hen I saw Nauset Beach for the first time in mid-October 1962, there was just enough frost in the air to boot stripers south from the Maritimes. My first daybreak there, I saw a collection of buggies a mile south down the beach where people were collected in a group. I remember thinking that they were throwing bread in the water, because there was a ton of birds flying around then landing right in front of the buggies.
All the vehicles above us were rushing past toward the bread and birds, so we joined in the chase. Amid the group, there were two women in pajamas who were in the water over their knees. I was thinking to myself how stupid it was not to bother to suit up at this time of the year when one of them hooked up.
What we didn't know at the time was that the same thing was happening a few miles to the north, and a collection of buggies had picked up on that blitz as well. Now our action started to move north with bursts of white marking the school's progress, and the end buggies turned around and started jockeying to get ahead without overshooting the fish. It was all stripers, decent ones around six pounds. Out of sight and between the two schools, a friend from our club, Charley Cinto, was frying breakfast with two baited rods spiked outside his rig. Knowing nothing of what was happening along the beach, Charley really wasn't watching, and he never had a clue until someone in one of the machines coming past blew a horn; at the same time, one of his poles went down flat with a good take. When he grabbed the stick that was squeaking line off the spool, there must have been 40 or 50 buggies collected around him, the two schools of fish having collided in front of Charlie's buggy. The gang gasped when they saw the fish that later weighed 51 pounds. For me, it was a realization of what real striped bass could be as well as the kind of fish that Nauset Beach could produce. No sooner had Charley rinsed and stowed it when his other stick went down hard. After a few minutes of back and forth, he landed the second one leaving those of us who had seen it slack-jawed with astonishment. It turned out to be 49 pounds. It was then that I decided that Nauset Beach had to be a pretty good place if a boat fisherman from P-Town could take two fish that totaled 100 pounds fishing the beach.
An interesting digression about Charley Cinto: Five years later, while fishing with Captain Frank Sabatowski on the June Bug at Cuttyhunk, Cinto boated a 73 pound lineside, which was at the time the largest bass taken since the World Record Charles Church fish. Disqualified by the IGFA because of wire line and treble hooks on his plug, Cinto's was still the biggest striper in over 50 years.
A lot of the big fishing books make rocket science out of reading the beach. Viewing it as a fine art, they exhort the virtues of knowing how to discern good shoreline structure then try to teach it. Nonetheless, I have always felt that reading the beach was a thing that came naturally. It seems to me that a raging surf would cause bait to tumble, that escape was through deep channels, that holes covered the backs of gamefish, and that corners were traps. The more complicated the structure, the more likely it was for an element that appealed to stripers to present itself. It then remained only to find this stuff. That is what I liked about Nauset Beach: The place was 11 miles of bars, holes and sloughs. Also, trying to unravel Nauset's secrets was part of the fun and challenge of the high surf and the best opportunities were furthest down the beach toward the inlet.
I had fished enough stripers to realize that current was another thing that appealed to them. We hated driving the full length of the beach but had heard many times that the end had more current. At a place called Long Bar, there were more buggies in one half mile of shore than the whole beach put together. The first minute that I saw the place two things struck me: structure and current. But the odd thing about how the bar was configured was that it was not an outside bar like those along the beach. Rather, it was a continuation of the beach straight south. And, the top dry beach fell gradually away west in a rounding apparently caused by the currents of rising water rushing into Pleasant Bay. There was a sharp three foot drop off behind Long Bar which doesn't sound like much unless you are at the top of your waders and a raging sea is booming over your shoulders. You have to experience that in the deep night to understand its terror. Thus, the further south one went on Long Bar, the further one ended up from the safety of the dry beach. The collection of fishing rigs tended to be where the bar touched shore. At low tide, the surf fishers stretched southward. However, once the water started coming, each individual had his own idea of when to leave. There were times when I used to believe that for some it was a manhood thing about how long to stretch a stay on Long Bar; but I was later to learn that the greatest cause for delay were the shoals of stripers sliding over the top of Long Bar on their way to Chatham Inlet. That is why it is impossible to talk about Long Bar without including Chatham Inlet, the former a product of the sizzling tide rips of the inlet.
Back in the sixties, the way to fish Nauset Beach was to dunk seaworms on the bottom with a pyramid sinker. Surf fishers, mostly using spinning tackle, would bait a pair of lines, cast as far as they could, sand spike the rods and watch them. The true old timers would reminisce about the days when they used to plug the beach, but by 35 years ago there was no longer any apparent interest in casting plugs. Bait fishing at Long Bar was done mostly at low tide; still, after the tide was given a few hours to fill behind the bar, some of the sharpies used to fish worms from the top beach. I wish that I could say that I was responsible for bringing plug fishing back to Nauset; but the truth of the matter is that I only gave it a boost.
One night, after eating and changing clothes from my adventures on a rising bar, I heard a pop just down the banking from the buggy followed shortly by another. We had done a lot of plugging elsewhere in the previous years, but, having been convinced that Nauset bass didn't like plugs, I felt a little dumb casting a swimmer into the waves. You can imagine my surprise when a schoolie took it down. Worse, meeting other casters plugging quietly behind the bar proved to me that this revitalization of plugging was another of the beach's secrets. Because bait fishing dominated, there was a tendency to plug more where the water moved too fast for a sinker to hold bottom. Thus, the closer we got to Chatham Inlet, the more likely we were to plug and find others doing the same. An evolution in methods was falling into place where plug fishing was returning. At first, many of us fished both ways; eventually, our plug fishing so dominated that we stopped coming onto the beach with worms.