1 Good fish and a lot of apprehension

Starting mid-week last week

Decided 1 week night every week is going to be an exploration night at my new spot.  I want to learn it, and to learn it means trying different things.  Forcing myself to go on the same night every week results in different conditions.  I had a good plan going into the night, and it paid off.

Started the evening out in the light- I couldn't drag my feet enough to keep myself from getting there just a bit earlier than I would have liked.  However, right away I had a few short hits on the first cast.  Hard wind in my face, rolling surf.  Tossing 3/4oz chartreuse bucktail but couldn't stay connected so switched to the next size I had in chartreuse which was 1.25.  Landed a dink- at literally 12" or so- on the first cast with that.  Over the next hour I had all kinds of short hits on the bucktails, mag darter, and swim shads- and landed 4 or 5 more fish, but none over 22-23".  Two were very small, <15".  However, I did have a much larger- but not huge- fish follow the larger size mag darter right to my rock.  That gave me hope, I won't speculate too much on size, but it was at least a keeper.

So, as night really closed in, I switched to what I deem "more serious" plugs.  Needles, darters, metal lips.  I fished for a while with only 1 small fish on a SS needle.  I decided to try and turn and cast sideways to the wind and let my lure sweep into a rocky boulder field.  I thought it was a big risk, but put on my trusty SS darter anyways.  Surprisingly, I didn't hang up once over three casts, so I stuck with it.  Around 9pm, as it was sweeping past my 10 o'clock, it just stopped dead.  Just stopped.  I slammed the hooks home.

Commence big fish head shakes, and tail pumps.  Then a nice solid run.  I fought her VERY aggressive, as there were so many snags.  No rod pumping here.  Just muscle her with my cranking arm.  I have video of this but I'm saving it, so you'll have to live with pictures (crummy ones UGH!).  When I got her to my rock, I was PSYCHED!  Was she 30lbs?  Pulled her up, and she was up pas my waist, but no, she wasn't 30lbs.  Fish taped out (on rod) "right around" 40" +/- 2".  Beauty, high 20's I'd say (I'm calling her 28, but I don't honestly know).  I drove the trebles into my hand at one point, and then started to try to take them out with my mouth because I'm an IDIOT.  I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING.  I damn near hooked my lip.  I was in a hurry to get her back in the water.  Anyways, I wised up and got them out, but because of that she needed more reviving than I like.  But, she swam away hard when I let go of her lip.  Not bad for off-moon "off tide" (questioning this now) fishing!

No more hits after that, but I was forced off my spot by rising water because I don't know this spot well enough to be fooling around with current, a decent swell, incoming water, and strong wind.  Turns out I could have stayed on the rock for probably another hour- but I still had to swim.

The next night, I went back in completely different wind.  North, over my back.  I told Carly before I left- I'm not going to catch anything tonight.  But you won't know if you don't go.  I waded out to my rock around 8pm.  Within a minute I had a big schoolie swim up to my rock chasing really small bait.  Then, as the final light faded, I heard breaking fish and turned around to see smaller fish popping on the small bait again.  But I didn't have a single hit the whole night.  I was trying a little bit of a different take on this spot, but I don't think that mattered.  I only fished for 2.5 hours- no action for 2 hours had me bored.

The next night I decided I need to stick it out a little more.  I showed up at another spot further north and it felt totally different.  The water felt colder, and it just didn't feel that fishy.  I know it well too.  I fished for two hours with only one very solid hit on a SS darter.  Then, I moved.  Five minutes nothing.  Switch to mag darter...first cast bing bang boom.  28" +/- 1 fish.  Had a couple more savage hits on that.  No hook ups.  Fished big pikie as tide continued to drop- no time for little fish.  Another hour comes and goes.  I started trying everything.  Sluggo, Atom 40 Mainiac metal lip, SS needle, Choopy darter, bucktail, etc.  Put on small sebile stick shadd, first cast, 2 cranks in, I hook up with 20-22er.  Release, and cast again and hook up and drop something.  Fish for another hour.  Then move again for slack tide.  Not a hit.  Fished 5.5 hours.

Following night return to above spot to find someone actually fishing there.  Watch said fisherman for a minute, and note his terribly fast retrieve speed and lack of any top layer over his waders, and then promptly ignore him.  He's not in a bad spot though.  Still, I fish my section of shore- not sure if he saw me or not, but he acted like he didn't.  Then, I think he finally did see me and turned to watch me.  Having just read Zeno's blog post on SCJ about trying hard NOT to catch a fish to save his spot, I did something similar.  I stopped, and decided this was a good time to retie my leader.  I really took my time.  Eventually it was dark enough he could no longer see me, and I moved just a bit to ensure he couldn't see, and continued to fish.  I casted for nearly two hours without a touch- stopping to change profiles a few times.  The other guy only made it about 30 minutes past dark so I was all by myself most of the night.  I moved around, and eventually found one of my favorite rocks.  Nothing.  After another hour of nothing, I was on cast 6 of my "last 10" when I thought I hung my darter.  I was day dreaming (or night dreaming?) and just sweeped the rod to get the darter off the rock.  AH! Damn near was pulled off my rock by a BIG fish!  Attempt a hook set but it's too late and she's taking line against my nearly locked drag.  Then she's on the surface, shaking her head...and deja vu...she's gone.  I was SO FUCKING MAD at myself.  That's at least 2 big fish I've lost this year already, and possibly a third.  This one felt the biggest- been a while since I was almost pulled off my perch- and bigger than the 40"er from earlier in the week.  And so that kept me there for another 30 minutes without a hit, and I was home much later than anticipated, and to work later despite less sleep, and as I sit here I'm already in a daze and have 7 more nights to go to get me through the new moon! I need to buy stock in Starbucks...

Finally, I'm not happy with my output.  I'm starting to get a little anxious about the season- last year was awful, and technically I'm not doing as well this May as I did last May.  I've got a few keepers- 8 (? something like that ?), 1 teener and 1 25-28lber- but my total numbers are low.  HOWEVER, despite the calendar and the water temperature, it still feels early.  The moons were early last year, with the new early in the month, and that's why I had few big fish early in the month.  This week is the new moon- finally- and I'm going all in: this is the real start of my season.  Cashing in those vacation days and "honey do" points.  Now, if I can just remember how to set a hook...