Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Longest Day

This story original was posted on in November 2007. It is an account of my final surfcasting trip of that season, which turned out to be very valuable in terms of knowledge and experience gained. Although written before the The Connecticut Yankee existed, I thought the piece was worth sharing here. 

The longest day began at 1:30 AM when Paul pulled into my driveway. He wouldn’t let me into the truck without a pair of Korkers, so I knew we were headed a serious fishing destination. We soon departed for Long Beach, NY, to pick up the third and final surfcaster. After loading Chris’s gear into the truck and awing over his Beach Master plug collection, we’re driving over sand in no time.

There was an hour of darkness and a few hours of flood tide left when we arrived at the widow-maker jetty at Breezy Point. I was told that too many good surfcasters have died here and to follow my partners closely. They weren’t kidding–this was by far the hairiest patch of rocks I had ever laid foot on. After a 10 minute white-knuckle walk, we were not greeted by the lone angler tossing plugs off the end. With the help of a full moon, I soon glanced at one of the strongest rips, within casting distance of shore, which I had ever seen. The three of us posted up on different rocks and began a rotation of tossing eels, letting line drift in the rip about 100 yards, and retrieving slowly.

As fishy as this place looked, it was slow going. I eventually landed an obese 26” striper, which little did we know it would be the only fish of the trip. At the first hints of daybreak, our live eels were replaced with bucktail jigs. There are stacks of books written on this style of fishing, yet I have just begun to wade into it. From what I could tell, these guys, with their hand-tied three and four-ounce bucktails and pork rind trailers, knew what they were doing. As good as the action at this spot was only a week before, it seemed the fish and bait moved offshore. Soon the rising sun revealed acres of birds working on the horizon in deeper water. The boatmen pouring out of the harbors must have had banner days as we could only watch with disgust.

The rest of the morning we had show-and-tell with our plug bags, made trades and test swam custom lures. I am sorry to say that after several seasons and many striped bass, my Team Daiwa surf rod snapped while making a routine cast with a pencil popper. Our educated guess was there was a hairline fracture in the blank and that particular cast was the straw that broke the camel's back. As horrible as the snapping sound was, the thought of a new hand-wrapped Lamiglas custom rod built by a fellow club member in the near future cheered me up.

After a few more fun but uneventful hours of running the beach looking for bass within casting range we called it a day. On our way home, we stopped in West End Bait & Tackle to poke around. We walked in on local sharpies swapping stories and smoking cigarettes. On the walls of this small shop hung what the owner claimed to be Long Island’s largest selection of custom plugs. Despite the overwhelming selection, I knew what my plug bag lacked and picked up my first Super Strike darter, a yellow over pearl tried and true fish-catcher.

Paul wanted more eels for his tank at home and we were hoping for a few monsters to skin as well. Sure enough with one scoop of the net, I saw Loch Ness stick her head out. She was not alone. In total we pulled out four huge eels, all over 20-inches long and thick as a brick. The young shop-hand said he would skin one for me, as I had never seen it done in person. He dropped in a few cigarettes into a bucket and the nicotine in the tobacco caused eels seizure and die within a few minutes. The sharpie-in-training then skinned the snake and put it into a Ziploc for my ride home.

After our skinning demo, an old timer with a handle bar mustache walked into the shop, sat down and started eating lunch. To no one in particular, he started spewing out knowledge that was hard to keep up with. For an hour we listened to this guy without realizing yet that it was Billy the Greek, one of Long Island’s most legendary striped bass anglers. Once I realized who we were listening to, I looked over my shoulder and saw his book on the shelf called “Night Tides.” That humbling experience was the trip’s icing on the cake and my only wish was to retain the information that was shared in that shop.

After battling choked New York highways and downing multiple Red Bulls to stay awake, I arrived back in my driveway at 8 PM, rinsed my gear and passed out to dreams about Long Island’s south shore. Although the actual fishing left much to be desired, I learned more valuable information in one day than some anglers do in several months.

No comments:

Post a Comment