Monday, December 18, 2023

Best Laid Plans

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." -Mike Tyson

It was the height of the fall run. A Friday in late October tailor-made for paid time off. The primary thing on my mind was false albacore. The goal of this trip was to catch my first of the season and, more importantly, my first ever from a kayak. By now, anglers had been getting their fill of little tunny locally for two months. I was not among them.

After losing the only albie I had hooked all season weeks earlier, I was eager to settle the score. Getting one in a kayak would wash away that feeling and more, but I had to put myself in a spot with high probability and that meant heading an hour east. Also in tow were blackfish gear and a bucketful of crabs. My thinking was to check-off the main target then pivot to tuatog. 

It sounded good on paper. 

I had fished the area before from shore, but not much by boat and never in my Hobie. Between advice from a friend and studying the Navionics app, I pieced together what seemed like a solid game plan. The sunrise was gorgeous and conditions were tranquil, at least to start. After pedaling out to where the cove opened up to Long Island Sound, I spotted the first telltale feed, a little tunny porpoising like a half-moon through the surface of the water. They were around and eating. What could go wrong? 

Well, anyone who has spent time targeting albies knows that some days it seems easy and other days they make you want to pull your hair out. It was definitely the latter on this outing. They were in sparse pods and popping up only intermittently. There were times they'd be on top and within range long enough for one cast, but no sustained feeds where you get multiple shots. It was challenging to dial in a pattern and they were eating microscopic bait that I couldn't identify. To round out my excuses, the flat calm conditions were ideal for spotting these fish, not catching them.

In the hours spent chasing, dozens of boaters motored by en route to their favorite rock piles. I eventually conceded and joined them, hoping to salvage the trip with a blackish limit. The conditions were evolving though: the tide flipped; the wind picked up; a chop developed. Anchoring in a safe manner proved difficult and pedaling against the current to stay planted above structure wasn't easy either. The scenario was perfect for spot-lock technology that I didn't have. Despite jigging up a handful of tog, none were close to keeper size and the expedition was starting to look like a bust. 

I had a hard stop in order to get back home in time for school dismissal. During the long pedal toward the launch, I scanned the area of the day's first albie sighting. Deteriorated conditions established a renewed confidence if I could only get within range one more time. As if the Fish Gods were throwing me a bone in the 11th hour, a small platoon of albies slashed on top about 20 yards off my bow. A few cranks of the reel handle after a well-placed cast and the line came tight. YAHTZEE!

A bundle of frustration and second guessing evaporated in that hookset. Battling a not-so-little tunny from a kayak was everything I expected and then some. Being low to the water and that close to the action was an awesome feeling. The fish made a few memorable runs and had me reaching the rod tip beyond the bow because it was changing directions so much. Throughout the fight, it was pure adrenaline. When it hit the net, it was immense relief. A really cool moment for me that almost didn't happen, but I'm sure glad it did. 

Just like I planned it. 

Thankful to get the hook-up and fight on film.