The Outer Banks of North Carolina.... Just saying those words brings a smile to my face. Those barrier islands are truly one of my favorite places on Earth. And to me there is nothing like the OBX in September. The crowds are gone, the bratty kids are in school, and the fishing really starts to pick up!
One of my favorite September memories of the Outer Banks occurred more than a dozen years ago. Two friends of mine (I'll call them "Bob" and "Bandy") and I went down one September weekend to have a getaway of just us guys. To set the scene, "Bob" is a redneck. There is no other way to describe him. He is a contractor, and hunts and fishes as easily as he breathes. In fact, one time I saw him grab a dead duck, while building a house, spread its breast feathers with his thumbs, then split the skin, reach in and grab that mallard's breast like the high priest grabbed the heart of the human sacrifice in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Man, did that impress me. No tools, no knife, no plucking feathers, nothing! And he had a beautiful duck breast to take home for dinner.
I, on the other hand, while no slouch at fishing, look like a preppy investment guy. Oh yeah, 'cause that's what I am. "Bandy" is also a white collar professional who looks the part and hadn't grown up fishing.
Well, Bob and I had gone fishing before, so Bob knew that I could hold my own when it came to surf fishing. To quote his wife, the very fact that I had brought along Ziploc bags the time before, was all he needed to know -- that I knew how to fish, expected to catch fish, and was ready to fillet and take them home. Bob was not so sure about Bandy, however. And maybe I wasn't either.
It's a beautiful September Saturday morning. We're on the beach near Buxton, on Hatteras Island, and it's going to be a hot one. I cast my line out with a hook, weight and bait. And wait. After about 20 minutes, I reel it in to check my bait. Something is definitely on the end, but it's not fighting very much. In fact it feels heavy, but it's just dragging, holding the bottom. I bring it near the surf, and see something flat with a long end. Crap, it's a small skate or ray, I think. Wrong. I bring in my line, and we all start laughing. It was a Teflon-coated frying pan. Don't ask me how, but I caught a frying pan. I am still sometimes called "Frying Pan Dan", because of that. So now, in addition to having the ziploc bags. We had a way to cook our catch, too. But the fun was just beginning....
Not too many fish were biting there at the Point that morning, so we decided to drive up to Oregon Inlet and fish the pilings of the Bonner Bridge for sheepshead, or whatever else may be lurking around them. We drive on the beach and over to the sound side, under the bridge. It's somewhat crowded with people fishing and enjoying the beach, but we are able to park and claim one of the pilings for ourselves. As soon as we set up, however, a wood-paneled Jeep Grand Cherokee pulls up with 2 middle-aged men, dressed right out of the Orvis catalog, and their trophy blonde wives. Bob and I don't want to share our piling, so we try and "crowd" it as best we can. Bandy outdoes us both, however. You see, if there's something an experienced fisherman doesn't want, is to be around an inexperienced one fishing in tight quarters. Bandy reaches back to cast toward the piling, and whips his rod forward, releasing his line. Unfortunately, his line stayed behind him. He looks back to see why, as do we all... and we see he had hooked a beach chair. The tears started coming, we all started laughing so hard. Unfortunately it didn't stop Orvis and Cabela from sharing our piling, anyway. They came, they caught a few sheepshead, they impressed their wives, and they drove away. Then Bob and I finally stopped laughing, only to watch Bandy cast again.
Now there was no way Bandy was going to catch any more objects behind him. Women had moved all of their children down to Ocracoke or north to Corolla, and the Beach Patrol and National Park Service had set up a rope boundary around him giving him plenty of room to operate comfortably. No, he just had to focus on what was in front of him... The bridge, it's pilings, and all those wonderful fish swimming around them.
TANGENT Alert: You know that saying about "What goes up, must come down".? Not true.
Bandy casts his line up and out. I guess the boy had had his Wheaties that morning, I don't remember, but there was a lot of heft in that cast. It went up, up, and out, and out, ... and over the railing of the bridge, and -- is that a Greyhound bus going by over us right now? "Hey Bob, Where'd Bandy go? I thought he was standing right here between us. He just took off, and I don't even think he paid for that bus ticket!"
Bob and I drove home alone that night. Bandy, well....
Well, that's the way I (choose to) remember it! Bandy, where ever you are, thank you for one of the best laughs we've ever had....
Oh, I don't even remember how many fish we may have caught. They were completely irrelevant to the memories made that weekend.
Until next time,