Sunday, September 16, 2012

Going Big in the Wide Open

The mindset was that if we were lucky, one of us might get a shot at a cobia.  The five of us knew going into it that finding mister brown of respectable size in a kayak is no easy feat.  Yet, we all trekked out to the beach to take our chances.  Our realistically curtailed expectations quickly found a serious deterrent as we stood there stupefied at the much higher than expected surf.  As luck would have it, that wouldn't be the only curve ball of the day.

The photos really don't do the waves justice.  We had sets maxing out over 6ft that would build very quickly and close to shore.  After stowing and tying everything down, everyone timed their launches well... 

except for me.

After studying the waves for over 10 minutes I thought there was going a be a lull in the set and took a chance.  I pulled the kayak out, sat down, and took one paddle stroke... just in time to see a massive wave build quickly and crash right on top of me... throwing me out of my seat.  Luckily, I wasn't hurt and had everything in the rod pod.

My second attempt was smooth with far less drama.  I quickly found the others on the greener side of the breakers and joined in getting equipment out and ready. 

While catching bait, we immediately realized that we were surrounded by gray suits.  The toothy bastards chomped on everything we threw out.  Although entertaining at first, they became quite the nuisance.

Both eels and baitfish intended for cobia didn't stand a chance.  The sharks demolished everything and put a slow burn in our muscles.  Dealing with hook removal and/or retying became a time consuming chore and as hours went by our hopes for the target specie sank deeper into doubt.  We went farther and farther out into the vast Atlantic and continued to get harassed by sharks.  To make things worse, clouds rolled over and took away our already limited ability to visualize our ambitious goal.

I eventually picked a spot to anchor up and everyone gathered around.  We got into a few more sharks and then ...

Alex Britland's first ever big red just short of 43"   (Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)

Losing line fast
47.5" Release Citation Red Drum

Justin Mayer caught three up to 45"
As I'm releasing a 38"er Seth Goodrich hooks up
It's a great feeling
Seth with his first ever big red @ 42.5"
Alex with a 46.5" citation   )Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)

The action was incredible and lasted for a good while.  We still had sharks mixed in, but when one of us hooked up with a drum, we knew it.  The signature head shakes and ensuing sleigh ride were more than enough to put the elusive cobia on the back burner.

Big jigheads and bucktails with various soft plastics got the job done as well as fresh cut bait on the bottom.

William Ragulsky with a 47" citation  (Photo credit: Seth Goodrich)
Rod diggin' with my tongue out
44"er with no spot on one side

Poop shoot

Seth, Alex, Justin & Billy

The finally tally was 11 big reds between the 5 of us ranging from 38" to 47.5".  Three personal bests were crushed.  Three citations were registered.  The number of sharks were ridiculous with the biggest going around 4ft.

On an ending note, I was the only one who ate a wave on the way out and I was the only one who turtled in the surf on the way in.  Good times none the less...

It was a day none of us will ever forget.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Things that Go Unsaid

The culmination of memories and interactions that compose the relationships of our lives can be a labyrinth of emotions along a time line of momentous ups and downs.  And for me, like many others who got it from their fathers, find this to be unequivocally true about the one who tattooed the love of fishing on my soul.

Although the grandkids have softened him up a little, the school of hard knocks still resonates from my dad.  Feelings just get in the way and cramp his all-business demeanor.  He's a man of few words, unless you piss him off, and smiles are rare souvenirs from special occasions.  Add that to the cultural brouhaha of motherland ideals versus American teenage angst and I toast my recent years with a heavy cocktail of old memories. 

The underpainting isn't pretty.  Very few are.  But it's the highlights that bring it all together to please the mind's eye.  And between my dad and I, the crowning points of our relationship have always come from fishing.  My entire life has been saturated by it.  If we weren't fishing, we were talking about it.  The long winded and sometimes quite animated dinner table conversations about our pursuits took precedence over politics, sports, and news.  Though they would eliciting some rolling of the eyes from mom, I knew she was always glad to see him so happy.

The last time we fished together was a distant memory.  Work, physical limitations and other priorities kept us on different schedules, so when we found a free couple of hours out of the blue, I eagerly followed him to the same spot we had been going to for over 15 years.  Tossing minnows out from the same bank flooded my mind with fond retrospect.  

And although he would never express such simple reminiscent pleasantries, between declaring his disgust for not being able to keep the rat reds or dink flounder, I caught him holding a good long smile.  

He didn't have to say anything. Sometimes, the things that go unsaid are written on people's faces.

It was nice to fish with you too, dad.

Monday, September 3, 2012

River Pullage

It had been a day short of two weeks since I dipped my paddle or played a fish on the end of my line.  Unfortunately, a trip to the salt which I've yearned for even longer was not in the cards.  With the weather forecast being as useful as a magic 8-ball, I stuck close to home.  The river welcomed me with a plethora of opportunities spanning a full spectrum of presentations to match the appetite of several species.

I started off with what I left off with last time; the fly rod.  The sun was higher up this time so I switched to a black wooly bugger and sight casted to various sunfish, small largemouth and smallmouth bass.  I had a shot at a decent carp too, but I got a little too close and spooked it.  I had a couple instances where as soon as the fly hit the water a big bronze back exploded on it, but somehow didn't come tight. 

This was the second time on the water sporting my new Maui Jim shades with PolarizedPlus2 rose lenses and can honestly say, they are awesome.  The contrast is simply amazing and definitely helped me see a lot more.  I normally target smallies in pools, pockets, and eddies around structure, but after standing up with the Maui Jim's I found some just cruising the flats.  I was able to get the fly in the path for one and on the second strip it rushed over and came to a halt a few inches away.  Being able to watch it all, including what happened on the next strip, brought on a huge smile. 

It was only 13" but there's definitely something special about being able to visualizing it all.  

From stalking 
to the cast, 
the chase, 
the take... 

Hookset, headshakes... 


After a while, the wind picked up just enough to make fly line management a chore.  I switched to a spinning rod and found a few more little smallies on Husky Jerks and black spinnerbaits.  

As the sun started to fade, I resisted the urge to put on a topwater popper and switched gears again.  I pinned a lively sunfish from earlier to an 8/0 circle hook - carolina rig.  It wasn't long before my kayak was spinning circles as I wrangled some flatheads.  

Biggest of the evening was 36"

From slingin' bugs and sight casting to chunkin' meat, I thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with the awesome local fishery and finding some river pullage.  

Satisfied... for now. 

But I can only resist the salt for so long.