Weekend Warrior: This is (not) the end

I keep thinking about perspective. In June, you could not have paid me to cast to trout in a kettle pond. But here I am, at the end of October tying a woolly bugger to a 4x tippet casting to stocked trout, getting skunked and actually somewhat enjoying the peace it brings.

In early May, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than standing waist deep in an estuary catching 14″ striped bass. By mid-June, my leaky waders sit in a crumpled mess in a plastic storage container in the bed of my truck, long forgotten due to the summer striper bite accessible only by boat. In late August, as soon as whispers of albies begin to reverberate through the community, stripers cease to exist in my mind. If I’m not cruising the Sound, strained eyes fixes on horizon for the subtle signs of blitzing tunoids, I’m not livin’. As each stage of the season progresses, my obsessions shift, and the former star of the show takes a backseat to that shiny new thing. We really are lizard-brained, aren’t we?

But what’s really bothering me as I gaze wistfully back at this fishing season, is my lack of perspective in those moments. As we approach this strange time of year we apologetically call the “off-season”, I find myself thinking back on those seemingly endless days of calm, clear water, catching striper after striper, and my inability to actually appreciate those moments while they were happening. Why is it we can’t (or maybe it’s just me) be present and just live in those all but “perfect” fishing trips? Bleary-eyed predawn wake-ups roll into twelve-hour striper trips, day after day–fish stories blend together, and the season marches on to it’s end. Before we can collect our thoughts it’s the end of October. The season is just a hazy memory and we’re left counting down the days until April. “I can’t wait for next season,” I think. This mindset is problematic, don’t you think?

All of this is way too complex and heady to be sorted out in a fishing blog.

My lack of fishing the last few weeks, and really, the last few weeks of every striper season, is the real problem here. I get cranky and nostalgic when I don’t fish enough. I lie awake at night, fishless days and missed fishing opportunities swirling through my brain endlessly. I swear off future worldly burdens, like job and bills and relationships and other things that always seem to stack up right at the exact time the striper season reaches it’s final peak. I tell myself I’m going to just drop everything and fish. I’ll quit my job and be a striper bum. It’s nice to fantasize about for five seconds.

The truth is, I haven’t even gone down to the estuary 5-minutes from my house and made a cast, let alone drop the boat in and make the 30-mile run to chase after the ridiculous recreational tuna bite (more on that in a bit).

I don’t think you need the typical fishing report right now. And even if I were to provide that for you, I’d mostly be speaking hearsay and generalities, and who wants that? I turn into a googan in the late fall months., so you might as well not even listen to me. I am currently the weekend warrior. If you need me, I’ll be sitting on a white bucket dunking crabs for tog or casting powerbait to stockies on Saturday mornings.

The Plan

I think what you really need is a pep talk (and probably something a lot stronger than that). Am I the one to give you that? No, but I can certainly try. Here’s what I have for you: Go out and fish. And while you’re doing it, don’t think about your next trip or your job or the quickly dropping temps on the extended forecast. Just fish.

As much of a downer as this blog is, there’s lots to look forward to in the next weeks and months. Here’s what we’ve got going on.

The 7S crew went tog fishing for the first time (successfully) last weekend. The game was pretty simple: Grab a bunch of green crabs from your local bait shop (always get way more than you think you’ll need) use your side scan to find shallow rocky structure, anchor up, put a half green crab onto a tog jig, and wait for that subtle tap, tap TAP. Then, set that bad boy and hold on. Listen, I’ve always heard that tog pull hard, but damn, they really do fight good. And they taste even better. I guess these fish stick around Buzzards and the Sound until the late fall, so we should be able to get out at least a few more times to stick a few more. I’m really looking forward to heading down to CT and catching some togzillas on the Kayak with the boys from Black Hall.

In a few weeks, the lads and I will continue our annual Halloween schoolie extravaganza in a Cape estuary. Every year is different, but we always seem to catch fish, even though we had to break through a thin layer of skim ice to get to blitzing stripers last year. The long-term forecast is looking good, and Eddy tells me he’s bringing his boat so that “we’ll have plenty of room for beer.” Now if that doesn’t sound like a fun way to end the season I don’t know why you’re reading this blog post.

Hey by the way, are there still tuna around? Why yes, yes there are. The historic schoolie bluefin bite continues and goes on and on and on and on and guess who has barely had a chance to go out after them? Yeah, you already know. If the weather stays good for this Saturday, we’ll be making the run East and hopefully be enjoying some sashimi on the way home. Just don’t tell Jonny Tuna that we’re packing the soy sauce. Tuna have been on small bait like butterfish, so if you don’t have an arsenal of ridiculously expensive lures like the Siren Antidote, a Hogy Protail seems to be getting the job done more often than not.

And that brings us to our final offseason pursuit: trout. I just got a new Douglas Upstream Plus 5-weight that I’m totally obsessed with. No, I haven’t casted it yet. But I could stare at that honey-colored blank all day. Why do I need a new 5-weight rod, you ask? Well, folks, the real answer is I don’t. But I figured a new rod might give me that little spark of motivation and luck to finally figure out this whole trout fishing thing. In truth, I really suck at it so anyone who wants to play guide for the day is happily invited to watch as I put my fly into the bushes and strip set on 10″ brookies.

What I’m really saying in so many words is that this is the end. But not really.

Billy Mitchell

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