ith Valentines Day approaching, this fish story is told as a cautionary tale, aimed at the younger, unmarried members of our surfcasting community.
Back when I was 29 and single, I dated a drop-dead gorgeous, 22 year old. I thought that I was pretty
hot stuff since every guy in town was chasing her, yet she seemed to be interested in me.
Up to that point, I had been able to keep my sporting interests unencumbered by any romantic entanglements. Then one day I mentioned to her that on the following weekend I was going to be camping at Charleston Breachway and fishing with my uncle. Her first reaction was to wrinkle her nose in distaste, then she did an uncanny and immediate face change. She then gave me the type of smile that would stop you right in your tracks, and said that she would like to come along.
I quickly backpedalled and explained that it wouldn't be much fun for her since I would be keeping pretty strange hours, like sleeping during the day and fishing all night, but she said “no problem, I'll lay on the beach and entertain myself”.
I should have known better, I really should have. When the weekend arrived we drove down to Rhode Island. I pulled into the State Campground lot and parked my camper near my uncle's rig. We visited with my aunt and uncle for a while, and I made plans to meet my uncle at midnight, and fish thru until dawn.
My girlfriend and I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon taking a long walk along the beach. I felt more than little strange walking the sands in the bright daylight, and a bit naked without a rod and reel. After an early supper, I told her that it was time for me to get some sleep, as I would be going fishing the outgoing tide at midnight. She calmly said ”Oh, by the way, I made plans with some friends of mine from Providence and they are coming down to see us”. Now, I might not be the sharpest hook in the tackle box, but I did recognize that my plans were possibly being twisted to suit her personal agenda.
Soon her friends arrived and they brought with them the ‘party-hardy’ attitude that goes along with being in your early 20’s. The three of them were insistent that I join them in hitting a couple of clubs over in Newport. At this point, I should state that I have never cared much for alcohol and nightclubs, and that my idea of nightlife has always involved a bucket of live eels and a deserted stretch of coastline.
Why I allowed them to change my plans I'll never know; Maybe it was because no man had ever said “no” to this girl, and I couldn't be the first; Or maybe it was the idea of her being in a club without me that made me want to believe their hollow promises of having me back by midnight.
What time did we get back?.........Dunno. How much did I have to drink?........Dunno. What did I say or do that night?.........Dunno. What I do know is, I woke up with the early morning sun shining through the camper window on my face. My tongue felt so dry and sour I wondered how the felt sole of my hip boot had wound up in my mouth. The sunlight was blindingly painful and my brain was being dashed on the rocks of the past night's alcohol. As bad as I felt, the guilt of standing up my uncle on our fishing plans somehow made it through my fogged mind, and it piled right on top of my misery.
Slowly I was becoming aware that there was some sound that had awakened me. I could still hear it, but was unable to process it. There it was again........then it finally sank in, it was the sound of screaming sea gulls and camper doors slamming.
I had to pull myself upright with my arms, because my right leg was completely dead numb from the way that I was laying on it. Looking out the window, I saw two fishermen scurry past my camper heading towards the beach. It seemed that every sea gull in Rhode Island was wheeling and diving out over the surf.
As I stumbled around for my gear, my excessive nymphet gave me a sleepy sigh from the bed, and raised one arm in a seductive ‘come hither’. I thought to myself “sorry lady, I hear another siren call, and that one I do have to answer”.
I literally fell out of the camper door, then pulled on my hip boots. Because I found myself in a pair of sweatpants, I had nothing to fasten the straps onto. In my confusion, I also hadn't been able to find my sunglasses and had to squint out of one eye to deal with the low blinding sun and the small craft warnings in my head.
So, with my hip boots at half-mast, straps flying, I swung my useless, still dead asleep leg around and ambled over the dune towards the beach like a hung-over, blinded Frankenstein.
Topping the low dune I saw an enormous blitz of bluefish pounding thru the baitfish. The thirty or so fishermen spread along the surf were casting for all they were worth, but the fish were just beyond their reach.
Stumbling blindly forward, I failed to notice the three foot shelf that the waves had carved into the top of the beach. My next step was a doozy, and I pounded my head right into the sand and came close to breaking my rod tip. I knew that the casting crowd had their backs towards me, so I tightened my dignity up a couple of notches, blew the sand out of my nose and lurched towards the surf, looking and feeling pretty much like the wreck of the Hesperus.
During my triple-lutze, my plug bag had gotten flipped over and was tangled on the handle of my reel; With every step I took, a couple of lures were deposited onto the sand. About the time that my bag was completely empty I dropped it, and realized that a plug had gone down my boot top. I tried to extract it, but one treble hook was caught in my sweatpants leg, and another was caught in the lining of the boot, so I chose to ignore it for the time being.
I saw my uncle back away from the waters edge, saving his energy should the fish move closer. I wobbled into the spot that he had just vacated, but was unable to check my forward advance and succeeded in filing my left hip boot with water. Surprising myself, I did manage to get off a pretty impressive cast considering my condition.
Honest to God, and I'll go to my grave swearing this on the Surfcaster’s Bible, I popped my Point Jude Surf Popper exactly once, and instantly had a bluefish on. Oddly enough, all of those very capable fishermen were unable to reach the blitz that was moving away, but I somehow dropped my plug right on the nose of the one looney bluefish who couldn't find his way to the two acre menhaden bonanza.
By the time that I landed the one and only fish that was caught, everyone had quit casting. Without saying a word, I quickly handed the bluefish over to the grumbling fisherman standing next to me. The tight 4 to 5 foot chop in my stomach precluded me from even considering filleting that fish.
I walked up the slope of the beach and picked up my empty plug bag, then worked my way up the debris field of my lures, gathering them. Out of the corner of my one squinting eye, I saw my uncle standing there studying me. I couldn't meet his gaze, so I wasn't sure if his look was reproachful, or if he was simply puzzled by my odd, very uncharacteristic behavior.
I spent the rest of that Sunday lying low, nursing my ills, and endlessly repeating the mantra “never again”. I also did my best to ignore my pretty friend's pouting entreaties to keep the party rolling. By the way, she was absolutely none the worse for wear, and like long painted fingernails dragged across a blackboard, she kept up a constant screeching whine about how boring this place was. She bombarded me with demands like: “Let's go back to Newport and go window shopping”. (Ya, right!) “Or let's go visit the Mansions, then go out to a fancy restaurant”. (Ho ho, sure!) “Or maybe we should go lay on the beach at Misquamicut, at least there are lots and lots of people there”. (Now that would be a real treat, wouldn't it?)
My only consolation was that I had been granted a timely warning as to what my future might hold with this girl. The next time that I planned a camping-fishing trip, that girl coming along wasn't an issue. She had already given me the ‘goodbye look’ and had moved on and found another willing party-animal, and that was just fine and dandy with me.
As a post script, I should add that I am now happily married to a wonderful woman who is very understanding of my need to frequently be at the surf's edge. I am also very lucky in that she enjoys joining me, with a rod and reel in her little freckled hand if the outing isn't going to be too long or too overly uncomfortable.
So, the moral and message of this story for the young, single surfcaster out there is simply this: DUDE..........Choose wisely, the sporting life you save may be your own!
Copyright © 2005 - 2008, Alan Landry, All Rights Reserved