And he said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GENERATIONS: A Log of Boys'Weekend 2010... (And Mark Got Skunked! I told you I would put that in the title...)

Boys' Weekend 2010 is now a memory.  And, in a nutshell, if catching fish was why we went, I would have to say this weekend was not a success.  The curse of the "Even Year" drought continued, because the weather was just too nice, and the winds were wrong.  But fish aren't the reason we go.  They're just an excuse to go.  It's all the other stuff that happens, that matters.  So let's go back and relive the weekend....

Those that couldn't attend this year were Jeff J. for the Blue Team, and Ted, Joel and Randy - who was a last second scratch.  The Red Team was hurting for players.  Fortunately, I had also invited Parke and my nephew Michael to join us.  They were going to be recruited as rookies for the Red Team.  And, as an added weapon, I had just received an early birthday present from Ted -- a new left-handed bait casting reel from Avet!  I could hardly wait to try it out!

Through the years, as Parke was growing up, I had told him that when he turned 16 he could start joining us.  Unfortunately, the year he was 16, he had a devastating knee injury playing soccer in October that kept him out of action for 6 months.  The last thing he could do was wade in the surf and get knocked around by waves in November.  The following year he switched schools, and those next two years he had finals that same week, and couldn't get away for the weekend because of his studies.  Now, even though he is off to college, he got off school for "Thanksgiving Vacation" Friday morning, and was going to join us that evening with Michael.  I was pumped they were coming!  It was about time.

Mike went down Wednesday afternoon, and actually fished that afternoon and evening -- causing BW to have it's earliest start ever.  He was joined at sunrise Thursday by Jerry, who followed him to Oregon Inlet, and the two of them set up shop on the beach.

I, unfortunately, had a few work issues to deal with, so didn't get to leave as early as I had hoped.  When I got a text message from Mike saying Jerry had just caught a 17" (undersized) puppy drum, I was anxious to get there. Finally, in the early afternoon, I hit the OBX, and shortly thereafter joined them down on Oregon Inlet.  No more fish had been caught, so I got my lines in the water.  The winds were blowing hard from the north, and would continue that way through Friday.  Not good, but oh well....

It wasn't long before my rod "danced".  I ran over, but missed the bite.  My other rod "danced" in its rodholder, and once again, I missed the hit.  Obviously they were more smaller pups, that just weren't getting hooked, and I was too busy socializing to stay and hold my rods.  Finally, my smaller rod danced again, and I brought in a 17" pup, myself.  It was too small to keep, but at least Jerry and I weren't going to be skunked.

The breakers were crashing in several directions on the shoals beyond us, because of the winds, and the surf looked good.  But it was rough, and it would have been better for the fish had the wind been coming from any other direction than due north.  We already knew fish would be at a premium this weekend.

A few minutes later, an older man in a white Yukon with a completely decked out rod rack in the front, stopped by to ask if we had any luck.  Mike approached his window, and they started chatting.  Jerry walked behind Mike to the back of Mike's truck to get some more bait.  The old man spoke up.

"Now THERE is an IDIOT!", he said, pointing behind Mike towards Jerry.  "That guy is a complete idiot!"  Mike looked back to where he was pointing.  He turned back to the man.

"Hey man, you can't say that.  Besides, how do you know that already?  You're right.  I guess it is obvious.  But you can't say that.  We can.  He's OUR idiot.  And we like him anyway."  These were Mike's thoughts toward the man.  Then he looked back again.

Beyond Jerry, out in the shoals was a small boat gunning through the waves, looking like at any moment it could get tipped over.  And neither person on it had on their life jacket.  They were the idiots to whom the man was referring.  Mike felt better, knowing that he didn't have to defend our idiot to the old man, after all.  We all agreed the men in the boat were idiots.

A little while later, my line had drifted across the others.  I reeled it in, only to realize that it hadn't drifted, but I had a 14" flounder on it.  Too small to keep, so I tossed it back.  "Too small to keep seemed to be the mantra of the weekend.

A short while after that, Jeff D. arrived and we all fished until the sun went down.  The moon had risen, and was almost full.  It would be full in a couple more nights.  Meanwhile the annual Leonid Meteors were peaking that night, and before it was even totally dark, we saw one shoot across the sky over the ocean.

We drove back to Mike's cottage, and there Mark finally joined us.  I prepared our first of several gourmet meals of the weekend:  Pecan-encrusted Rockfish with a nice, light California chardonnay.  Thanks to the success Mike and I have had recently in our kayaks, catching stripers, Thursday's meal came courtesy of the Nansemond River.  As we ate the the delicious meal, it occurred to us that we should have had B.W. up in northern Suffolk, and kayak fished for the weekend.  We would have more luck, we figured.  (We would have been right.)  After dinner, some 18 year old Elijah Craig joined us, and the evening was complete.  We went to bed, planning on getting up early to catch the outgoing tide after the 6:00a.m. high tide.

After stops at Dunkin' Donuts and 7/11 the next morning, we hit the same spot at Oregon Inlet.  Unfortunately, the surf was now filled with grass, and every cast brought in a bunch.  So a while later we moved south and around the corner to the inlet, itself.  Having not seen it in a while, it was amazing how much the sands had shifted south towards the channel, itself.  A dredge worked by the Army Corps of Engineers was spewing sand from the bottom of the channel off to the side.  With the tide receding further, it appeared we could cast and hit the dredge if we wanted to.  While that didn't appeal to us, the thought occurred to us that stripers may be lining the channel, waiting for baitfish churned up by the dredge.  We cast to the channel and waited.
I know he's a heck of a fisherman, but is Mike also capable of standing on water?  No, just on the sanbar before the channel.  The dredge was turning around for another run at trying to spew sand on top of Mike.  It missed.  He moved.

I parked my truck on a little point by the Bonner Bridge and cast directly to the bridge's pilings, hoping to find a fish hiding there....
The rodrack on the back holds several rods, two of which are at an angle, cast out, and waiting for a bite....
A closer view from the back of my truck shows just how close the sand is to the highest part of the bridge, and the channel directly below.  It's usually several hundred yards to the channel from the sands of Oregon Inlet.
As the fishing wasn't seeming to work out there, Mark spent some time collecting driftwood and seastars.
The beaches were littered with starfish, while the night sky was filled with shooting stars this weekend.
The grass got to be too much, however, as we all pulled in several pounds of eelgrass with each cast, so we moved again.  This time, we drove back around the corner, and north to Coquina.  Coquina was scalloped with numerous sloughs and holes, many of which looked promising.  And just as importantly, there wasn't any grass around.  We finally settled on a nice hole about 100 yards long, figuring that was big enough for all of us to fish comfortably.

It wasn't long before Jerry hooked into another little pup.  He went running and screaming towards his "dancing" rod, and yanked it hard, stepping backwards at the same time.  He couldn't have drawn more attention to himself if he had been shooting flares out of his butt.  A man in a Jeep Wrangler happened to be driving by, and when he saw Jerry bring in his 17" pup, the man decided this was the only hole anywhere on Coquina Beach that had fish, and pulled over next to us.  He set up his sandspikes just a few yards away.  While nobody was anywhere near anyone else, for half a mile on either side.  Are you kidding me????  Lines started crossing, because we didn't have enough room.  And then the man had the nerve to catch a pup, himself.  And it was a keeper -- 19 inches!  What an ass.  He then walked over to confirm with us what the regulations are regarding keeping puppy drum -- one a day, between 18 and 27 inches?

"Uh, no, as a matter of fact, it's only 12" now.... and you can keep 10 in a day...."  That's what we wanted to tell him.  But we didn't.  We're nice.  Even to asses.
This clown pulled up right next to us when he saw Jerry catch an undersized pup..  Notice the hole on the other side of the point beyond him.  And notice how there is NOBODY ELSE anywhere around.  And this yahoo has to park right there???  And the story only gets better....

As the afternoon progressed, we caught several more small pups -- but no keepers yet.  Meanwhile, this guy walks over to us, and tells us to watch his rods as he had to drive up to the entrance a good half mile away, and go pick up his wife.  I guess he didn't like our look, because a few minutes later, he hadn't left yet.  A few minutes after that, we see a woman walking down the beach.  He had called his wife, wherever she may have been, and told her to walk to him.  He wasn't coming to get her.  What a gentleman!  She stayed about an hour.  Maybe he figured, with her around, he could keep another pup, if he caught one; which made me wonder if she even had a license, as she never did anything but sit down and wait for him.  A few more undersized pups were caught, and then I saw this....
That's his wife walking away by the water, while the man is re-baiting his hook in the back of his Jeep.  What class!  He even made her walk back up the beach, rather than risk moving.  And no, she did not look happy when she left.
Apparently, she was ready to go, and he still wouldn't drive her back to the entrance ramp or campground -- where ever she had come from.  He made her walk back!  He was not going to leave his spot, because there was NOWHERE else to catch a fish....  Are you kidding me?  (Sarcasm alert.)

Right as she was leaving, Mike reeled in his line that had drifted down the beach, but just as he got the line up to the surf, it ran.  FISH ON!  Mike had a real fish.  And a minute later, Mike beached a beautiful 25.5" puppy drum.  We would be eating another delicious seafood dinner that night, too.

Mike holding Friday night's dinner....  And with that fish, the Blue team had a 1-0 lead
The man came over, admired Mike's fish, then got on his cell phone while he was walking back to his Jeep, and called a friend.  A few minutes later another truck pulled up, and another man got out and started fishing next to the man, in apparently the only hole on the entire Atlantic Ocean's beaches that contained any fish!  And a few more small pups were caught.  But Mark had yet to catch anything....  Jeff D. had caught a couple small pups.  Jerry had caught several.  Mike had caught a couple small ones and the keeper.  But Mark had yet to catch squat.

A late lunch consisted of marinated venison NY strip steaks (courtesy of Mark), with a Petite Syrah, and bratwursts on the grill.  Various other snacks and appetizers kept us full throughout the day, too.  Our vegetable was hummus made with artichokes and spinach.  (No wives were around to say that doesn't qualify.)

The sun eventually set behind the dunes, and we got ready for the evening.
When the sun goes down, you clean up everything but the basics, and get ready for the night.
The moon was just about full, and the surf looked good... But that daggone north wind really messed things up.  Fortunately, as the sun set, the wind finally died.  But would it be too late to make the fishing any good?  Did we really care?
When it was dark, we kept fishing, but relaxed a little more.  A cigar, a drink, check your line every now and then, and enjoy the beauty and the quiet of the night, as the surf rolls in.
Cap'n Tipsy, looking more like the Godfather, surrounded by his teammates Jeff and Jerry, enjoying the evening.
Unless you're Mark.  Then you keep fishing.  Because Mark still hadn't caught anything.  And he was getting desperate now.  He had never been skunked before.  He came close last year, but made up for it on Sunday.  This year, things might be different.
Mark waiting, praying for a bite, as the night wears on.... and on... with nothing....
Meanwhile, I was getting excited.  Parke was on his way with Michael!  They would be arriving around 8:30, so I told them we'd have dinner waiting for them then.  We finally wrapped it up for the day, and went back to the cottage, where we cut up the puppy drum, and I made blackened redfish.
For the second year in a row, we enjoyed a dinner of blackened redfish, with a nice California Caberet Sauvignon, courtesy of Mark's recent trip to Napa.
Jeff got inspired, and made an absolutely delicious etouffee to accompany the redfish.  It paired perfectly together.  But the best part of all, was that Parke and Michael had finally joined us!  This was not the first time we had a father/son generation thing going.  A few years back Jeff Davis brought along his father, who taught us all a thing or two about how to fish, as he caught some nice speckled trout using gear and techniques we had never tried.  But the old man knew what he was doing.  And now, I was being blessed by having my older son and my only nephew join us!  I couldn't have been happier.
What made this etouffee and this meal even more delicious, was the fact that Parke & Michael had finally joined us!  And, even though they had already had dinner before they arrived, they had "4th Meal" with us -- with seconds.  Oh to be a teenager again.
After the seven of us had dinner, Mark informed us that he would have to leave before daylight to show some real estate.  We reminded him that he was the only one who hadn't caught anything, but he was determined to go.  He was gone before we awoke, and we accused him of heading to a deerstand, instead.

So the next morning, after a stop at 7/11 for coffee, we all drove down to Buxton.  The winds had shifted to the southwest, and we hoped that would mean good things at the Point.  (But typically it takes two or three days of SW winds to really guarantee good fishing.)  A stop at Red Drum Tackle, and the rest of the guys hit the Point.  I took the boys to Orange Blossom for their first "Apple Ugly" experience, and then we drove into the Cape Hatteras Park.  We passed two deer walking casually along the road, and laughed about how Mark could have easily gotten a deer here, instead of going home.  We passed the landmark lighthouse, and I took the boys onto the sands of the Point.  It was Michael's first time ever there.
Parke & Michael on the Point, enjoying a beautiful morning.

We set up just NE of the Point, and enjoyed a beautiful "bluebird" day.  Bright sun, blue sky, light SW winds, and highs in the mid 60's.  It was too nice.  There were no fish anywhere.  A tiny black drum and two small pups were all we saw caught all day.  There were no fish in the area.  And we weren't the only ones who thought so, as we noticed we had a visitor.  A brown pelican walked right up to us, just a couple feet away, as though he had realized it's easier to beg for bait than it is to go diving for fish in the ocean.  He had a tag on his right foot, so I guess his experience with humans had been pleasant, because he had no fear of us.
A brown pelican, we named "Percy", showed no fear, and begged like a dog for some food.  But when we gave him a piece of cut mullet, he wasn't interested.  But he wanted something....
Percy wants to know what Jerry has in his hands....  He was probably waiting for Jeff to cook something for him.
Michael and Parke's first Boys' Weekend.  And Michael's first time on the Point, gave them an opportunity to meet Percy.
After fishing with no luck for a while, Parke and Michael went for a walk.  Parke was very excited when he came back with a starfish he had found by the shore.  He put it on a table to dry.

We fished.  Changed bait.  Fished.  Changed bait.  Tried throwing jigs.  And Mike and I decided to walk down to the Point and check it out.  There was nothing happening anywhere, but we did find a variety of starfish and the vertebrae of what I guess must be a dolphin.  We brought them back, and when Parke saw our hoard, he joked that he had thought he had done something when he found the one starfish.  Oh well.
A few of the starfish we found on our walk.  And a dolphin vertebrae, I'm guessing, in the front.  "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the stars we could reach, were just starfish on the beach."  This started a conversation about horrible depressing songs of the '70s.  "Angie Baby",  "I learned the Truth at 17", "WildFire", "Billy don't be a Hero" were just a few of the awful songs we remembered.  What was wrong with music then???!!!  Give me a razorblade, let me slit my wrists, take some pills, and put a pistol barrel in my mouth when I listen to any of those.  Aaaghh!

Then it was time for lunch!  And what a lunch it was!!!  Mike had made a homemade bean soup we warmed up, as well as baby back ribs, courtesy of Jeff, and more brats from Jerry.
A hearty bean, vegetable and meat stew was the appetizer for our lunch.

"Cooky" McTipsy showing off the racks of  ribs and brats on the grills.  Everyone around had to smell our grilled lunch.  And we didn't share at all....

After lunch, Percy came back and hung with us for a while again.  (He had flown off when he thought we had nothing he liked.)  Parke made an attempt to give him some fresh bait, but he was still not interested in what we had.  He still stayed for about a half hour before moving on again.
Percy just liked hanging with us, because he wasn't interested in the fish we offered him. 
The sun was getting low on the horizon, so I decided to try flopping a jig one last time for some flounder on the west side of the Point.  The highlight was when Parke and I actually saw a couple fish jumping.  But nothing was biting.  We went back to the trucks, and started preparing for evening.  But first took a few pictures of the late afternoon sun's "golden hour."
It's hard to see, but a full moon is rising just beyond our own special, favorite "idiot", Jerry.  It's right behind his head.  (He can't help who he is, but we love him anyway.  Besides, every Boys' Weekend Village needs an idiot.)  Oh, that's right, the old man in the white truck wasn't talking about Jerry the other day....  Or was he?
My new Avet reel, shining in the sun, courtesy of Ted as an early birthday present.  Unfortunately, it has caught just as many fish as it would have if it was still in the box.  But it was fun getting used to it and casting it.  I never had a "Zing Pow", and I never got a horrible bird's nest.

The Rookie Red Team with me.  My favorite nephew Michael, and my son Parke - who made the longest drive to join us - enjoyed a lot of wonderful food, a beautiful, warm weekend, and saw a variety of wildlife up close and personal - even if none of the wildlife were the fish we were seeking.
 As we looked towards the Point, we noticed the sun was finally ready to go down.  One of the unique, neat things about the Point is that it is one of only a few places on the East Coast you can watch the sun set over the water.  There have been times there when we've seen the sun rise from the ocean early in the morning, only to still be there when the sun set over the ocean later that afternoon.  It never gets old. It's beautiful every time.  And it typically means the fishing should heat up!  Would it this time, too?  Who knows.... But we all took a few minutes and watched the sun touch, sink, and disappear behind the ocean to the southwest.
Sunset at the Point is beautiful, and can remind you of Key West, as you watch the sun sink below the ocean.
Even the local "pros" don't get tired of watching the sun starting to go down....
Some people and the seagulls scurry to get whatever they need done while it is still daylight, as the sun gets lower.
It's amazing how quickly it moves, when you are watching it sink.
Finally the sun is just a sliver... and then, it's gone altogether... Until tomorrow.
After sunset, the Point becomes busy, as surfcasters anticipate the "bite" to begin, and start to form a loose "conga line".... Unfortunately, tonight it never happened.  We needed a few more days of SW winds to have a chance.
Walking to the Point with the full moon right behind us....
After the sunset, I took the boys down to see the Point, and the growing "Conga" line -- though when we got there, it really hadn't tightened up to where it's shoulder to shoulder "combat fishing".  That seems to only happen when the bite is on.  And tonight, it wasn't.  Oh well.  It was still a beautiful day; and now we were going to enjoy a beautiful evening.  We walked back to the trucks, and I dug a hole, got out the firewood, circled the chairs, and lit a beautiful fire.  With the full moon to our northeast, the sun now down, and the fire burning, we sat down and enjoyed the finer things in life.  A little bourbon shared spiced up the evening, as the conversations varied about everything.  And every now and then, we'd look up and still see a meteor shooting by, or a satellite moving across the sky.  It was a beautiful night we hated to see end.
There's something about a fire on the beach that just completes a beautiful day....
After several hours watching the flames, enjoying the night, it was finally time to go.  Mike got his shovel and started picking up the larger embers and logs with his shovel, tossing them into the ocean, creating quite a fireworks show.  We were then going to shovel sand on the rest of the embers, and make sure it was thoroughly out.  The fireworks tossing, however, drew attention from several people -- including the game warden.

The game warden drove up and parked, walking up to all of us, asking what we were doing.  Flashlight in hand, other hand ready to react, he was on alert for trouble....  Fortunately, we are peaceful, law abiding fishermen, and after he checked each and every one of us for fishing licenses, he wished us well and left.  It was the second time in two days we'd had interactions with the warden, (one had come up to us in Coquina the day before) so I would always advise to anyone to have a fishing license.  It's not worth the risk of getting caught.

We finished loading up our trucks, and headed back north to Kill Devil Hills.  When you've been up since dawn fishing, and you're tired, there is no denying it seems like one  L O N G    D R I V E back to the cottage.  We got home around 10, and the boys went straight to bed.  They were worn out.  The rest of us stayed up for a while watching football on ESPN, and then called it a night, ourselves.

The next morning, before sunrise, we were back on the beach at Coquina.  The waters were dead calm, and there was no wind.  We watched the sun rise over the ocean, and knew it was going to be another beautiful, warm, sunny day.  Dammit!  Fish like clouds.  Fish like waves.  Fish like moving water.  Fish like winds.  We had none of the above.  And to make it worse, the one thing fish really don't like -- is dolphins.

Dolphins eat fish.  And dolphins were everywhere!  I mean everywhere!  There were pods of three, four, five and more dolphins cruising up and down the beach all morning long.  They stopped and played.  They body surfed what little waves there were.  They swam up and down the beach, and they fed on what fish were out in the ocean.  Any other day they would have been beautiful to behold.  Especially when a pod all started jumping out of the water all together at the same time.  Some started doing backflips.  Some chased others around, splashing water everywhere.  And a mother dolphin encouraged her baby to jump by nosing him as he lept above and over her.  They came in close; and they swam far out to sea.  They slapped their tails, and they "spy hopped", sticking their heads out of the water and looking around.  And we watched them.

Mike brought some Grey Goose and Bloody Mary mix, so the men enjoyed some celery the way it's supposed to be enjoyed on a beautiful sunny, Sunday morning - marinating in a cup of bloody mary, while we watched the dolphins perform in front of us.  And all the while, we kept on fishing, and trying different techniques to catch a fish -- all to no avail.
One of many pods of dolphins cruising by Coquina Beach Sunday morning.  I've truly never seen so many different groups of dolphins swimming up and down the beach at one time.  They were doing everything they could to help keep the fish away from the beach.
The dolphins were fun to watch at first; but when they were still around several hours later, it was no longer as interesting.  We wanted to catch fish, not watch a show from SeaWorld, for crying out loud!  Even a Sea World show only lasts a couple hours.
Parke watching one of the dolphins scaring any fish that may have been anywhere near our lines in the water.
As the tide started receding farther and farther, the boys decided to go for a walk before lunch.  By that point, we weren't even watching the dolphins anymore.  We had pretty much written off catching any fish close to the shore.  It wasn't going to happen.
The boys enjoying a beautiful day at the beach, in spite of the fact that dolphins just offshore, and perfect weather had ruined the fishing potential for any fish we were seeking....  The boys aren't even interested in the dolphins swimming by anymore.
When they came back, Jeff had gotten out his monster slab of corned beef he had cooked all night.  Along with some sour kraut, mustard and sub rolls, we had an awesome lunch!
Parke making a fresh,hot corned beef sandwich.  We eat way too well on these weekends.  It really is a long way from our first few BW's when all we had was white bread, bologna and cheese....
After lunch we had a cigar, while Jeff decided to put on his waders and wade out beyond the breakers to cast into the deeper waters.  Parke saw him and did the same with two rods.  And when Jeff came back, Parke left his rods out in sandspikes way out in the receded surf.  He came back and we all sat back for a while, digesting our food.

Finally, when it was almost low tide, we all decided to call it a day, and therefore call it a weekend.  Parke and Michael walked out to the rods and brought each one in.  Parke brought his in first, and felt a tug. 
"Hey Dad, I have a shark," he said, knowing what it was by the way it pulled his line.  Sure enough, two minutes later, he brought in a good sized spiny dogfish.  At least he wasn't skunked!
Parke holding the spiny dogfish he caught at the end of the day.  At least he caught something.
 Then Michael brought in his rod, and right at the end, he realized he had something fighting, too.  A skate.  Well, it was a fish, and so he wasn't skunked, either.

Michael with his skate.  At least both the boys caught something on what was not the most productive Boys' Weekend.
We packed up,cleaned up, all said our various goodbyes, and headed out.  The weekend was over.  The Blue team won with what ended up being an insurmountable lead of 1-0.  Therefore, Mike was MVP again.  (Maybe we need to just call it the Mike Award, as he's won it more than anyone else.)   The day was over, and we headed home.

Later that evening when we were home again, watching Sunday night football, I asked Parke what he and Michael thought about Boys' Weekend.  Were they bored to tears, or would they do it again.  Parke told me they did talk about it on their way home, and that they both agreed it was a lot of fun.  They were already looking forward to next year.  That did my heart good.  Because, I told him, if they could have fun on what was one of the worst BW's ever, from a fish-catching standpoint, I couldn't wait for them to be around when the weather was lousy and the fish were actually biting!  Hopefully, that will be next year, and every year there after.

So Parke and Michael represent the first time that the next generation has attended Boys' Weekend.  It was wonderful having my son with me, sharing something we love so much.  It made me glad he had the same love for fishing and the outdoors that I do -- and that this was a bond we could share for the rest of our lives.  This special weekend....  And the fact that Michael, who hasn't fished as much, also enjoyed it and looks forward to returning, is an added bonus.

I look forward to when other sons of some of the other guys wish to join us. The advantage they would now have, is that we can pass on some of the experience we've picked up through the decades, and they won't have to struggle through the learning curves of fishing the way we had to.  So, with our guidance, they can shout out, a whole lot sooner...

Fish On,


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