Boys' Weekend has grown from going down early Saturday morning and coming back Saturday night or Sunday, to now we go down Thursday afternoon and don't return until Sunday night. One day, we may make it a whole week.
Well, the forecast for Thursday and Friday was not promising. Windy, with highs in the low 40's, making windchills downright frigid, with rain and showers Thursday through Friday morning. Still, three of us went. There would be five of us there by Friday night.
When Mike and I began driving down to the Outer Banks Thursday afternoon through the wind and cold rain, it didn't take Mike much to convince me to stop at the Weeping Radish Brewery and Restaurant on the way down for a "flight" of their samples of beer.
|one of my favorite beers at the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery/German Restaurant|
We only had one flight (each) of six samples, and then continued down the rest of the way to Nags Head. Still, it's a good thing it's a wide, straight road. They make good beer.
When we got down there, we were greeted by Jerry who already had a pot roast and fixin's ready to be heated and served. Since it was too miserable to go fishing, we decided to eat, drink and "get our gear ready." (This habit of sitting around the living room putting new line on reels, cleaning out tackle boxes, making rigs, and jawing about fishing reports and past escapades, all while sipping good bourbon is one of our earliest traditions. I think we enjoy this as much as anything during the weekend. And it gets you psyched with anticipation. Now if we could only sleep. It's funny, but that first night, you're like a kid at Christmas....)
Friday morning. It was cold. It was dark. The cottage was creaking, the wind was howling so much. It was cloudy with 30kt WNW winds. And it was cold. Did I say it was cold? What were we thinking?! I'd seen this picture before more than a decade earlier, when we actually got "blown out" of a BW, when Charter Member Mark muttered his infamous line, "It's, it's, it's gonna blow!", before he got swept away from the porch in galeforce winds. An oyster toad was the only catch we had then, so we went home to be with our wives, get warm, and have a home-cooked meal by the fire. (Don't worry, that's a blog for another day.)
But not this time. We hit the 7/11 for coffee and a bagelwich, then hit Oregon Inlet to await the rest of the BW recruits and fish. It was 7 a.m., and dang it was cold! Still we were there, so we might as well wet a line and fish. We just wouldn't need any ice in the coolers. We baited the hooks, cast the rods out, and waited... and got colder. Was it too early to start drinking yet? After all, isn't beer just liquid bread? Hhhmmmmm....
To add a sense of competition to the Weekend, we had split into teams (Redfish/Bluefish) the previous year when eight had gone. Each team counted their fish to see who caught the most. The winning team would get bragging rights only, but that was enough of a prize among fishermen. At this point, I was outnumbered two to one. But my teammates would be arriving later.
9:45, Wake up! Back to reality. A rod bowed, and a fish was on! See, that's why we come. Just when we were questioning our sanity, Jerry brought in a nice 26" puppy drum. Blue Team had 1. But no sooner was his in the cooler, when I hooked into a 24" pup. Red Team had 1. Then Mike caught a 21 incher. Blue Team - 2. It was only 10:30, and we could have gone home because we had each limited out on keeping one puppy drum. That was a first. But of course, we didn't leave. There was still plenty of fishing to do.
|Jerry, well wrapped up on a bitter morning -- just made better by his first -- and only -- fish. He was not heard from again the rest of the weekend, much to Mike's chagrin. I guess he went hibernating in the cold....|
When Mark finally arrived, he caught a small black drum, a bluefish, and a pup to add to the cooler, while Mike caught three more pups himself. As the sun was setting, a skein of white tundra swans flew directly overhead, shimmering like angels in the gleam of the golden low sunlight. A beautiful vision to end the day.
|There are angels among us. Sometimes they just look like Tundra Swans.|
|4 happy fishermen, and their fish. Notice how both Mike and me are holding the trout....|
|When Mark made hushpuppies, even though it had rained, this was pouring.... until it was empty....|
|Fortunately for Mark, he also brought along his friend Basil.|
|You must go here before you die. And this might actually be the place you do....|
|Mark trying to figure out where is the best place to "unload his apple uglies and coffee." It's a whole lot easier to find a place at night.... Or maybe it isn't. Just ask Johnny....|
The winds shifted to the southwest, and we knew it was going to be a great day. We caught so many taylor bluefish in the 10 - 16" range, that we lost track and decided that blues no longer counted for our point tally. They were still a load of fun to catch with light tackle, slinging lures into the school. We did that for well over an hour before moving on. We did keep a few for bait, however, and that proved to be a smart move....
|Mike holding a blue about to be bait, before he started cooking lunch.|
|This sea bird, when he's with all his friends diving into the water, is a good sign to fishermen.|
|the view to the Point. Paradise to the surf caster....|
Shortly after cleaning up our late lunch, we grilled five fat angus beef rib eye steaks. The largest, a 20 ounce, two inch thick monster, went to our biggest carnivore, Randy. A nice French cabernet sauvignon and California zinfandel accompanied the perfectly seasoned steaks. After we were done, we settled down with a hefty "beef buzz", for a rest and a good cigar. All of us, however, except Mark. Mark had eaten his steak faster than a dog eats a dropped morsel from a table, so that he could be fishing the point at sunset. The rest of us just sat back, ate, drank the wine, smoked, savored the moment, and talked as the sun went down. Among the stories we retold again, one that never gets old, was Johnny dropping his "bombs" off target, and then getting hit in the back by his own "flak". (A blog post worth reading if you haven't yet.)
|A good steak, a good "buzz", a good smoke, good friends. Randy, on the right, didn't realize what he was about to do. Where's Mark????|
*Zingpows are the fisherman term for when you are casting your heaver with eight ounces of weight and baited hook, and the bail flips on your reel, midcast, or maybe your reel is too loose, and you "birds nest" your spool. either situation causes your line to "zing" through the rod's eyelets, until it gets caught, and "pow" the line snaps loudly, and the "8 & bait" go flying into the ocean. You're left holding an empty rod. Everybody up and down the beach hears your zingpow, turns to look at you and laugh, while you turn around to walk back to your truck embarrassed... and humiliated... only to have to untangle your mess, tie on another weight, leader and hook, get more bait, and try again. We've all done it, which only makes it that much funnier when it happens, and it isn't you.
Well, Randy started talking about how he hadn't had any zingpows yet. Oh no. The dice were cast; his fate was sealed. We all stepped back away from him. He was a leper -- a pariah. he was left alone. I guess he just didn't know any better. We all felt sorry for him, and he didn't even know why....
When it was finally dark, Mike and I walked down to see Mark at the point. He was one of only three guys fishing there at the moment, so we all decided to join him since it wasn't that crowded. But when four guys all walk down to the point at the same time with their heavers, others think that something must be happening. Before we knew it, there were over 20 people there. Next time, we learned, we will stagger our approach.... We all took turns and cast into the dark, and waited....
Randy cast. You already know what happened. "ZING POW!" He walked back to the truck to the snickers of 20 guys. Mike cast next to me. A few minutes later his line went limp... always, potentially a good sign, as it could mean that a drum picked up your bait and is swimming towards you. He reeled in the slack, tightening his ... line... and... the run was on! He had hooked a monster! Up and down the beach he went, as I reeled in my line to give him room to move. About 15 minutes later Mike had beached a 40" paper drum. The only thing bigger than the fish was his cheesy smile for the photo. Blue team took the lead by 1 -- a big one! Randy came back and cast again. "ZING POW!" He walked away, again. (Snicker.)
|A beautiful citation "bull" drum, that was as long as Mike is tall. I kid.... jealously.|
|Mark getting ready to release his nice drum. I was too busy with my camera to fish anymore. Darn it.|
When we finally made it back to the cottage late that night, we were bleary-eyed but happy. What a day! A Basil Hayden later, we were ready for bed. But we got to sleep in on Sunday! All the way until 5:30! End of Day Two, and both teams were still tied.
The ocean was filled with sea grass, making it unfishable at Oregon Inlet when we got there Sunday morning, so we decided to drive up the beach a mile or two, and fish Coquina Beach. The day started slow, as the water was calm, flat and clear -- which typically means it's not good for fishing. But our eyes watched the ocean and the horizon, scanning for signs of life.
Then we saw something spout. A fountain of steam arose from a moving black island a few hundred yards out. Humpback whales were swimming right in front of us!
|Seeing this just offshore was the highlight of an already amazing weekend.|
|A male, with his right flipper ready to slap the water, while even his tail is exposed.|
|Starting to bring down the flipper....|
|Building up the momentum for ...|
|the big splash at the end. This behavior was repeated again and again.|
|A pod of pilot whales followed close behind, perhaps looking for leftover scraps after the humpies fed.|
|You know it's a pilot whale by the curved dorsal fin.|
When the whales were gone, my rod bent. I ran over to it, and a couple minutes later pulled in a sting ray. No points, but it broke the monotony of not catching anything. I pointed out the differences between a sting ray and a skate, and released it to swim away, being careful not to do a Steve Irwin. (Although I did tastelessly do a bad Australian accent, while I released it.)
|Crikey! I don't want this thing to sting me in the chest!|
The day was warming up, and the fishing was dying down. Randy was ready to go, and started to pack up, when his rod wiggled. Fish on! (That's why your rod is the last thing you pack....) A nice fight later, Randy brought in his first redfish ever. A nice 26+ inch pup that was right on the edge of being too big to keep. As he looked to unhook the fish, we noticed something very odd.
This fish had been hooked before, and in its mouth was a small white/green "squid" jig that had broken off above a short leader at the snap swivel. The metal loop of the snap swivel was what had gotten hooked on Randy's circle hook, just beyond the barb to keep it there. How on God's green Earth his hook actually hooked that small snap swivel in the moving currents and waves below the surface, while still attached to a living, swimming fish we will never know. But a fish is a fish, and Randy and his pup had tied the score as the clock finally ran out.
I took a picture of Randy holding his drum, and it is now framed in his house -- with the jig and leader wrapped around the matting under the glass. it was truly a once in a lifetime catch, and another story that hasn't gotten old yet.
|Randy holding his oddly hooked pup, to tie the score as the clock ran out.|
|A beautiful ending to an ideal weekend; now heading back to reality....|
Until next time,