often tend to do well. But most of all, it is fun to fish with Joel. I was telling him a few days ago that I was really looking forward to having a day on the water where we’d relive some of the best fishing times in the history of mankind. Seriously.

Five AM was the start at Mattakeesett and soon we were in the harbor, among a few other early risers, to snag a few pogies. I assumed Joel would be into getting right into some livelining – a fishing technique we rarely, if ever, attempted together. Usually we’re throwing specific topwater or swimming lures (many are custom designed by Joel) or we’re flyfishing. Baitfishing was something we both had ample experience doing, but not together. (We did do some awesome livelining in the Bahamas for barracuda, but that’s a story for the future archives, if I can write that). And really, we’re not purists in the sense of one fishing technique over the other. Basically, whatever is challenging and fun is the rule.

So in the harbor, in the low dingy light, we snagged about a dozen pogies (menhaden, aka bunker or “moss bunker”) and kept them alive in my baitwell (a black fish tote fed intermittently by 5-gal bucket). Then we cruised out to an area that I had only fished a few times with live pogies. The tide was dead low and the idea was to drift along the incoming in this area where large bass were known to hang out. On our way to set the drift we witnessed a guy hook into a large fish and our hopes shot up. I felt like we were definitely going to score some large fish this morning. And only ten minutes into our first drift we did get some action on the live pogies, but no hookups. After moving around a bit and getting nothing we decided to move on. I had other spots in my mental map and the tide conditions were now perfect.

I can’t use the name here, but we arrived at a named spot somewhere in the bay where I have had years of good fortune with big, and I mean big, bass. It was a regular spot for many people, at least the area around it attracted boats. Typically I would refrain from fishing there if others were around. So we did a few drifts there, along with another boat who seemed happy to be hooking up. My manners got in the way, however. I wouldn’t get into the honey hole while the other guy was there. This would be fine, usually, but this time I got a little pissed off because the other boat (a Grady cabin) decided to motor itself steady into the rip which posed a dilemma to those of us who don’t want to fuck things up for the other guy. Akin to anchoring, this guy kept his motor steady through the rip and most likely scared off lots of fish, and kept me away.

So off to another site we went, keeping the pogies alive with constant replenishments of water with the 5-gal. The next site was poor…full of mung and looking bare. Ugh. I really wanted this trip to be productive and Joel did too. We discussed the possibilities – just an hour into the flood, which is a tricky moment on the bay because the fish are in (or out) of new and interesting areas. So we just kept our focus on the rips. I decided on a specific place to set up for a while and it wasn’t too far off. An amazing sunrise with the prospect of some low clouds, mist, and rain which would be good to keep the fish up and the idiots away. We did see some idiots, by the way. Upon setting up on some nice drifts we were fairly frequently accosted by folks who figured that if they simply find a boat fishing then that is where the fucking fish are and just simply plop right up next to us, after a few hesitant 360s (because they don’t know what they’re doing) , and watch, and fish with the wrong tackle. But I won’t get started on all that.

Basically Joel and I ran this rip alone for quite some time and this is how it went:

Joel, with live pogie, got his bait hassled by big fish, then…caplumpt! Line went out and we were in business. It was a pretty long fight, I had no net, just Joel’s homemade bamboo short gaff. Joel brought the big fish up to the boat and so I gaffed the thing (nice and clean like) and it came up on board. Woah…wow…a nice one. We both literally couldn’t speak, talk, or really communicate because the laughing, rather – wheezing – was too thick to cut through. It taped out to 40 ½ inches and was just beautiful. “Wow, holy fucknuts daddio,” said Joel. “This is the first fish I’ve taken on live pogies!” Indeed, a beauty and it was, as Joel has exclaimed in previous situations, the fucknuts.

Joel’s next fish was a screamer. Took lots of line out and after some good fighting, the line parted and that was that. Joel figured it was a knot he left in the braided line that cut through itself (later we figured otherwise). And he was pretty pissed. He was almost as pissed as I was, having not had a good hookup yet. But I didn’t mind. This morning was one of those one-sided situations where one guy gets all the luck. That’s the way it goes.

So, to continue describing his amazing streak of fortune, Joel’s next fish was landed (due to my agile gaffing techniques) within 10 minutes of the previous breakoff. This one was also nice – 37”. He was on a roll.

So we ran up to the next drift and set up ourselves. Joel asked me about the dead pogies, whether to save them for the lobster pots or whatever. I said, “We should probably throw a chunk out there as we liveline and cast. “Sure thing, dadio.”

But what Joel ended up doing was totally intuitive and I understood exactly what he was up to. He began to filet a pogie. That’s right, filet a pogie. He only did one side, then removed as much of the bones as possible from the remaining one-sided frame. This rendered the poor thing as a floppy, bleeding lure which Joel tossed over into the deep eelgrass. And then in about 3 minutes the line was screaming and I reached for the bamboo gaff, as if I were a conditioned chimp.

This thing took so much line off of Joel’s reel that I actually asked if things were OK up there on the bow. “Daddio, I think you might want to motor up on this one a little bit.” Hmmn. So I did, then again, then again…we didn’t cover much ground, but allowed Joel to at least get 20 m of line in. Still lots to go. So in the end, the fish finally succumbed and showed itself to us. It was of an amazing size and I readied the gaff and after a few clumsy attempts, hooked the gill and brought him aboard.

Holy Fucknuts. This fish was absolutely huge. Upon its landing Joel and I just dropped everything and wheezed for a good five minutes…seriously, we couldn’t hold it in and had to simply laugh to exhaustion. This was to turn out to be Joel’s largest landing: a striper that measured out to 48.5 inches and weighed 41 lbs. Yar, indeed.

We went in and ate an early lunch with our morning coffee. Everything was out of synch, so after some tackle work we ended up out on the water again. This time on the dropping tide, Joel managed another 31 incher, as did I but on a sluggo. Then we moved to some active rips and went crazy with somersaulting stripers that averaged the mid-20s in length and this was really fun. We stayed out until a squall started throwing bolts our way and then made our way in.

Back in the driveway Alex M. and Jon N. showed up to share beer and fish and stories, and this made a great end of the day. Rain, lightning, and thunder accompanied our short happy hour. The day ended and I was onto the next world of dinner parties and family activities, leaving the moments of Joel’s amazing day in my memory.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time for Dinner



Tuesday, August 5

With the weight of yesterday’s so-so afternoon of fishing with Ben and Kelly on my shoulders, and a major appetite for some fish for dinner, I departed with keen instincts matched to catch and not to release (legally of course). I meant business this time.

The afternoon started with a bang. I found a couple of schools of menhaden and easily snagged enough for the trip and kept them going in my makeshift livewell. Then off to my favorite big fish rip. The plan was simple: liveline a menhaden off of one end of the boat and strategically cast surface lures off the other. It worked. Within a few minutes I had a striper on the liveline, but also one on the other line. A dilemma. The livelined bass seemed to be okay as I quickly unhooked a 25” striper off my Sluggo and didn’t appear to be going anywhere fast. But then when I finally got around to applying pressure on that line he woke up and screamed the line off the reel through the strong currents. It was a beautiful scene with eelgrass below and broken sunlight nearing sunset. The fish fought for some time and I had to be careful not to cause a commotion as the drift brought me closer to the other boats that had unintentionally, and mistakenly, lined up to fish on the wrong side. He was brought in, and although I didn’t need to measure him I did and he was 32” and quite healthy. The last third of the menhaden was hanging out of his mouth for a few moments which brought on a short-lived feeling of guilt for the situations of both of these fine fish. But they’re fish, not humans. And after all, I was just as hungry as that bass.

The second keeper came on the next drift on one of Joel’s double-rigged white Sluggos. This one was smaller but respectable (29”). I bled them both under the stern using a length of black nylon line with a leash clip on one end that Jon Nash gave me last month. And then they were in the boat and I was off to my next couple of spots as the area was getting crowded and I didn’t want to give the right spot(s) away.

The evening continued on the upside. Another dozen or so fish in the mid/upper 20s. They were very active and engaged both Sluggo and homemade poppers. Then the phone rang to remind me of my promise to be home at a certain time and that was it.

The photos here are pretty awful in terms of quality and I apologize for that. They were taken with my all-weather/condition cell phone which has been in the saltwater and mud for a few months now. I’ll replace my old camera soon....It costs about as much as a guided trip out to the rips with me.