A tale of two spots- Challenge vs. Comfort

This will be last weeks and this weeks report, a string of 8 days, as I'm done with the surf until next week.  However, I want to discuss learning a new spot, and how fun and also frustrating it can be.  I'll use examples from two vastly different areas that I'm learning- one I've been fishing for a couple years and understand, and the other which is totally new this year and utterly baffling.

Let's start with comparison, and I'll end with the report.

I believe my forte' has become boulder fields.  I think it's where I'm most comfortable, but I also seem to have a knack for it.  I seek them out, as I enjoy being in the water while catching fish and wading (and occasionally swimming) to rocks gives me this opportunity.  Further, I think they're a magnet for bait and then also predators.  Finally, I like fishing big wooden plugs and boulder fields go hand in hand with pikies, danny's, and A40's.

Don't get me wrong, I also really enjoy fishing rips, and given the right conditions sandy beach can also be extremely gratifying.  I am adept at all of these, as I cut my teeth on sandy beach and then really focused on fishing rips of all sizes.  I also know how to back water, and big surf.

One thing I am finding I'm not adept at?  Ledge.

Let me explain.

I've been focusing a lot on one spot in particular that this year alone has given up a 30lb fish, a couple 20's, and a teen fish on more than 60% of nights.  It's a rocky shoreline that is shallow and dotted with boulders and points.  It's generally calm and like many boulder fields seems to fish best on an incoming tide.

The last week specifically I fished it 4 times and it gave up a 12lb and a 16lb fish on two different nights and a couple 10's on another (and some schoolies, although not too many).  That's consistent even if it's not so great.  Not big fish, but I admit I enjoy catching teen fish if I feel I'm putting in the work and "that's all that's around" (of course we never actually know).  Especially now that's it's getting into summer, I'll take what I can get soon enough (although I'm thinking this next moon could be killer!).

Anyways, this spot was a no brainier for me when I found it and I learned it extremely quickly.  Within about 10 trips I locked into a particular section of shore, now boiled down to a single rock.  I've also slowly dissected the tide down to a couple 30-60 minute windows, with on particular 30 minute being the money.  So I used to fish it for 4 hours or more, now I rarely make it more than 3 and often its 2-2.5.  Last year was a disaster, but like I said this year I've been able to find good fish again (this is also where I go broken off twice in one night, and had a fish I couldn't stop in seasons past), and sometimes numbers (my best is a couple dozen fish here).

And I love it.  I get to get in the water, and it's an adventure getting to the spot (takes 30 minutes of walking).  So much of an "adventure" that I give up in the summer somewhat because I'm so hot by the time I get there I can't even fish.  And the bugs can be terrible.

So that's the good spot.  It's very rewarding, productive, I don't get too frustrated (unless I'm breaking off fish and bending hooks UGH!), and I am calm while I'm there.  It's my happy place.  I get to fish the plugs I like, and the fish can be big.

Then there's the ledge.

Fuck the ledge.

This year I decided I wanted to add a spot in between a few others I fish.  I lost three spots the last two seasons- two because of parking issues, one because you have to have special permission and I no longer do (which is heartbreaking!  I'm trying to figure out how to get it back).  One of the parking issues really bothers me, one doesn't because the spot wasn't so great.  Add in that one of my spots has been degrading for the last 3 seasons, and I'm suddenly down 4 spots, and two that were reliable and I relied on!

This led me to this particular place, which if you know anything you can probably boil it down to one of six spots that are like this.  It's basically ledge dropping into the ocean, and it's not a place you want to go if you are scared of the waves or unable to swim.  It's a known area for sure.

When I saw it on the map maybe 4 years ago I knew I needed to get there eventually but things happen and it's taken me this year to finally commit.  I did my research, scouted, and poured over nautical charts and satellite imagery.

I've now been about a half dozen times, not counting scouting, and I'm utterly and completely lost.  Yup, I'm man enough to admit it.  I'm clueless still.

I just have no idea yet how to fish this crazy powerful water that drops off to 20 feet about 20 feet off the rock.  It's intimidating and I find myself standing there staring at the water trying to figure out how the fuck I'm going to get down to a decent size fish if I hook one, and worse, how the hell I'm going to release it.

But, that's getting ahead of myself, because I can't even catch anything!

Here's my problems so far as I faced them as recently as a couple nights ago.

1) Every spot looks fishy and I can't triage anything.  This is by far my biggest problem.  Since it's deep, rough, and I can't get in the water, I have a hard time reading bottom topography.  Plus, there's tons of white water seemingly all the time and that makes it frustrating to sort anything out.  I end up just walking the edge of the water over and over looking and making a few casts, not feeling it (no confidence) and then moving.
2) With a nice portfolio of spots, I have a hard time justifying time to learn a new spot.  Especially since I'm on the hunt for a 50 before it's too late, and I want photos after years of either no camera or a crappy camera.  This makes me anxious about spending time somewhere where I have low percentage of success.
3) It's fairly intense.  I have to study the water for a bit before I even try to get close, lest a rogue swell come.  It makes it hard to focus on what your plug is doing.  I would never fish here in waders, although people do and they're clearly suicidal.  Wetsuit or just pants, and if just pants I'd want a PDF I think.  And I'm a strong swimmer- really strong I'd have no problem swimming 5 miles or even 5 hours.
4) The bottom is "sticky" as hell and it's hard to balance getting down with getting hung.  I'm still trying to balance that out.  I'm no stranger to getting hung or broken off, after all that's boulder fields too, but this is different.  You snag here, and it's over.
5) I care about the fish.  Therefore, I'm not going to just throw it back in off a rock that's 6ft+ above the water.  I'd rather just not catch it.  This makes it even more complicated.
6) It's the only spot I've ever fished like this.  So despite my 10 seasons in the surf, I have nothing to go off of.  The transition from sandy beach to rock boulders is about 100 times easier then moving from boulders, or anything else, to this spot.

So a couple nights ago I was at this spot.  On this particular night I'm so hot I am dripping sweat, I can't put my wetsuit on all the way or I'm so hot I can't even focus on fishing.  Then the bugs come, and I'm ready to just throw myself off the rock.  On top of all this, it's mungy, and I am having hard time working any plug!  I walk to one spot, don't like it, walk 10 minutes around to the other, decide that's even worse, and end up going back.  Then, decide I don't like that either, and take off on a 15 minute scramble to another.  By now, I've wasted an hour, maybe taken 10 casts, and am so thirsty I'm happy when the sweat goes into my mouth.

I end up taking my belt off, and stripping my westuit to my ankles, and taking my shirt off and pulling my jammers down and I'm standing there on the shore naked with my wetsuit around my ankles.

Then I just started laughing manically.

I love it.

I love this spot.  It's the most challenging spot I've ever fished.  I went to cuttyhunk the first time and just slayed the fish solo with no prior information beyond it was very fishy.  I was told after,  people go to cutty and can't catch anything because it's so challenging.  Well that's this spot for me!

So I geared back up and finally found a spot where I've landed the only two fish I've had here so far.  I was working my bucktail slow and low.  Casting it out, counting to 3 or 4, then slow rolling it back.  I'm fishing a 1oz Blue Frog which fishes more like a 1.25-1.5 given the shape of the head and low hair.  It was almost back to me when it got slammed and I worked this strong fish easy for a couple minutes before I could get the thing to a landing area.  It took a very solid run, and I was convinced it was 20lbs, roughly.

I get the thing in, and initially I thought maybe it wasn't even 10lbs!!!!  Turns out it was like 13-14lbs at most!  I was floored.  Dumb struck, I just stood there staring at it. I didn't weigh it, but it's pictured at the top of this post.  While I was happy to finally land something here, and maybe I'm on to something at this spot finally, I was shocked how small the fish was!  How the hell would I ever land a 30, 40, or God forbid a 50lb fish!!!?!?  And then how to release it!?!?

It was at that moment that I decided I need to add this skill to my repertoire.  If I'm going to be a top Sharpie, I need to be able to fish anywhere- and I am not adept yet at this kind of fishing.  It's actually really exciting, and suddenly after at least 4 seasons I've got a really significant new challenge.  I wouldn't have believed I would be this much of a googan anywhere...an expert at everything DEFINITELY not, but not this level of Noob-ness.  But I'm admitting it to you here publicly.

I LOVE IT.  It's the same feeling as when I first started out, which I thought I'd never have again.

I was thinking about it this morning and I bet it'll take me 5 seasons to lock this spot in, maybe even 10.  That's a long, long time.  I just hope the fishery can hang on that long.

So that's the tail of two spots.  I'll try to point this spot out in future reports as I progress with it.

As far as reports go, I've been staying on fish just enough to keep me interested and motivated.  I fished a southern New England spot a few nights in a row late last week.  That yielded 2 keepers and 2 schoolies one night- all on darters- and the next I had a fish absolutely CRUSH a pikie that felt like a nice fish- but I was looking over my shoulder and was not focused at all.  I was really tired last week still from the Vineyard and I was having all kinds of trouble with gear and body- when I get tired like that, everything gets hard.  As an aside, I knew I was at "unhealthy" level, and so took a few days off last weekend to sleep and be with friends.  It felt good.

Anyways,  I had a 12-13lb fish on the same pikie after that big fish, which felt like a schoolie to me until I saw it, but the fish had the pikie 3/4 the way down it's throat which was really cool.  I love that, when the fish thinks it's real.  I think I had a schoolie on a Montauk Darter after that.  The fish are really picky and I change plugs a lot, only to find my 5th or 8th change yields a hit on the first cast.  This happened almost every night.  The fish were there, they were just picky and for the most part small to very small.

Then I took a break from this spot and headed North.  My original plan was to fish this north shore spot 5 nights in a row.  I only went once!  It just feels way too early.  Someone else confirmed this same thought to me via email as well.  Here it is high-summer and it feels like early May still.  Even with the heat wave, it's just so cold still.  Regardless, I did get a 9-10lb fish as a consolation prize on a sluggo, drifting it in some gentle current.  That was an exhausting night, it's a lot of investment to get there and out to the spot.  Fun though. And since it seemed slow- and giant bass have been landed south- I decided to go south again for the remainder of the week.

Back to the boulder field I had a better fish at 16lbs on a big Mag Darter of all things right at the top of the tide the next night.  My first non-schoolie on this plug finally.  Before that I did fly fish a little and had a small 15" fish on the fly, and then almost immediately after switching to spinning gear I had a big schoolie/keeper on a Montauk Darter.  Lots of fish popping small bait, and completely breaching all around me- including behind.  A few of the splashes were BIG- but I still think the fish were small.  I did see a pod of bunker or herring (likely bunker) go by splishing and splashing happily.  Nothing was on them.  There was also a little harbor seal, cormorant, and herons around when I got there.  Small bait I'm guessing.  I saw a ton of dear, a coyote, an owl, and a fox that night too.  And as usual rabbits.  Fun night.

The next night I got skunked!  The fog was gone and the moon was bright and there were no popping fish.  I stuck it out 3 hours but I wanted to leave in the first 10 minutes.  That's my first skunk in a while, and one of only a couple at this spot.

Again, just enough to keep me interested.  It's certainly not "good" but it's certainly not "bad" either.  I can feel another couple big fish coming, I just have to stay on it.  Next week I'll be on it.

Then besides that I visited the ledge, which I detailed above.  I'm on my way to Maine to do some freshwater fly fishing this weekend, which I'm looking forward to.  I'll write that up when I get back.