Sunday, September 30, 2007


Sunday, September 16, 2007

I awoke to a clear day. The living room floor wasn’t feeling any better with time, so an early start was in the cards for me. I was in Chip’s family’s Wellfleet house and it was full of family visitors. I stepped over a couple of them on the way to the stairway to wake up Chip and get the day started. While he got ready I drove down to “Cumby’s” and grabbed a couple of coffees and then we were really off.

We took Chip’s family boat (Saltina) out of Wellfleet Harbor and out to Billingsgate Shoals. We had just enough water to make a short cut between the shoals and the now-extinct Billingsgate Island. And through this cut we ran into hundreds of feeding blues. But we didn’t want to stop here and get stuck on the low, so we moved on to slightly deeper water. I was reminded of how vast these shallow flats are as we travelled a good half-mile until the engine could be trimmed back down a little.

Anyway, we decided to stop and drift. First cast was with my spinning rod to sniff out any potentials and on the second crank I had several blues attack and one of them hooked. “Ah, they’re right here Chip,” I said as I reeled in the feisty fish. We then rigged our fly rods with some wire leader and the contest began. Chip was using a small popper and I was throwing a clouser. It took a little while on the drift, but we had some action – not as much as we expected, however. A few blues and one 20” striper. As the morning progressed the wind picked up from the N and the fish stopped their bite. We moved around to several areas in the shoals, then to Sunken Meadow, but the action simply died. Most of the other boats out there with us disappeared too. Then after Chip’s phone began to pipe up (mine got toasted on yesterday’s tuna trip) we realized it would be best to head in. We had a large family dinner to prepare down in Chatham and early would be better than late.

The Billingsgate area is an amazing place to be – fish or no fish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

*Pop* Goes the Tuna

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My trusty cell phone alarm sounded at 4:45. Through the sound of the rain, I reached for it, not realizing where I was, and turned it off. My right arm was asleep. After about a minute my eyes adjusted and I was able to coordinate my thoughts and remember where I was: the Chatham rental. And it was time to get up and head up the road to Wellfleet to pick up Chip for our trip with Jeff (Fin Addiction).

I was the first one up, but I heard them stir around as I walked down the soaked path to my truck. The guys (Joel, Gary, Scott, and Brian) were all due to get up at five and head out for more false albacore or big bass; their plan had not been hatched yet. But I was out before seeing any of them and soon on Route 6 towards the lower Cape. The rain worried me, primarily because I was expecting to get wet and uncomfortable. I had not brought proper foul weather gear and instead had my chest waders and a winter gore tex jacket (only one left with working zippers due to the salt water). I had shellfish surveys to possibly conduct on Monday in Truro and Provincetown which explains the waders.

When I was almost to Wellfleet I pulled over to the Dunkin Donuts for fuel. The phone rang as I turned off the truck and it was Jeff. He was confirming my wish to fish, despite the weather. I understood how he felt but I was also keen on getting out for some bluefin. Last month our trip with Jeff was cancelled due to a strong SW blow. This time the wind was not an issue, but the endless small rain squalls were problematic. I called Chip and within seconds I heard myself say, “Fuck it, we’re going, and if it sucks out there then we’ll head in early.” And this is because it would be more sufferable to spend the day wondering whether we would have hooked into fish had we just gone out. Chip complied to my order and soon we were on the way to Pamet to meet Jeff.

On the way out we agreed that if conditions worsened or it was just not worth the effort, that we’d hang it up early, say ten or so. There was no pressure, we simply wanted the opportunity to be in the right spots, with the right boat, and get the chance to cast to some fish. And this we did.

As Jeff took us up along his preferred route our eyes focused on the water. We were keen on finding birds and busts. It only took ten or fifteen minutes before the first school was spotted and it was this school that produced Chip’s first hookup. His cast, a Yo-Zuri hydro pencil, produced a bust, a flash, and a “weeeeeezzzzz” that lasted longer than I expected. He held on to the fish and managed, over the next twenty minutes, to inch it closer to the boat.
Finally it was within sight and Jeff readied himself with his hockey stick gaff. And then…when the fish was just finishing a circle by the boat…it happened. Snap. The line parted somewhere between the rod’s tip and the leader knot. No explanation was possible and the fish was gone. I leaked out a loud obscenity as I watched Chip bend over in exhaustion and relief.

We weren’t done by a long shot. We moved on and soon we were upon another school. This time I was on and man, this fish was a bitch to retrieve. It took my Yo-Zuri, fitted with a single hook in the tail end, a treble in the front. Line went out, and I got most of it back before we started the game where the fish comes close, did a few circles, then dove fifty feet. Repeated five or six times. By the fourth time I was almost spent. My back, which has a history of dysfunction and pain, began to burn like the Yule log. Arms were free of glycogen reserves and I couldn’t feel my hands. Jeff, of course, made fun of me: “Did I tell you about the 63 year-old woman client I had last week who landed a fish larger than this in only half the time?” Chip almost offered to take the rod…I was close to being humiliated, yet this fucking fish would not give up.
After two or three attempts with the goalie-gaff I was beginning to wonder if this fish would come aboard at all. But finally Jeff prevailed over the bluefin and it was up over the rail and in the boat. Yay.

As I rejuvenated myself, Jeff bled and prepped the fish in the stern. “Head us into the wind John,” he ordered. I complied and upon seeing another school not far away, asked the captain’s permission to put Chip on this school. “Go for it,” he returned. So I did and within a few minutes I ordered Chip to cast his line and within a crank or two a decent tuna came out of the confused water and back down on Chip’s popper (intentionally) and again he was on. The reel screamed and we were excited. Jeff and I high-fived and watched intently as Chip played the fish. In the rain, we waited only half the time it took me to land mine and soon the gaff took the fish to the boat, but after confirming the length and making sure it was legal sized. It was 49” and a decent one.

After Jeff got this one into the box we decided to try some on the fly. Chip was keen on this and I relinquished the bow to him for most of the remainder of the charter. But it was hard to cast the fly in these conditions, at least for Chip, and also for me by the time I had my chance. We were both in a trance from the action – just seeing the hundreds of amazing bluefin coming out of the water within feet of the boat was overwhelming. So, no hookups on the fly, and this seemed to frustrate Jeff. Had I been more attentive and clear-headed I would have insisted he take a while on the bow to hook up. But I wasn’t and I regret this now.

We agreed to head in about five times and each time we found more fish along the way home. But soon a final, convincing squall line appeared from the NW and was rushing in fast. Boats in our view were quickly disappearing within a shroud of fog, rain, and wind. We hustled back in, passing schools of busting fish, and finally made it to the dock and then to the dry confines of my truck.

“That was fucking amazing!” Exclaimed Chip. “Yeah,” I said. “What a trip.” Jeff cleaned one and later I cleaned the other on the tailgate of my truck, surrounded by our extended family. We then ate the fish both Sat. and Sun. nights among family and friends. It was perfect.

All for now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Elbow Stories

Friday, September 14, 2007

The weekend plans were as follows: go to Wellfleet to catch tuna with my brother-in-law, Chip. So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to leave Friday afternoon to make sure I was out there and ready at the break of dawn. It also couldn’t hurt to drop by Morris Island again since I needed to stop in Chatham to deliver some shellfish to Joel and his fishing party (Brian, Gary, and Scott).

But I was early arriving (or they were late getting off the water) and I decided that another visit to Morris Island would be a good idea. Tuesday’s fishing, after all, was pretty good and I thought that I might have another shot at the false albacore. The weather was fine: sunny with a few clouds, a fair SW breeze, and warm. I arrived at Morris Island, at the NMFS site, suited up and began my way down the boardwalk which would take me down some steep stairs to the thin beach which would lead me to the point and the flats that stretch toward the Monomoy Islands. But on the way past the bird feeders I noticed a fox, chewing happily on either bird shit or perhaps a bird. Some tourists from NJ were standing there snapping photos of this sad scene. I couldn’t restrain myself, “Oh, wildlife…” I kept walking. The woman then, after about ten seconds realized the absurdity of my comment and began laughing hysterically. “Yes! Wildlife…ha…this is real wildlife indeed! Ha!” I kept on walking. I also looked like an idiot – chest waders, dirty shirt, long-billed hat, and sunglasses….carrying a fishing rod.

The walk takes about 10 minutes over sand of medium firmness. When the tide is high you have to walk up on the stone abutment that has been placed there to minimize, or delay, coastal erosion under the McMansions that have been constructed over the years. During these ten minutes I reflected on previous walks down this beach. My first recollections go back to perhaps 1976 when my parents took me there on a visit to former neighbors in CT who had moved to the Lighthouse Beach area to retire. I recalled Mr. Spague’s HAM radio and the walks along the eroding banks of Morris Island and under the lighthouse. Something stuck with me back then and I haven’t forgotten a thing. The place somehow became mystical to me and words cannot explain. In subsequent years my uncle Joe lived nearby on Stage Island and I did manage a visit or two in the 1980s, then in the 1990s my wife’s parents (Art and Ann) moved to Chatham and I became a regular visitor to this particular spot. One Christmas Eve about four or five years ago I found myself on this same walk. It was afternoon, dinner was on the stove back at the Chatham house, and I was granted an hour or so for a hike. The weather was phenomenal. It was about 50 degrees (F) and the NE wind was pummeling waves along the shore. Rain was intermittent and I got soaked on the “hike.” I’ll never forget that afternoon – I was remembering previous summer’s events out there; fishing and simple nature walks.

Anyway, if you’re still awake, I’ll continue with the fishing story. I reached the end of the island and saw the false albacore. But they were a half mile or more out, between N. Monomoy and South Beach. I had no chance for them unless they travelled far and right near me. But I waded out anyway and began casting. I reckoned I had about an hour before Joel would call to say that they were back in and I was happy, on this falling tide, to have that time to just fish from shore and let my thoughts ramble where they may. Nothing happened for some time. But about a half hour later I noticed that the false albacore schools were indeed getting closer, perhaps following the ebb tide to Nantucket Sound. I was full of hope and anticipation. And meanwhile, bluefish showed up. Suddenly on one of my retrieves (one of Joel’s homemade jumping minnows) an explosion occurred and my lure disappeared. It was a medium sized blue and I carefully retrieved him to my chest-deep location for a release. It sprayed me with a good amount of water, rendering my sunglasses useless, and drenching me to a significant extent beneath my chest waders. Released and happy…both of us.

Then a few more. Then the phone rang but I could not answer as my body was within a pressure suit. The false albacore came close for about two minutes…on the edge of my cast…but no hookups as they mysteriously moved back south and east into the waters of the Monomoy Islands.

I returned to the beach, checked my messages, and indeed, Joel and his party were back at their rental property. I was to show up, deliver a bag of oysters, a bag of steamers, and a small bag of baby scallops – all from my efforts in Duxbury Bay. So I did this and they were happy to greet me and my bags of shellfish. My reward was a nice sized gin and tonic. And then some dinner. And then some more nice gin and tonics. And then, after we began to ignore the Red Sox game, which was on in the background, and after Joel’s eyes turned upside-down and he went to bed, we had one more nice gin and tonic and crashed. I slept on the outside porch in my sleeping bag and dreamt good dreams and wished big wishes as the morning was to be special. In the morning I was to head up to Wellfleet, pick up Chip, and meet Jeff Smith at Pamet for a full day of tuna madness.

It began to rain at midnight and that is when my eyes finally closed for the night.

(This picure below is of Terry Thomas from Wales. A day to remember, Terry hooked his first keeper striper on the edge of Morris Island in September 2005.)

Next up: rain, fog, and tuna.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Shore Fishing and Albies

September 11, 2007

So today I had to work. I have a job to work with some shellfish constables around the Cape to assess shellfish densities and growth. Afterwards I had some time and decided to head to Chatham to check Morris Island for albies. The public access area down on Morris Island is one of my favorite spots on the Cape. It is a place I visited as a child (before much of the current riprap and buildings were constructed) and where I continue to go when I want a relatively short walk or to fish from shore. Today I wore my chest waders and lugged myself down to the point facing North Monomoy Island where I immediately found loads of albies breaking in two or three schools. One school was close in, but I would have to wade to the brim.

First cast: a take. Then lots of line peeled off. I phoned Joel to let him hear the screaming reel and then the fish shook the hook. “Man, that was a nice false albacore!” And I could hear Joel telling his office mates what was going on…I was making them squirm in their cubicles (fattening pens).

Then the fish moved out a ways and I was out of luck. I stayed for an hour and the fish did come close again, but not close enough. When I was about to turn back to shore I noticed a few surface busts in the shallows not far away. I threw my deadly dick over to them and had a feisty blue on the first crank of the reel. I took him in with me for dinner.

A quick, late lunch at the Squire and then home. Two for two.


September 10, 2007

After an early morning on the water, gathering and bagging oysters for our buyer, I decided that I wanted to get out of town. The day was young and I was done working by 9:00. It would be either Boston or Woods Hole. I decided to hit Woods Hole and I am glad I did.

Joel Meunier, who you may have heard of by now, had planned to be somewhere on Buzzards Bay with his kayak to seek out false albacore, a species he had not mastered yet. I, of course, couldn’t resist throwing a rod into the back of the truck on my way out but my kayak remained at home. Really, I didn’t feel like fishing or being on the water. I wanted to visit the library, check in with some old friends, and then have a good meal at Captain Kidd’s. But only part of my plan would come to fruition.

As I passed the road to Little Sippewissett my mind immediately thought of Joel – “Man, maybe he’s down there on the bay.” And he was. His was the only car in the lot. I couldn’t see him for a while, but then my phone rang and I told Joel that I was there on the beach and, as a good friend would do, he came in to loan me his kayak to head out for albies. He had already landed two nice false albacore…his first. I enthusiastically took this opportunity and paddled out – not far – and found the fish in a series of shit shows. My first cast: hookup. This was a nice one. It took me at least 20 minutes to land him and he must have been at least 10 lbs. The kayak was relatively small and the fish turned me around and pulled me along many meters of distance. It was a good experience. He hit a popper: a chugbug.

Next try: almost. But close.

Then I felt guilty and returned the kayak to Joel. And he went right back out.

Next message on my cell phone: “Fuckjickidus dude, my rod just broke on one!” Joel went through lots of tackle (a tackle busting time) but I think he managed a couple more fish.


On the Fly

September 9, 2007

Well the pressure was on: Brooke and I decided to throw a dinner party tonight and I got up early to catch it. There was no guarantee of course. But I made my way out to the bay and found it alive with about a million fish. I wanted striper, of course, but a few blues would be good too. My plan was striper on the grill and bluefish cakes for an appetizer…along with oysters. But all the fish were stripers and to my dismay, they wouldn’t hit any of my Joel Meunier custom sluggos. And these suckers were hooking stripers on each cast over the past month. Hmmn…good thing I brought along my 9-wt Temple Fork flyrod. First cast and I was on. Not too huge, but a good fighter. Second cast: blam and that was it. After a few minutes a nice 30” striper was in my boat and man, was I happy. Dinner was caught. But I still wanted a few blues.

But I couldn’t find the blues. However, the party went well and everyone was happy to eat fresh fish from the bay. The oysters proved successful as well.

Live life deliberately.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Birthday

September 8, 2007
Arthur Leslie Brawley – my dad.

This would have been his 91st birthday. He was 50 by the time I was born and our time together was short (he died in 1993). Anyway, he was a true fisherman and an excellent writer, though he hated to write. He was an editor instead.

Here’s to you Dad!

Solo Days

September 6-7, 2007

I had two days working the oyster/scallop farm and hitting the rips right after for some action. On both occasions I didn’t need to go far. After wrapping up the shellfish duties I hit the same big rip and man, the fish were there and inside the Cow Yard in big numbers. Lots of fun. One keeper came out of the mix and many good, aggressive fish. Casting a fly or a plug or a sluggo into moving water and having a hookup is awesome. The fish are typically energetic and mad and the action in the rolling, standing wave is a sight that excites all. These two days were spent fishing the rips quite casually and hooking up quite well. These were experiences that would have been nice to share.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Auction

Monday, September 3, 2007
Labor Day.

Today’s charter was really not a true charter but a donation to the Duxbury Art’s Association – a very worthy cause. I had offered a charter in their silent auction and it raised some money and that is great. I attended the party one cool evening in August and, of course, knew one of my auction winners: Brian M. His friend, Bern, offered the highest bid and the two of them were on me for the date of our excursion. I knew Brian, faintly, from our college years. He and I lived in the same dorm during freshman year at UVM – back in 1984 (he was on Patterson 2nd and I was on Patterson 4th). And although we weren’t friends back then, we shared the same friends and as a result, as adults, there was a kindred connection of sorts.

But Brian and Bern knew the bay and knew it well. And this was a mental challenge for me because many of the spots I took them to were ones already familiar to them. So, we met up nice and early at the town dock (I required 15 minutes to clean the oyster mud off the boat) and off we went. I knew it might be a hard morning because the weather had just changed. It was cool and the wind was forecast to pick up from the west/southwest. And it did, and this pushed the fish down. But not before we hit some nice rips that held some decent sized stripers. Brian’s largest was 28” and he released it. Bern and Brian both hooked up on several Saquish-area rips but then as the day wore on the fish thinned out and the wind picked up.

It wasn’t the best day of fishing, but also not the worst. The three of us did have fun with stories; new and old. And I scored some extra coffee as Bern’s Dunkin Donuts clerk accidentally doubled his order. Brian is a big, newly converted, live pogy man and he impressed me with his accounts of hooking into large fish in the channel and other parts of the bay. I see him regularly out there netting the baitfish and on one occasion (see a future post) he scooted up to offer a live one to me as a gift. Great guys and skilled fishermen.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Revisiting P32

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ah yes, Labor Day weekend and parties and such. A few of us spent some of yesterday afternoon at the Lojko’s who live not far away and there the plan was made: Joe would join me this morning in pursuit of the infamous P32 bass. The P32s were the ones I have found to be in residence at a certain time and place every year. So, after a few beers and a margarita (perhaps in reverse order), and a few trips down Joe and Cheryl’s amazing “zip line” which runs a good distance down their yard…through massive oaks…Joe and I agreed to meet, if possible, at 5:15 AM. The confirmation came a few hours later over the phone and I should have gone to bed right then, but we had guests for the weekend and we carried on later than necessary.

4:45 AM – Ugh, not again. I need to change that phone alarm ringtone as it is completely ridiculous. Up I was and out the door within minutes. Joe and I took off from Mattakeesett in near darkness and bolted right to the spot. A few casts yielded nothing. Then, as the light increased slightly, the action began. The rip formed quite well and we both hooked up several times. But out of the two of us Joe had the mojo. His third or fourth fish took lots of line and I could tell by his expression that he might have a significant fish on. And it was. It took a while (he didn’t want to lose it) but when the fish was finally landed it gave us a good shot of adrenalin. It was 36” and very fat; one of the heftiest fish I had seen all year. Joe smiled and we continued. The wind became a bit of a menace. North and increasing to 10-15 kts. But the fish were still on and soon Joe had a 28 incher on and I offered to keep it for him (dinner plans).

We tried another spot and were successful. It was fun. But I had to head in to work. Of course, I was already in my office (the boat) but I needed to drop Joe off and pick up my business partner for shellfish chores. So, we ran back to Snug Harbor.

I know that if I had gone to bed an hour or two earlier last night then I would have landed a couple of keepers too. I was out of it. It has been a long week/10 days of very early mornings and lots of physical activity. To make things worse, another dinner party tonight and an early morning charter tomorrow. Pooped.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Friday, August 31, 2007

Again a morning out with Joel. Hooked a bunch of sublegal stripers at some usual spots. Then cruised into the Cow Yard and got into some nice blues with bass mixed in. A few drifts over the rip produced some good action and finally, with a 5” Fin-S I hooked a keeper bass – and this was good luck because we were counting on this for dinner.

Overall the morning was great. Lots of laughing and some good hookups. The fish were challenging but we managed success when we needed it. All this in preparation for the evening event: the Marshfield Fair Crash-Up Derby. A first for me and for Joel. Took the all the kids, met up with Alex and friends, and hit the fair. A scene it was and perhaps hard on the eyes and the nerves. We left early to head home to cook that striper. We prepared it in the fennel, endive, onion, and thyme style that Chip demonstrated just a couple weeks ago. It was awesome…even absolutely magnificent. Some great wines and stories made it a great night.