There are several pivoting moments in the season for me. Some are calendar based, some are nature based, and still others are more transcendent or based on feelings.
It’s mid-October, and already in New England there’s a lot of talk about “last moon”, “last tide” and even a few “last trips” from friends who either are limited to certain areas, are hunters, or just fair-weather fisherman. I hardly feel that way- I know the next few weeks are big-big fish time- but after the first moon of October, I also have to start facing the fact that things are on the down slope.
There’s a few other factors I take as signals, or signs, of a changing season. The first is when we have our first few nights in the 40’s. We’ve met that criterion. The next is when mosquitoes go away, and katydids stop singing. I can unhappily/happily say that both of these things have not yet happened. In fact, despite the slight change in some of the trees and the mid-state of the burning bush in my yard, it’s 73 degrees and slightly humid out as I type this. So, we’re in a holding pattern.
This is not a bad thing. I like stable conditions in October. Sure, a 24-hour storm can be dynamite, inducing a wild, manic feeding period that results in magical nights we tell our grandkids. Yet, for the most part, I’d rather have a gentle, gradual, change, with lots of stability. And this has to do with migration. I do not ascribe to the notion that water temperature triggers migration, nor do I think fish follow a linear path south. I think water temperature triggers feeding, and some movement, but it hardly pushes fish south, or holds them north. Instead, I think moon stage, sun angle, bait behavior, and temperature work together in aggregate to move fish. If things stay relatively the same, the fish stay in relatively the same places, gradually sliding south, without evaporating into the ether. So, yes, fish are moving right now, and they’re going to start moving fast, but for now, I have found that they are following some actual patterns. Some of this is in-out, some of this is north-south, and some of it is just “around”. Am I crushing fish right now? No, I am not. That happened in September. But I’ve found some large fish in the places I expect, the right baits in the right places, and generally just a normal progression.
This means a lot of moving around for me, as an angler as well. This year it pays to crack open the spot vault, lay out all the files on the table, and view things at a higher level. In October and November, I hit more spots than I do in all other parts of the season. I make sporadic, one-off, trips. One night you might find me in one place, the next I might be 100 miles away as the crow flies! The weather can be a roller coaster (see above) and when something isn’t working, I’ll give it a tide or two, but I won’t beat the water to death like I do in the spring. This tends to pay off with larger fish, for me. True, if I pick a few reliable spots, I’ll get high numbers; I was just scouting a spot this week for future reference for November. It’s LOADED with fish and bait already. I caught 10 in 10 casts to 12-pounds, and then just moved on to adjacent areas. It’s good to know; but now is not the time. I’ll come back to these fish in four- or five-weeks, and be on them with the fly rod a lot. But now, instead, I’m going to look for those smaller groups of 25- to 40-pound fish. For me, I’ve been most successful doing this “sampling” spots, and paying much closer attention to how a spot feels and looks, and not just to the moon and tides.
This brings up my final point. In the fall, I also fish a lot more based on the way I feel. In the spring I’m like a calculating machine, with blinders on. I fish like a machine; there’s a lot of “have to’s” and slugging it out, grinding, painful, long tides searching for a few really big- special- fish. In the fall, I go with my gut and my heart a lot more. I want to fish some places before the season ends. I want to relive memories, even if in fantasy only. I’ll go to spots where great things have happened, and stand in those places, and hope and reminisce and dream. This isn’t to say that I’m just out wasting time living in the past; rather, I mix in a good dose of grinding and focusing on patterns, with bouts of fishing spots because I simply want to, regardless if they look perfect, or even offer the best chance at fish that night. I’m very cognizant of the fact that in six-weeks I’ll be looking back and dreaming of certain scenarios, spots, moments, and fish; I want to have no regrets. Some of that means fishing spots for skunks and smaller fish because it brings me joy to simply be there.
First and foremost, I’d like to present my first ever Anglers Journal cover, and article.
In the fall 2021 edition of Anglers Journal you will find an article I wrote about a spot I call Bizarro Beach. It’s an abstract piece I enjoy writing, very , very much. I’m thrilled that they also really liked it. It’s much shorter than I originally envisioned- I cut it by about 20% before I submitted, and they suggest I cut it by another 20%- but it’s a great, small, tight piece.
And of course, all the photos are mine, and I’ve included a few in this post. And don’t miss the photo in the table of contents, too.
Next, while it isn’t out yet, keep an eye on my social for an announcement soon of my first Field and Stream piece being released! I have been asked to do a lot of gear round-ups and reviews for Field and Stream, a totally different style and type of writing for me. They are a lot of work, with a lot of research and interviews to ensure I’m getting the right- and best- information, but I am enjoying what I have been assigned so far. The first piece will be a large, in-depth, round-up on how to choose the best saltwater fishing reel- from surf, boat, spin, conventional, and even fly. It’s a nearly 7000 word piece! They’re still figuring out how they’re going to do all of these highlights and round-ups- and it’s going to be a great resource- so I may have a bit of hiatus, but look for regular articles from me there soon.
Next up, in case you missed it, Surfcasters Journal #69 is now out, and I have a couple of written contributions there- which I covered last time. But I wanted to point out that the cover photo is also my own photo of my friend Brett. I’ve also been contributing a lot of photos to other authors articles. I have photos in Franks, Peters, Toby’s, and Dennis’s articles. This is an honor, and I'm thrilled and honored by Tommy's layout in this one in particular!
In The Fisherman this month I have a few things to share. First, if you missed it, I have an article in the September 20th edition looking at using albie flies for largemouth bass. Fun article, and not a joke, though it might sound like it. In the October 4th edition, I have an article about trying new techniques to make catching smaller fish more rewarding, and safer for the fish. It’s a theme I’ve written about previously, but in a different way this time around. It’s basically just to make you think about why and how you’re beating schoolies to death with the same plug and multiple trebles.
That’s if for articles for now, and I’m in a bit of a lull actually. There’s been some developments for me that have taken me away from writing a little bit- I’m working on a photography portfolio for one, and sorting through nearly 5000 unpublished photos, including over 3500 surf photos. It’s a big project, but one that has to be done. It’s annoying as hell. However, I’m looking at the end of the season realizing I have to get on my submissions again, too.
Surf Scenarios Seminar Series:
I’ve got three of the four interviews all set to go. As a teaser for my readers, I’ll let you know that I’ll be having Al Albano, Dennis Zambrotta, and Toby Lapinski on Zoom for intensive interviews. The fourth is still being debated (by me). For the instructional sessions, I’m still finalizing how it’s going to work this year. However, it’s going to have a lot more continuity, and the sessions will build on each other more than they did last year. So the first session will roll into the second, which will build to the third, etc. It’ll be much more like a curriculum, and less like individual seminars. I’ll tease a few other things. First, we’ll have two never-before-covered sessions: 1) Plugology and Boulderfields. For those that have seen my boulder field talk at a club (which isn’t many of you), the session in Surf Scenarios is going to be more in depth, and longer (of course) and include several slides that are blacked out in my club talks because I just never have time. Lots more “how to”, instead of just “why”. 2) Two talks- bait behavior and sand beaches- are going to be expanded (if you can imagine that) and I’m super excited to bring a lot of new (for the series) ideas to both. 3) Each session this year will have a “lesson from 2021”, where I go over something I specifically learned or relearned in 2021. This will be fun, I think. I like hearing from other anglers over-arching ideas or things they’ve learned each year, or things they’ve changed or are going to change. This will be my opportunity to be a bit more informal and offer up ruminations and a bit of a season re-cap of the season. Look for public announcements next month, and the series will start after the New Year.