By Dave Anderson
It's weird how certain things stick in your mind. It was 1992, I'm guessing it was not long after school let out for the summer, I was 12. This is my grandfather's back yard and there is a small pond behind the camera--before I became obsessed with fishing, there was not a single fish in that pond--just frogs, turtles, tadpoles and hellgrammites. I started carting bass and panfish back from the reservoir across the street when I was 8 and that summer after sixth grade was the first time we really saw results.
All the 'junk' around me in the photo is from sleeping out on the lawn the night before, no tent, no tarp, just a couple sleeping bags, some snacks, sodas, a flashlight and my two friends, Jeremy and Wes. I remember waking up, it was one of those mornings where the air feels heavy and wet and the warmth hangs around you, almost visible, like you could push it aside like a curtain.
For weeks prior to this excursion, I had been obsessed with finding a purple spinnerbait after seeing one in a Berkley fishing ad; they were impossible to find so I had to make one--I guess I haven't changed much. Anyway, after we woke up and took turns casting from the one spot where a person could throw from into that pond, we sat down and ate 'breakfast'--I don't remember what we ate, but I'd guess it was made by Hostess and was probably washed down with a half-gone grape soda.
I took out my new purple creation and I remember being afraid I might lose it in the willow tree that framed the casting perch. I stood with my bare feet in the muck and leaned left so that a hard, sidearm flip would sail below the willow branches. I surveyed my cast and aimed for the lily pads in the back corner. Once in a while, you know, you just hit one right and this cast was a majestic shot, right down the center of the fairway, landing just short of the lilies I was shooting for. I only had to retrieve about 15 feet before I simultaneously saw and felt the take. I remember feeling so satisfied with this fish, caught on a modified lure, a fish I had definitely caught before and carried across the street to release into the pond. The only thing I didn't know enough to appreciate was the moment itself. When you're 12, you feel like you're always going to be 12, you'll always wake up and do whatever you feel like, you'll always want to sleep out on the lawn with your buds, and your parents will always make those things possible. But, I knew that there would be another moment like it the very next day--strung together with all of the other ones that summer--most of them are forgotten. But I do feel so lucky to remember the feeling of that morning--the cold dew mixed with the stifling early heat, the feeling of having two friends that were always up for anything, the relief of summer vacation and that one cast.
By Jerry Audet
The darkness was especially murky and complete on this new moon night; the woods were silent and still. The light from my headlamp stopped abruptly in front of me, inducing the feelings of being closed into a tunnel.
Distracted and distant, fishing wasn’t going to happen tonight; and so I was already walking back to the car.
As I walked, I was adrift in my mind, fully devoid of any awareness of what was going on around me. Trapped in my head. When I get stuck on thoughts, problems, like I was on this night, I have the ability to completely separate myself from reality and go within.
The tunnel of light, silence of the woods around me, and my own careening mind gave me the feeling of claustrophobia. I decided to risk a bruised toe and flip off my light, attempting to escape into the dark.
Clicking the button on my headlamp plunged me into blackness deep enough to make me stop. I stood frozen, letting my eyes adjust. Once I could vaguely make out the sky line and the path in front of me, I started to walk again.
As I walked, I felt the forest closing in on me. But not with malevolence. As I walked in the dark, I felt I was becoming part of the landscape; not something alien passing through it. I melted into it, just another passing animal in the night.
Fear of the dark is something we feel biologically. But just like anything else, we can psychologically train ourselves to not be afraid. I am not afraid of the dark anymore. However, I couldn’t help but feel I had been walking with my light on, not so that I could see, but so I could push out my surroundings. Now, in the quiet night, I could feel the dark enveloping me and drawing me back to the present.
Being out in the forest at night is not something people go looking for. It is something to be avoided; like getting your feet wet. When I talk to “normals” about my night-fishing adventures, I often get many raised eyebrows and empty stares. They are usually quick to change the subject; out of boredom, or confusion, or disinterest I’m not sure.
Light off, I continued to walk in the total darkness, feeling my mental focus going outwards even further. Pushing off the path and into the forest. I could now hear little chirps and squeaks in the underbrush I hadn’t noticed before.
I walked through a small depression in the trail, and was enveloped by a soft spot of cooler air. It reminded me of something, a feeling of sometime long ago. It was a memory of a smell and a feeling; but I couldn’t pull it into my present. Instead, for a few breaths it just hung around me like a presence.
Then, in the distance, a coyote let out a few fleeting yelps and a single short howl. There was a momentary pause of utter silence, and then the woods erupted in the calls of a full pack.
A smile crossed my face, and the memory crystallized.
I was transported back to being 11 years old. Living in Vermont, my bike was my life. I could go anywhere, as long as my legs could handle it. There was no traffic, no street lights. Just endless dirt roads, and friends who lived miles and miles apart. If I wanted to see them, before I could drive, sometimes it meant I would have to bike 10 miles. I never really had a curfew. No one worried about anything like kidnappers where I am from. You, literally, knew everyone. So, often I would be coming back at sunset, or even during the dark. For a kid with a big imagination and no flashlight, this sometimes took a fair amount of bravery.
There was a spot I used to pass through that was a small valley with a stream at the bottom. My friends Alana and Izzy- two neighbors that were practically sisters to me- used to always say that’s where the coyotes would get you at night. I guess someone saw one there, once, although I had never seen one- and haven’t yet in the 23 years my parents have lived there.
When I would get to the crest of the hill before the tiny ravine, before I plunged down the other side, I would slow to a crawl and take a deep breath, preparing myself for the assault at “coyote valley”. I would then launch myself down the hill, pedaling as hard as I could and shifting quickly, until my feet spun to a blur of motion. I would sail through the valley, and even in July, it would often be filled with cool, wet fog which would stick to my eyelashes and create a sheen on my arms and legs. I would drop into it, and it would blur my vision, making motion seemingly stop. I would careen along the dirt road, rocks and gravel shooting in all directions, absolutely positive a pack of coyotes was closing in on me from all sides in the mist. My lunges would be burning as I reached the hill on the other side, and I would stand up and pedal as hard as I could until I reached the crest again. Once at the top, I sometimes would be dizzy from effort and breathing hard enough to cause a stitch in my shoulder. However, once I “knew” I had survived, and was safe at the crest, I would again begin my leisurely ride home.
No head lamp; no cars. Just bird calls of late evening and tree frogs.
The calls of the coyotes dwindled to a single individual again, who seemed to be trying to chide the group on, and then suddenly it was completely silent.
I started to walk once more. I had completely forgotten the problems of only minutes ago.
Just another animal in the woods at night.
By Dave Anderson
It's just about that time again, when the big fish come back to the Big Ditch. Anyone that frequents or even just thinks about the Canal has probably noticed by now that the Army Corps hasn't posted the tide chart this year and this makes planning these trips pretty tough. Never fear! We have posted the tide charts for May through November here. So go ahead and peruse and plan 'til your heart's content. You're welcome.
Posted below is a short video the explains how to interpret the tides in the Canal. Give it a look if you need a refresher course.
By Jerry Audet
In this installment of the "Fly25" In-Pursuit series, I am taking a look at a simple fishing philosophy: you can't will fish to hit your lure/plug/fly. We don't get to dictate to the fish. If you always remember, this you will be much better off as an angler.
The last few weeks I have been fishing a spot because I like it. It is easy to get to. It's beautiful. The water is relatively warmer than other spots. I get to swim in the ocean. These are things that I WANT to do.
However, it's also far along the Striper migration pathway. It doesn't usually fish well until at least the beginning of June. And as a result, I haven't been catching many fish.
I've been mulling over the idea that you can't "will" fish into hitting, and that "hoping" fish will do something that you want them to do is the absolutely wrong way to think about fishing.
Instead, we need to meet the fish on THEIR terms. They dictate to us; not the other way around. But until last night, I didn't feel I had a great explanation for these thoughts. But, this all came together last night when I got skunked again, and it really gelled for me that I was simply hoping the fish would be there- but not for the right reasons.
So in this video, I talk a bit about this concept. This applies to ALL fishing- not just surf fishing. Maybe an easy and simple concept, but something we need to constantly remind ourselves to do.
By Dave Anderson
Let me start by saying that there is absolutely no way I can cover this subject in one post, I’m going to have to break this down into several parts—I could see it going as many as 10 individual parts, but we’ll see. Just to stay on trend with what we’ve been discussing recently, I am going to focus on deep presentations with plugs.
When I look at the blackfish footage in last week’s video I always come away with the same pointed thoughts in my mind; I see how tight they are to the bottom and how subtle their movements are (unless they’re moving frantically). I feel it’s important to stress the point that blackfish are only one of these ‘bottom species’ that double as reliable baitfish, and pretty much all of them stay tight to the bottom and tight to structure: scup, fluke, sea bass, choggies, kingfish, pollock—and I forgot to mention lobsters in my last post. Lobsters conjure—at least for me—images of the rich surfcasters of the 1800’s tossing lobster tails into the Cuttyhunk suds. And I have found numerous lobsters in the guts of the bass I have kept over the years. These crustaceans are active at night and absolutely are a favorite target of big striped bass.
Ok, hopefully I’ve made this infinitely clear: a deep presentation is a natural presentation in the boulder-strewn stretches of the Northeast coast that most of us fish. So that’s the first point: get comfortable with fishing deep. One of the best sentences I’ve ever read about fishing deep was written by my friend and elite surfcaster John Hanecak, it’s simple but so true: “You can’t be afraid to lose plugs, if you’re afraid you’re going to lose it, then you’re not going to fish it where you’re most likely to catch a big bass.” That’s paraphrased, but the point should be well taken. Which brings me to another quote from a YouTube video posted by swimbait pro Mike Gilbert, you think losing your $50 to $75 metal lip hurts, these guys are fishing baits that cost as much as $500! Mike takes a very pragmatic approach to it, he says, “Consider it gone. Once you cast it out there, you have to think of it as if you’ve already lost that bait.” Plugs are tools, and by the nature of what we do, they must be considered disposable. This is why I have backups of everything I like and why I build many multiples of the plugs I make for my personal stash. When they inevitably leave me, I have another to take its place.
So how do you know when you’re fishing deep enough? When you start banging into the bottom and hanging up periodically, you’re there. I currently only use metal lips and needles when I’m trying to dredge the bottom. And I am fully aware of the fact that there other ways to get this done, but shads, leadheads and bucktails don’t fit into the way I do it. I like to play on the buoyancy of the plug to keep my presentation natural.
Referring again to the underwater footage, notice how fluid their motions are and how often they really aren’t moving much at all. I can’t do that with a bucktail, I don’t doubt that someone out there can, but I can’t. I can do that with metal lip, especially one that’s weighted enough to slow its rise during a pause. I can also do this with a heavy needlefish, particularly those that are made to sink level. A properly made level-sink needle will not rapidly ascend through the water column like a conventionally made (tail-weighted) needle. It’s the riding angle of the plug that dictates it’s track, if the needle rides head above the tail, it will climb, if it stays level it will remain—more or less—at the depth you sink it to (until the line angle steepens to the point that it has to ride toward the surface).
Presenting these plugs is all about getting them to depth and then maintaining that depth while feeling your way through the retrieve. I’ll begin with the metal lip. Let’s assume that we’re fishing in 10 feet of water with a good sweep running from left to right. I’m going to cast out to about my 10 o’clock and put four or five hard cranks on the reel to get the plug down fast. Now I have a tight zone in which I can work the plug properly before the sweep begins to affect the action of the plug and its ability to stay deep—let’s say that’s from about the 10:30 position to the 1:30 position. When I have the plug down, I focus on a steady, subtle rhythm, I don’t want the plug to swim hard or to wobble out of control. Everything I do is dictated by what I feel and what I’m feeling is directly linked to the how the current is affecting the plug. My reactions are all made to maintain that slow, thumping rhythm. But with some mental footage of bottom species swimming in my head, I will also allow the current to move the plug while I stop cranking and lower the tip to cease the wobble and swing a stationary target through the tide. If I’m doing it right, I will bump bottom here and there and that’s another time when I’ll pause the plug, allowing it to swing and float over the obstacle before resuming the retrieve. To me, this method closely resembles what I see in those videos. Am I overthinking this? I really don’t know. But it helps me stay alert and confident, so regardless of its necessity underwater, it has a positive effect on me and therefore it has a positive effect on my fishing.
With the needle the basics are very much the same, except I often find that I have to make a few ‘test casts’ to find the perfect cast placement so that I can get it down in time to fish in that slice of bottom where the current works in our favor. A perfect cast would have the needle hitting the bottom at about the 11 o’clock position. Once again, the retrieve is completely based on feel and I make several casts every night where something seems to go wrong, the plug never gets all the way down or—for some reason—swings harder and I never really connect. But, on that same plane, when it does work properly the feeling is 100% different. I can feel the weight of the plug and how the current is playing off of it. I keep my rod tip high and when I feel like I’ve lifted it too far from the bottom, I drop the tip sharply, allowing a loop of slack in the line which the weight of the needle quickly takes up, sinking it back down a few feet. Here again, the goal is to tick bottom once in a while, keeping the plug in the lower 2- to 3-feet of the water column, swinging right through the strike zone. The hits are THUNDEROUS using either method.
All of this working with and working off of the current and all this talk about feel and reacting to how the plug is reacting to the current are why I made that video about “The Water Environment”. These places of increased water movement and abundance of life are the places where your presentation matters the most and the harder you work to complete your picture of what makes these spots so special, the better you’ll be at finding fish and presenting a plug to them. All of this stuff is important, you can’t fly the plane if you don’t know how to take off and land.
This series is about trying to catch a 50-pounder, but it’s all pertinent information that’s relevant to catching quality stripers from the surf. Understanding the relationship between a reliable source of food, water movement and how that water movement changes your presentation will take you a long way if you take the time to learn this and implement it in your own fishing.
I originally wanted to make this into a video, but the more I talked to the camera, the more I realized there was potential for a much more in depth video that would require a lot more 'in the field' footage, look for that sometime over the summer.
This morning, we have another video for you about switching rear hooks to our worm-weight system. This time around, we're going to give you a few more thoughts, tips, and philosophy surrounding our commitment to ditching the rear hook entirely.
So far this season we've had fish to 17 pounds using this system. We'll have LOTS more content related to it as the season progresses.
If you missed it, you can find the first full video (all 20 minutes of it) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09ByNzVOR0Y&t=26s
And, we have a TOURNAMENT GIVE AWAY, going on as well if you missed that: https://www.facebook.com/OutflowFishing/photos/a.1154793617982026/2036050029856376/?type=3&theater
By Jerry Audet
As you'll hear in this post, I'm not always the bravest surf fisherman out there. Although, some might actually call me "smart" or "cautious". I feel that given the short-comings of the fly rod, I need to figure out ways to get myself as close as possible to areas where big fish are known to "hang out". As I put rather strongly in this video, casting distance is always an issue with the fly rod, and to overcome this I need to swim further. While I swim rather regularly (3-4 days a week) for short distances with my plugging rod, I have yet to undertake the kind of swims I'm talking about in this video.
And let's face it, swimming at night in the ocean in any kind of current is pretty "exciting". Or, nerve-wracking, depending on your point of view.
In this video, I'll talk to you about a lot of things, but primarily my surf belt and the limited gear I'll be taking with me on my long swim. Enjoy!
By Dave Anderson
We are conditioned to think to certain things as baitfish. We can't help it, it comes at us from all angles, reading, watching videos, attending seminars... we hear the same things; bunker, mackerel, sea herring, sand eels, peanuts... having these terms jammed down our collective throats has built up a wall of sorts, it has created a profile of baitfish that is now pretty much a forgone conclusion--it's like we already know what they eat and they don't eat anything else.
Well, you can toss that right out the third floor window.
Big fish are focused on sustaining themselves and survival. It is a fact that they are opportunistic, so yes they will absolutely feed on herring, bunker, mackerel, squid and anything else that happens to cross their paths, but those baits can't be relied upon to sustain them on a daily/nightly basis. So the things that are always present become the most common menu items--these are the things that the worm-soakers and the crab-dunkers are catching; scup, fluke, choggies, sea bass and--most importantly--blackfish. Blackfish are abundant, they are territorial and they are reliable. And I believe that tog in the 8- to 16-inch class are the top sustaining 'baitfish' that trophy stripers in southern New England feed on. Redefine bait and think about reliability--when you focus on what's reliable you take luck out of the equation, and that puts you on a faster track to getting that big fish.
By Jerry Audet
By Dave Anderson
The term 'water environment' was coined by my friend John Lee, he used to single out the effects the water and water movement have on his most productive dive spots. Moving water plays a big role in making one spot stand out from others nearby. But it's not always that boiling tide-rip that should be getting all your attention. Thinking in terms of the entire food chain and how increases in current speed or changes in the direction of the flow can affect the feed, starting at the microscopic level, really is the baseline for singling out hot zones where big fish are likely to make regular stops. When the water speeds up in a focused area, it kicks up tiny organisms that feed slightly larger organisms and the chain reaction sets off from there. Don't start yourself off half blind by only thinking about the fish you want to catch, look at your spots for what they offer a big fish and assess from there.