Reflection on the weekend

Last night I went up to the North Shore.  After my trophy Friday night, I decided I'd just go and fish some place that I really loved.  The reports were decent anyways.  But, I didn't do so hot, and only landed 2 fish, one "barely-maybe-maybe-not" keeper, and a 21-22" fish- both on the damn SP minnow "blurple flash".  I talked to a few young guys on the beach, and they said it was slow, but landed a low 30's fish.  But enough about that, I want to re-cap the significance of Friday night.

A schoolie from the North Shore

So, as you can probably tell, I've been fishing my ass off.  I have sacrificed my other passion- bike/run racing- to fish.  I have been going through a transition in my life, and this has been part of that transition.  I've always loved fishing, and have been really passionate about surf fishing for the last 7 years.

But it wasn't until the last year and a half that I've really become obsessed.  I've been doing a ton of research, planning, and losing a lot of sleep trying to figure this whole sport out.  Not to mention literally 100's of miles of walking.

Last year was frustrating.  The fish basically never showed up, and I only had a hand full of keepers.

But the thing is, even though I did "a lot" of fishing, I just didn't know what the F I was doing.  I spent about 90 days in the surf, including a couple 3-4 day trips on Long Island and The Cape.  But I was doing it all wrong.  But I learned SO MUCH, and by the end of the season, I was a completely different angler.  No more was I casting 1/2oz kastmasters at 5pm for 20" fish.   I was standing on a rock in Montauk casting a huge metal lip swimmer in the middle of the night trying to catch 30# fish.

Here's the thing.  Go back to the blog post from a year ago this weekend.  In that post, I state that I caught "the biggest fish I had caught that year"...the thing was 22".  That night I caught a 24" and a 25" fish, both bigger than anything I had caught all year, and probably in the top 30 big fish I ever caught.  Yeah, 1 year ago.  And I left the beach at 10pm.  TEN.  Now, I don't even get to the beach until 8-9pm.

I have been so focused, and I really feel like something has clicked.  I feel like, maybe, I can actually react to the conditions I find.  Do I have it figured out?  Hell no, not even close- let me say that again- NOT EVEN CLOSE.  I'm just starting on this life-long journey.

But.  But, I have found consistency.  I have figured out what to do when the wind is blowing North.  Whens it's blowing West.  When the tide is low, when it's high, when it's slack- I'm not just blind casting anymore.  I always have a purpose to what I'm doing- it's not just me tossing a piece of plastic randomly into some breaking wave anymore.

And that's what happened Friday night.  I literally had a fellow fisherman tell me "yeah, I've never caught a big fish in those rocks, only schoolies".  But I didn't believe him.  I looked at the map, I read the tide chart, looked at the phase of the moon, analyzed the barometric chart, and had been watching the winds for days.  So when I showed up to the beach, and decided to turn in the direction I hadn't gone before, I had confidence- there was nothing random about my decision.  And when I clipped on that big metal lip, it wasn't because I thought it is hilariously huge (even though I do), it was because I figured there could be squid around, or black fish in those rocks.

And when I set the hook, I knew they would sink, because I replaced the stock Mustads with ultrasharp VMCs, the barbs had been meticulously crimped, and I spent time hand sharpening the tail hook.  And I had checked my knots before I started casting, and had re-tied the snap end because it looked a bit stressed.

And despite the 32oz of coffee working it's way through my kidneys, I worked that damn Gibbs at a painstakingly slow pace, knowing that I had tuned the lip in the day light to wiggle on the surface with the slowest of retrieves.

At 12:30am, 50 degrees, in a light rain.

As anyone who is serious about this past time knows, you can't be random.  You need to be ready, because when that big girl finally sucks in your floating chunk of wood or plastic, everything has to be ready.

But given all of that, I also want to say: I was shaking like a leaf when I saw that big girls fin slicing through the shallow waves.  I was singing to myself.  I freaked out and grabbed the line and sliced my left hand deep when the big girl thrashed.  And when I tried to take the hooks out, I kept dropping my pliers.  Once I got them out- I couldn't get a good picture, because I felt rushed and unprepared.  I went to release her, but ended up laying her down and measuring again for the 10th time.

I just had to be sure.

I savored every moment of reviving her.  Feeling the weight of her jaw on my hand as I worked her back and forth in the cold water.  I grabbed her by the tail and couldn't even get my hand all the way around.  After a minute or so, I went back to her jaw.  Back and forth, back and forth.  I  will never forget the width of her back, the dark stripes along her side.  How big her eye was.

She chomped my hand hard enough that I said "ow!" outloud, and I let go.  She pumped her tail, and showered me as she swam away.  I was beaming.

And I kneeled in the small swells for at least 30 seconds after the she swam away, totally in shock over the whole ordeal.  It took a set of the three sisters to literally knock me out of it.

After, I ended up forgetting my measuring tape and the tournament tag, and never closed my bag so I lost a needle fish and 2 bucktails.  Despite the cold water, I was sweating my ass off.  And I couldn't stop laughing.

My first trophy size bass.

If I ever I lose that feeling, I'll take up sky diving.