We stopped at the Hook House in Tom's River to buy killies. "Any bass in the surf?" I said.
"Yeah! Late arrivals are coming northward."
"With the season late, it doesn't surprise me."
"Yeah, that's exactly what it is."
Betty & Nicks had no fresh clams, so I took two fresh bunker to the register and said I might be back. The clerk gave me a 50-cent discount. Jersey Joe's is apparently out of business, and since Grumpy's had "fresh" clams in plastic bags that smelled bad, we returned to Betty & Nicks, where I bought a container of shucked clams, preferring to use my Spanish war knife but out of luck this time.
We got on the beach right at high tide and the surf looked real good, the breakers nothing brusque and forbidding, so before I did anything else, I eagerly rigged up fish finder rigs, one for clam, another with wire for the bunker and possible bluefish. It was nice casting. Surf casting is one of the pleasures I never want to abandon entirely. We haven't done much in recent years. Bass fishing was good in 2005, '06, and '07 spring and fall. Since about then, it's slid.
This was a general beach trip, but I stayed glued to the rods. I also got out my medium-power St. Croix freshwater rod and tried killies weighted by split shot. This simple technique is extremely effective at Long Branch, but I've caught no fluke here yet. I rigged my eight-foot Tica with a fish finder and three-ounce pyramid, cast a big killie way out and let it play. It played for many hours, yielding only a skate as sunset neared. At least I got a little uncertain action. I wondered, could this be a fluke? Better than nothing, though. There is a difference. Usually you feel the fluke head shake even in the surf, although you do more so in deeper water from a boat.
We stayed for hours and as dead low neared, Matt and Charlotte became amazed at the numbers of sand fleas in the wash. Does anyone know if sand fleas have always been in Jersey? Is this another example of southern species migrating northward? Please comment if you know more than me.
I used my friend Oliver's big 10-weight. fly rod twice. At first, the wind screwed me up in a most disheartening way. Matt and I have to learn to use the big rod so we don't really piss off the charter captain for our redfish trip in November. My back--now my upper back--gave me a lot of trouble. As I walked back to our set-up, my back feeling twisted, I felt as if a lot of hard fishing, which I love to do, may be coming to a close. Will I have to sit and spin cast in South Carolina in November? I can sit in a boat and cast fine. Standing sometimes gets compromised. Nevertheless, I had a lot of difficulty early this spring, yet have managed a lot better than I feared.
With tide low, I got the fly rod again and waded out, the freshness of water catching light from behind me took me away from local sense and dipped me for some 15 or 20 minutes in that flow we anglers all know, a sense that intimates so much more than our sketchy approximations of the time we have.
My casting began to improve, not much, but just enough to assure me that with practice it may be possible to pass the captain's requirements. I didn't expect fish and didn't care. I knew it wasn't impossible to hook up when tide was still pretty high. Matt spotted a 30-inch striper while swimming. I fished like I meant it.
And why no stripers hit when obviously some were in the surf, who knows. I doubt it was because we weren't using fresh clams. I didn't even think of that. But I got out and cast with many different sorts of rods, fishing the surf the way we used to succeed, except this was the first time I've fly cast here.
Charlotte with a sand flea.
Charlotte shows me a sand flea with eggs.
Matt, Patricia, and Sadie
Matt, Charlotte, light 64 degree surf.
Sadie as evening came on and at least a skate hit.
Not only can you cook on the beach, you can build fires. Maybe we haul wood in next time, but we need a beach cart with wheels.