By Dave Anderson
It's probably obvious that John Lee and I weren't totally ready to launch this blog, but extenuating circumstances are what they are, we needed a place to run this tournament from, I had the domain and a shell of a website in progress so we took on the trial by fire and here we are. We'll do our best to keep things interesting as the tourney progresses. (Hopefully a few of you will want to read it!)
If you're still not totally sure what this whole Owenstrong Tournament is all about, it's a benefit for a fellow angler, John Hanecak's, son who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. He's not even 18 months old yet and he's strapped with battling this terrible disease. The great news is that treatments are very successful these days. The hard parts are the expense and the duration--Owen's doctors estimate that it will take 3-1/2 years to complete the treatment. As I've written before, our main goal is taking the heat off of the Family a little bit so that they can be where parents should be when their child is in need of their support; right by his (or her) side.
Every cent raised by all of the great people working together on this event will go directly to the Hanecak Family. My friend and fellow editor (of The Fisherman Magazine) Toby Lapinski has been integral in getting this event off the ground, "Grampa" Greg McNamara has also played a huge part in seeing it through. We have the support of the Connecticut Surfcaster's Club, their officers and membership have played a critical role in securing a venue for the banquet, collecting donations and streamlining the process of putting this together through collaboration and sheer manpower. Jared Clairmont and Chris Blouin have also played a big role in making this tournament happen--I'd like to personally thank all of these people for putting in their own sweat and hours to make this benefit a reality. Our growing list of sponsors and private donors is too long to list--please look for a complete list being added to the OwenStrong Page in the near future. The initial support has been overwhelming and now it's up to you to sign up and fish this thing! The entry price of just $30 could easily be twice that and still be acceptable given the fees for most fishing tournaments, but we wanted to set a price that was right for everyone that loves to fish the surf.
John told me today that he and Karyn have been floored by the support of the surfcasting community and have been feeling extremely blessed by all of the notes of encouragement and acts of kindness aimed at supporting their young family. Surfcasters are a small group but we are passionate and we are connected by that passion. I feel like the small size of our group makes us close--maybe we don't all love each other--but when something real happens, we come together in ways that very few other 'special interest groups' can, will or could. This makes me really proud to be a part of this group.
We have rods, reels, surf bags, jackets, gift certificates, other types of gear and hundreds of plugs to raffle off in the CT Surfcasters Fundraising Event, (taking place at the awards banquet on October 21st in Clinton, CT). In addition to that, all attendees will be well fed and have the option to take in two excellent striper fishing seminars from top anglers, Capt. Jack Sprengel will be one of those presenters and we're working on securing the second one. The event will run 12 to 4:30 p.m. and is open to the public for a $10 entry fee, participating anglers enter free.
I don't think I could express how excited we are to see this thing take off and to raise some money that will help a family do what families are meant to do--support one another no matter what. Please follow this link to the OwenStrong page and sign up today.
By Dave Anderson
The nights surrounding the August full moon are some of my favorites for largemouth fishing after dark. Unlike the surf, where darker nights seem to bring bigger fish and more consistent fishing, bright moon nights have been far more productive for me in the ponds. I am big on feel, I try to rely on instinct to tell me when and where to fish. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes my feelings are wrong. My belief is that we, as human beings, have undergone hundreds of years of un-training; we used to be much more instinctual creatures. Evidence surfaces when a random image of someone you haven’t seen in 10 years emerges from the back of your skull and the phone rings, guess who? Or when your kid gets into a bad spot and you are miraculously there to catch her as she falls. But one of the most common manifestations of our fading catalogue of natural instincts has to do with being watched. It’s almost mind-blowing how often we feel eyes on us and can then turn and immediately lock onto that set of offending eyes. Even the fact that we can lock eyes and feel that electric connection is something that I believe is left over from the instinctual creatures we once were. Try locking eyes with a deer and see what happens, as soon as that connection is made, she’s gone in a flash of brown and white. It’s an animal instinct, we can all feel it.
A few nights ago, I was on foot, stalking largemouths in a pond a few towns away from my house. Sunday nights are some of my favorites to fish in the surf because no one is fishing, but on this pond with a single road tracing the north bank, I came to realize that not only is no one fishing on a Sunday night, no one is doing ANYTHING on a Sunday night. Less than eight cars rolled by in the time I was there, during the daytime, that street would be alive with the perceived importance of daily life.
Wading softly through the calm water, the smell of stagnant silt and pond weed filled my nostrils and brought me back to my youth, growing up on a great bass pond in Westboro, Massachusetts. Fishing has that effect on me, when I’m in the mindset I feel as though I could be any age. I was fishing a large wakebait, one I made for myself, throwing an 8-1/2 inch bait in freshwater can be a lonely proposition—most of the bass in any given pond are only a few inches longer than the lure! The feeling of hunting something big makes it very engaging and enjoyable when the explosion comes.
But, for the first 45 minutes, I felt very much alone.
It had been a long day and I told myself I was only going to give it an hour, unless it was going off, clearly, it was not going off. Worst of all, I had hedged my bets by fishing the three best spots first, and they were dead. I walked back to where I started and looked back at my car. “Fifteen more minutes,” I said to myself and I walked past my entry point to a place where I had only caught three or four fish in all my times fishing there. It’s a shallow flat with a single and distinct rocky edge that drops down about 2 feet and then continues on as a long, gradually-sloping flat. The next 15 minutes would produce five fish—no big ones, but all nice ones in the 2 to 3-1/2 pound class. This was enough to get me to stay, at least until midnight.
There was a distinct pattern in the five fish that I caught on that flat, they were all relating to prominent changes in that edge, large rocks, bump-outs and small submerged points. And the pattern held for most of the night.
My last stop was a an area where a marshy river entered the pond, it’s a hard spot to cross, so I pretty much always end my nights there when I fish this pond. The incoming stream has carved out a wide cove, I can just barely reach the other side with a good cast. When I arrived on the small delta of debris the stream has pushed up over centuries, I could hear something rustling in the reeds across the cove. This was not something small like a raccoon, and it wasn’t a deer because I had made enough noise on the mussel shells and gravel that a deer would have been long gone. A carpet of clouds had filtered the moonlight, leaving me in a hazy shroud of almost darkness. I heard the rustling getting a little more intense, so I whistled to it, like a dog. It stopped.
I began casting and, within a few minutes, hooked up with what would be my last bass of the night, another solid fish, just over 3-1/2 pounds. After that, the fishing tapered off and the night seemed to reach a new level of quiet and dark. The rustling was back now, but moving along the opposite shore, slowly, like a child learning to tip-toe. It was moving in toward the stream. It took this animal 10 minutes to cover about 250 feet of shoreline—that’s pretty slow. Then I heard it quietly slipping through the reeds and then splashing—very softly—through the river, and then through the reeds on the other side.
In that moment my senses were firing like the processors on a supercomputer. I felt like I was seeing in 360 degrees as my ears aided my mind’s eye. This animal, which at this point I was pretty sure was actually two animals, was now right behind me. I am not the type to get spooked by wildlife, if I was fishing a stream in Wyoming, yeah, I’d have been reaching for the bear spray, but in Southern New England, I know where I sit on the food chain. But that didn’t stop my brain and body from reacting. I could feel the eyes on me and my body reacted with a chill on my back. Some people equate this to fear, but again, this is a warning sense, left over from the thousands of years ago when our ancestors hunted and fished out of necessity and these senses told them when danger was near. I’m sure you’ve seen a dog with its “hackles up” when it can sense danger or an intruder, that chill is the same thing.
I never saw my stalkers, but I heard them shadowing me for over 100 yards on the walk back to my parking spot. Coyotes have much sharper instincts than we do. Any time I’m with a friend that gets spooked by their howling, I remind them that we don’t smell like food to them, we smell like deodorant, and shampoo and danger. But they are curious and bold in the dark and they will stalk you; they step when you step – they stop when you stop. It’s eerie, but also fascinating—instinct is amazing, a sense taken for granted and ignored. When you feel the silent nudge of eyes on your back, or the wary zing of a chill up your spine, don’t shake it off, listen. These instincts are the last vestiges of your sixth sense, exercise them, keep them sharp and virile; be glad that your survivor instincts are still awake and functioning inside you, because this world and the lives we live are doing everything they can to take them away.
By Dave Anderson
My daughter is 18 months old and, as any dad with a surfcasting addiction should do, I take her to the beach every chance I get—which translates to pretty much every day. A couple weeks ago we were out running errands and I thought we should swing by a beach that overlooks one of my favorite sets of rocks—she could play in the sand and I could hang from the eyepieces of my binoculars looking for signs of life.
I was hungry and I could tell that she was too. The stash of Goldfish in the diaper bag had been exhausted, so I stopped at a local bakery to look for something we could share. I settled on a cinnamon bun that seemed to be calling me from the street. We hit the beach, spread out a blanket and shared that twisted miracle of dough, butter and cinnamon—it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had. Hands down; and I’ve had many. I didn’t see any signs of life but Lila kept me entertained by repeatedly trying to pet seagulls—attempting to call them over like you might call a cat. It was a good day.
A few days later it was Friday and I called my fishing partner, Dave Daluz, to weigh the options for the night ahead; should we fish early in the night and hit spots A and B or should we head out around 4 a.m. and hit spot C? We elected to do the morning thing. To make the details of a very slow trip less boring; I dropped a good fish in the dark and Dave caught a 30-incher about 80 minutes after sunrise. The minutes before and after were sprinkled with rapid plug changes, glances across the point at one another, silent cursing of various boats coming too close and endless minutes of ‘in head’ wondering and self-flagellation about what our fate might have been had we elected to fish the night tide instead.
Mercilessly, one of us declared that he was going home and the other made the requisite “last cast” and followed closely behind. As we were walking out my mind wandered to that cinnamon roll. I know Dave likes quality baked goods as much as I do; he should know about these! Food is one of our top five subjects of conversation when driving long distances—the others being fishing, adolescent stupidity, present day stupid people and Kate Upton—not mentioning these cinnamon buns seemed like a violation of the bro code.
I should add that in the intervening days I had been back to the bakery no less than three times and each time they hadn’t made the cinnamon rolls! This had built up quite a jonze. This had also given me the chance to get a feel for the place; it was run by a group of college age girls, there were rarely any people in there and, I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking things, but… well you’ll see.
I headed straight for the bakery on my way home, I half-expected Dave to follow, but he was nowhere to be seen. I was still in my wetsuit and I had a moment of mind-stutter when I thought about walking in there as their only customer, wearing a wetsuit. I didn’t want to make these girls uneasy. Might they think that I thought I looked good (Hey ladies, yeah I fish in a wetsuit…) or tough (Check out the pipes…) or maybe that I was trying to show off my 35-year old ‘dad’ physique to a bunch of college girls on a Saturday morning (Who needs help with their homework…)? For the record, none of those things are my strong points; and I am well aware of, and at peace with, these facts. In the middle of the night I’ll walk into almost any place with my wetsuit on, but for some reason, this place at 8 a.m. on a sunny day, made me stop.
So, I reached over and grabbed a pair of gym shorts, my worst pair too. You know the ones… the pair with the worn out elastic, paint smears on both legs, the pair you have to tie so tightly that the waistband looks like a diaper leg when you’re done tying a knot that you wish you had a third hand to properly cinch, the pair with at least one ‘mystery stain’ that you really don’t want to remember… yeah. I don’t know what made me think this was better, but I put these horrible shorts on OVER my wetsuit and wore them into the bakery.
The absurdity hit me when I was about two steps away from the car, but now I was out there (Jerry) and now I had to own this. I prayed that Dave would not show up, I caught of glimpse of myself in a window reflection and I had to grit my teeth to keep myself from bursting out laughing. Then I heard it--beep beep--it was Dave, F! I HAD TO OWN THIS. I turned with a straight face and gave a short nod and a nonchalant wave, like nothing was odd, like I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, like I always wear terrible ‘swishy’ shorts over my wetsuit into public places. I would normally wait for him, but I quickstepped through the doors; owning it like a boss!
The girls were all down in the kitchen and I didn’t see any cinnamon rolls on the counter. There’s a partition that’s close to five feet high separating the work area from the retail space. I walked over and asked one of them if they had the cinnamon buns, they didn’t. As I surveyed the area it became apparent that, because of said partition, they couldn’t see much below my neck anyway… I could have walked in there wearing a t-shirt and a gym sock and they wouldn’t have been any the wiser. I walked toward the door laughing at myself and then I remembered that Dave was waiting outside. Shit!
Owning it while walking toward the truck was not going to be as easy—there would be no opportunities to pull myself together between looks. He was on the phone, probably telling his wife about my self-induced wardrobe malfunction—(in hindsight, I’m just glad he wasn’t taking video!) But despite his broadcasted play-by-play of my humiliation, the fact that he was socially engaged might offer me the opportunity to get out of there without too much interaction! I looked down to gain my composure and then looked straight at him, I made a matter-of-fact face while shaking my head and giving the ‘thumbs down’. His window was cracked open so I just said robotically, “No cinnamon buns” and tried to dash into my car. I felt like I had dodged the humiliation… I really HAD owned it! But then I looked back to see his automatic window creaking slowly open, in this instance it was like a principal’s curled index finger beckoning after you THOUGHT you got away with something.
I did NOT want to roll my window down, but I did. In my last attempt to slide out from under the embarrassment, I spoke up first and authoritatively, hoping to drown out any blossoming sarcastic remarks, “Ahhh, sorry man, no cinnamon buns today…” I turned toward the wheel and fished my phone out of my terrible shorts—just to have SOMETHING to make me look occupied.
I wasn’t getting off that easy.
He rode over my little charade like an M-4 Sherman tank, like he didn’t even hear it—I might as well have said nothing. “That is one badass outfit you’re wearing…” he said with a smile and a heavy chuckle.
For a split second I rushed to come up with something to defend myself but I just sputtered and then closed my eyes and shook my head… I no longer owned it, I never owned it, I had been outted and there was NO dignified slant play I could run to save face. I felt a Stimpy smile unfurl as my stupid mouth hung open in surrendered embarrassment. I tried to explain about the girls and the superhero spandex suit… he wasn’t having it. Without speaking any words, my face said, “Listen, I know l look like an idiot, I know this was a terrible idea and I know that these shorts should have been burned in 2006…” then my face morphed into a look that begged for mercy. Which, as any good friend would, he gave me after one last smirking head shake, a wide laughing smile and then a few short seconds of additional laughter.
I deserved it.
I laughed the whole way home. What else could I do?