With the ongoing issues on the OBX regarding driving permits on the beach -- if we even COULD go on the beach that is, and housing for everybody, this year we opted for something a little different. We decided to take my favorite activity and add it to Boys' Weekend. Kayak fishing. I knew we had enough kayaks for everyone, so we just had to work out the logistics of when and how to do it. Several different weekends were considered, but when Joel from Alaska said he could make it if it's the weekend of 11/9, that settled it. Anyone willing to come all the way from Alaska gets to decide the weekend! As we got closer, we also found out that our two favorite "Ohios" would also be able to join us. Johnny "Back Splat" M., and Jeff "Splash o' Gin" J. were back in the game! I was excited. With Ted, Parke and all the other usual suspects, it looked like we would have as many as 11 participants -- though due to circumstances beyond his control, Randy would be very limited and come just for Saturday dinner only. Still, it would be a record number of guys for the festivities. We were all looking forward to it....
First to arrive was Ted on Thursday evening. A drink with Mike, a chicken BBQ dinner with the kids and a Manhattan with Randy later, and we hit the beds. It would be a busy weekend.
With wind being the only detriment to kayak fishing, we opted to hit Bennett's Creek on Friday morning. Jerry had scouted out the waters, and the winds were a little much for the Nansemond River and our favorite spot there; so our favorite waterfront neighbor was spared an onslaught of kayaks in the waters around her. Apparently the Suffolk police would not be disturbed by her phone calls on Friday...
Before 8:00 a.m., Mark had driven down from Richmond to my house, and showed off his new ride -- the Aircraft Carrier/Rolls Royce of kayaks I spoke of a couple of posts ago... The Hobie Mirage. (http://anglingparticiples.blogspot.com/2013/10/buzzards-new-fishing-buddies-channel.html ) He was very proud of the fact that this $3,000 version cost him very little, thanks to gifts from others. Still, it was classic Mark. We all laughed and admired his new rig. But would it help him catch fish.....
|The Hobie Mirage is only the beginning... By the time Mark had has all decked out, I think it could do everything but open your beer and fillet your fish.... If you caught a fish, that is....|
|A cool, brisk Friday morning launch held promise of striped bass... we hoped.|
I paddled over to take a photo of him proudly holding his catch, but enjoyed watching the wind and current take him into the overhanging tree by the shore.... It was almost as funny as when he waded to a sandbar several years ago, only to wade into water deeper than his chest waders -- that was also caught on film.
|Watching the wind in Jerry's face push him back into and through this tree was a riot. I kept telling him, "Hold it... hold it... as he drifted back, seeing what was about to happen." I'm mean, I know.|
|"Hold it, hold it.... oops, Jerry, are you okay?" His response: "This tree and I are now on a first name basis." I enjoyed a good laugh, because yes, at this point I was jealous.|
|The proud angler with his catch after his intimate encounter with the tree. That's Ted in the background, dealing with his own issues.|
As some of the other kayak anglers made their way downstream, I opted to stay around. Only to be rewarded with this little guy -- at least I wasn't skunked. But it didn't count for the "Red Team".
|This ambitious little white perch attacked my soft plastic grub -- and he wasn't more than 7" or so, himself. Unfortunately he didn't count as a gamefish for the Red Team. We were still down.|
|Joel took this shot of Jeff J., tucked away in the grass, hoping the fish don't see him. Unfortunately, they didn't see his lure at all, either.|
|I didn't do too much better, though.... at least not yet....|
|Nor did Ted....|
|So eventually we all decided to try and find the rest of the gang downstream....|
"How'd you do?" I asked. He smiled and offered me the rest of his lunch. Then he lifted up 2 keeper striper, and told me he threw back another "shorty", as well as a white perch. He had found his own lucky spot.
|With a full stomach, a beer, and a limit of striped bass, Parke was definitely content -- and the fisherman of the day for Friday.... And he put the Red Team into the lead, 2 - 1. That's my boy!|
|It was time to head to Bass Pro Shop, and then head to Mark's cottage, where the fishing would continue....|
An hour or so later, we arrived at the cottage. For those that hadn't been there yet, it was quite impressive....
|The view from the "Front", which faces the York River -- I'm sorry, it's considered the "Chesapeake Bay" there. That's much more prestigious, as well as on a higher tax basis....|
|Johnny and Mark -- looking like he really isn't happy to see us. But he was.... He just hadn't caught a fish yet. That's why he's grumpy here.|
|A cigar, a little Crown Royal, and "Squeaky" Elmer T. Lee bourbon, to go with a beer or two -- and the stories and B.S. started to flow....|
|A huge pot of homemade venison chili was reduced to almost nothing after we were all done with it. Then it was time for more bourbon....|
|This weekend's whiskeys included the top 2 winners from February's BW bourbon and shooting contest: 4 Roses and Elmer T. Lee. Some Corner Creek and Crown Royal were also great for sipping....|
The next morning, we were greeted with a wonderful sunrise.... It was going to be a great day -- we hoped.
|A gorgeous sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay|
|With the coming day, we were hopeful of more fish.... Would it come to pass?|
|A new day dawned, and we were ready to fish... but first, it was time for Breakfast!|
The caravan of trucks loaded with kayaks drove a couple miles and then we unloaded. Just one problem, however.... Jeff J. threw his keys onto the dashboard of his Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and then proceeded to lock the car. Bad move. A delay of about 15 minutes, while we all tried to unlock the truck; but then Magic fingers Mike worked the rod and was able to get the key and hit the unlock button on the key fob. Voila! The day was saved, and we could all launch.
By the time we had the kayaks on the beach ready to launch, it looked like the BW Plastic Navy was ready to raid the beaches of Normandy -- or at least the nearby docks, piers flats and islands....
|It was almost time to launch...|
|But first, a couple of photos of the Plastic Navy|
|10 Kayaks deep. All quite different. For 10 very different kayak anglers getting ready to hit the York River.|
|Okay, so it wasn't Omaha Beach 6/6/44: We were leaving, not arriving... but it was quite an onslaught we were getting ready to launch.... we hoped.|
I saw him a quarter mile ahead on the flats before a channel cut through, and went and talked with him. Meanwhile Ted was right behind me 50 yards or so. As I'm talking with Parke, Ted hooked and lost a fish. At least there was hope.... And then he caught a small puppy drum. So there were fish in the area, at least. I cast towards the drift and settled into the flats about 30 yards from Parke. Suddenly a felt a tap, tap, tap, wham!, as a fish kept hitting and then finally took my lure. It was fish ON! I knew it was a nice fish, but couldn't tell what it was yet, even though the water was so clear. The Nantucket sleigh ride was a little bumpy through the waves of the flats, but the fish finally tired and came up to the surface. It was a nice striper! No, wait!!! Holy cow, it was a monster speckled trout! I started praying its weak mouth wouldn't unbutton my jig, and that it would fit into my net. I swooped my net to get it. Missed! Dang it. It dove and fought some more.... (Please, please, please don't come off, I thought....) It came back up, and I got its head in the net. Not good enough; it was too big and fell out and fought some more. Then when it came up again, I swooped my net under its middle, and it folded into the webbing -- its head sticking out one side, its tail the other. I hooted and hollered, it was the biggest speck I'd ever caught, and could be a citation, I realized. I'd measure it later, but first I had to get it on my stringer. A fish that big deserved to be double hooked on my stringer. I was taking no chances that this guy might break off. Man, I was happy. Parke was jealous, and said I caught his fish. Too bad, I said.
Mark and Jerry were finally coming out of the Perrin towards us, having had no luck there, and I paddled towards Ted to show him the fish as Mark came over. We were all quite excited. And it was time for a photo or two.
|Over 24" and 5#, this fish was indeed a citation trout! My first. It was a good day, and I was thrilled to share it with my fishing friends and family.|
|The only thing bigger than that trout, is perhaps my smile. This "gator" was fat, and beautiful!|
|Indeed, Joel was out on his own... enjoying the beauty of the York River. These next several photos are all from him....|
|Crystal clear waters and grassy shores would typically be the perfect place to see puppy drum -- had it not been so cold at the moment.|
|Joel snapped this photo of Jeff J. while taking a walk on an island.|
|Joel's rig for the day... in addition to a nice Nikon.|
|the waters of the York are beautiful, and are perfect for fish and people....|
|Finally I was able to track him down, and entice him to join us over on the flats where I had caught this beauty.|
|We both paddled back and joined Mark on his Aircraft carrier sized Hobie.|
|While Mark was enjoying a beer, his new kayak, and changing lures often -- but still no fish....|
|Then Mark pulled away from the refinery across the river. Oops, that's not Mark, that's a tanker.|
|Meanwhile, also nearby was Parke... who was having a little bit of luck.|
|This flattie was small enough, and lucky enough, to live another day after I measured him. But it was neat watching him flap down into the deep, clear clean water below our kayaks....|
At this point, however, the wind was picking up significantly. Mike had had enough of the weather, and since he had his 18" trout, in addition to another fish, he decided to head back to shore. Like a mother duck leading her babies, the rest of the Blue Team followed suit.
|Cap'n Mike led the rest of the Blue Team back to shore, so they wouldn't get buffeted by the winds anymore. Meanwhile, the Red team continued to fish. And that's when I caught my second keeper trout....|
|As I paddled back to shore, Jeff J. took this shot of me holding my two keepers. The smile says it all.... It was a good day on the water.|
|Okay, so maybe he got my smile, but he didn't get the top of my head. At least the big fish is full front and center....|
|One more photo of the happy angler and his prize catch. It was a fatty!|
|with the wind howling, we still tried to fish from the "3D" pier for a while... To no avail.|
|Several hundred feet of wood planks and seagull $#!+ -- and the occasional seashell, from the gulls dropping clams on the pier to break them.|
|Jerry, the Sta-Puff Marshmallow man, and his pants that blew up in the wind when he sat down.|
|When Ted, Mark and I had had enough of being cold and catching nothing, I took my victory cigar, and we headed back to the cottage.|
|Me enjoying my cigar, while my driver and bodyguard (also both Red Team Members) protected their new man of the day. Red Team was now leading 4 - 2.|
|While cleaning my "gator" trout, Parke took a couple of shots of the large mouth the speckled trout has.|
|The yellow lining and sharp teeth highlight the last thing many a minnow saw, before this fish saw my plastic grub.|
|After cleaning the fish, I pointed out a praying mantis to Parke, and he took it as a pet for a while.... Here it is posing for a picture on his hand.|
|A beautiful silhouette of the mantis in the low afternoon sun.|
|Joel took these shots over the course of the weekend. When the tide was low, it was very low -- which limited our fishing drastically.|
|Eel grass lined the shore at low tide, signalling a healthy shoreline for bait fish, crabs -- and bigger fish....|
|Sea oats in the afternoon sun.|
|Joel has proven year after year, he has a very creative eye to capture the beauty of nature around us.|
|While the osprey family had migrated away, their nest in the front yard of the cottage remains, waiting for them to return in the spring.|
|Parke and Joel eventually met up, with their camera skills -- and Joel took this shot of Parke with his little friend.|
|It was fun watching the brown pelicans playing musical chairs, kicking each other off of a post, only to fly to the next....|
Twenty Years ago, long before the internet made sending emails so easy, I would send out newsletters to all the Boys of Boys' Weekend. I'd spend some time doing them, and had fun doing them, too. It was that year that Jeff D. decided he wanted to join the group. The newsletter that year was so popular, that it has been framed by two of the original members, Mike and Mark. Mike now has it up in his house, while Mark has it hanging in his cottage. Here's a copy of it.
Through the years, Jeff has single-handedly turned Boys Weekend from a baloney sandwich on the beach, to a pot of spaghetti on the cottage -- to some outstanding, fine, gourmet dining. And that is not an exaggeration. This year was no exception.
Our first appetizer was 100 fresh, salty oysters, and all the fixin's to roast them with cheese, peppers, hot sauce, bacon, butter, cheese sauce, or whatever else you could imagine on them. We all stood around like a pack of hyenas waiting for a chance to go in for some food around a kill. Oh, and speaking of scavengers looking for a kill, our favorite lawyer Randy showed up just in time for the food festivities. We were all thrilled to see him.
|Oysters grilled, to go with a beer, a swig or two of bourbon or Crown Royal, and then some clams.... It was all delicious!|
|The oysters and clams were definitely a big hit. And the grill kept us warm from the cold air and growing winds.|
|Pouring the cheese/butter sauce over the shellfish, while waiting for them.... Man! They were delicious. I challenge any restaurant to make a better oyster or clam....|
|These hyenas had better manners than we did around the grill, waiting for the oysters and clams to be ready....|
|Jeff J. with the best catch he had all weekend! Pig candy! It was 20 lbs. of happiness for guys.|
The next morning, we woke up to the smell of bacon, bacon, and more bacon. And pancakes. And casserole. And, of course, coffee. Unfortunately, we also woke up to an unending wind that pretty much ruined any chance of kayaking on the York that day. We had a leisurely breakfast, then helped clean up the cottage, and decided to head back to Bennett's Creek. But Mark was heading back to Richmond, so he wouldn't be joining us.
We thanked Mark for his gracious hospitality, gave hugs all around to him, and then headed back to Suffolk to the Bennett's Creek boatramp again.
This time I was the one who paddled quickly to Jerry's spot -- but I wasn't faster than Johnny! Johnny cast and drifted over Jerry's spot, dang it! But I noticed he was reeling just a little too quickly. Perhaps he forgot it was 20' deep there; but I realized I still had a chance at any fish that may be there. I cast in front of him, to where the drift began, and cast... let it sink.... twitched... and Fish ON! I fought the fish to my net, and was rewarded with a keeper striper. Meanwhile 50' away from me to my left, Joel was also fighting a fish. His was a shorty striper, but it did mean that the fish were around. That was good.
|First keeper striper of the season for me. It would only be made better if Ted and Joel also had some luck.|
But no more luck was had by me, or anyone else in my spot with me. That included Jerry, who hadn't had another bite since his fish on Friday. His past history and his prediction had held true again. After a couple of hours, everyone had had enough -- there were no fish. But Joel and Ted had not yet returned. I volunteered to find them, and paddled downriver. When I found them, Ted had caught a short striper that he had released, and Joel had indeed, caught a keeper.
|While Ted didn't catch any keeper fish over the weekend, he did at least catch a few fish, and learned to appreciate the advantages and joys of kayak fishing.|
|I was glad that the guy who had traveled the farthest did at least catch a couple of fish, as well... including one keeper striper. To go with all his amazing photographs.|
|Ted was flinging spray, he was paddling so quickly. It's a great upper body work out, going as fast as you can on a kayak.|
|the whitecaps on the creek, and the wind made going back to shore a bit of a challenge.|
|Ted eventually caught up to J.J. who was the last of the Blue Team to get to shore.|
I volunteered to measure the 2 fish that Joel and I had caught, but realized that my measurement didn't count -- theirs is the one that mattered. So I suggested that they measure them. The one warden broke out his own tape measure, and said that both fish were legal, at about 18.25", each. (Though Joel's was a bit fatter than mine.)
The wardens were friendly, and we enjoyed our talk with them. But it made us glad we don't keep shorties. That could have been trouble.... Good thing we play by the rules.
So the final tally of fish, was Blue Team 2 (thanks to the 19" striper from Jerry on Friday, and the 18" trout by Mike on Saturday), and Red Team 6 (thanks to Parke's 2 stripers on Friday, my 2 trout on Saturday, and Joel and my stripers on Sunday). Red Team had dominated Blue Team again! And for another consecutive year, I had caught the biggest fish -- and another personal best.
Then it was time to go home. We bid our goodbyes to everybody and headed back home to my place. Sunday night Joel, Ted and I just sat and relaxed -- and looked at the photos Joel had taken. It was, indeed, another terrific Boys' Weekend. We were glad we had done it, and sad it was over. Then Monday morning, Joel and Ted headed back north, as did Jeff J. and Johnny. Each of us was now back or headed back to our regular lives again -- only to hopefully come together again next year, for another edition of Boys' Weekend....
So until that next time, my friends,
P.S.: Apparently things didn't get any better for at least a few Blue team members.... Jerry decided to go kayak fishing Monday morning, since he had off for Veteran's Day. He texted me that he "lost a nice one", but was going to keep trying.... When I saw him later that afternoon, he was pi$$ed! Apparently he didn't put his new i-phone 5 in a ziploc bag, and the water was still a bit rough. And somewhere in the bottom of the Nansemond River, is now a soaking and eroding, useless cell phone. And Jerry's just a few hundred dollars poorer. And then Jeff J. sent me this photo of what greeted him and Johnny when they woke up Tuesday morning, back in Ohio. I had to laugh, "Welcome Home", I texted him....
|5 inches of snow fell on Cleveland Monday night and Tuesday morning.... And we even got some flurries around here Tuesday late afternoon.|