29 Sep Falling on Hardtail Times…
“There may be days when you catch 10 albies and there will be entire years when you don’t catch any.” – Beaver 2011
These words, posted by “Beaver” a member over at the Edge Angling Forums (keep reading to see his picture), have been weighing heavily on my mind this year. Especially as trip after trip has unfolded without even a glimpse of an Albie or Bonito. Compounding the frustration was the relative success I’d experienced in limited attempts the previous few years.
There had been the first-ever trip to a very famous wall with my Albie fishing mentor. A man who shall remain nameless but who can peform black-belt level maneuvers while fishing for hardtails (like coaxing them to eat a Jumpin’ Minnow for instance). That first day Albies corraled bait and ran up and down the wall with a tenacious efficiency. Needless to say I was hooked and have been chasing that thrill during the period from August thru September each year since. An early taste of success like that (Yo-Zuri live minnow bait I will not forget you) was to be tempered I was told. Even from the beginning I had been warned, “It isn’t always like this”.
I’m not saying I didn’t believe those words, I just hadn’t come to live them personally yet.
Nor would I the next few years. There was the day, on another productive breakwater, where both Albies AND Bonito were only too happy to oblige the Deadly Dicks and Pt. Jude Po-Jees that were sent their way. It was on that breakwater I remembered feeling like I’d “figured something out” casting under the terns even if they were just gliding above the water and not actively crashing bait on the surface. Anyone will tell you this type of fishing makes you see things like phantom swirls and gleams in the water that only MIGHT really be there.
At any rate, there was no denying that I definitely had the “hot hand” so to speak. It wasn’t like I was going all the time or catching a ton of hardtails, it just seemed that whenever I DID go, they were there and there was action. I guess you could say they were “coming easy” so to speak. Like clockwork, August and September would roll around and I’d get my fast-mover fix, accomplishing one of the year’s angling goals along the way. Catch a hardtail – CHECK.
Last year was no different. This time a succession of trips would add to my false sense of security. First was the early August morning on the regulator where we rolled up, found breaking fish and were back to the dock with both PLENTY of time for me to make it to work and PLENTY of bonito for me to make KILLER fish tacos later that night. Then there was the shore trip at a local hot spot where I’d seen Albies the night before. When I pulled up my Albie-Fishing mentor was already there (which is always a good sign). As we made our way to some high ground to survey the scene an Albie launched itself out of the water nearby. “They’re HERE!” shouted Sensei as he ran across some of the East Coast’s most treacherous terrain and launched a cast in the general direction of the breaking fish. At that point I remember chuckling to myself and wondering what would possess a man to take such chances on those rocks in such inadequate footwear. Only too soon I would learn my lesson firsthand, but not before what remains my most memorable Albie experience to date which occurred only a few days later. It should be noted that it was was a truly remarkable day for fast movers. Take a look at Joe Dwyer with a ROBUST compact hydronamic creature boated that same day:
The day in question, which will play over and over in my head as if in a dream, began innocently enough with a stop to get gas. I had been on my way to the hot shore spot in no apparent rush, even sacrificing precious time on the water to fill up the tank. As I’m about to pull out and continue on my way, a fishing buddy pulled up and began fueling up his boat. He invited me to join him and a short time later we were on our way to the same spot I’d been targeting from shore, only this time, I thought, we’d be able to reach the Albies tearing up the center of the cove far outside the reach of my farthest casts from shore.
Upon arriving at the spot there were no Albies, but we did find Arden fishing the cove from shore, who was able to join our party via some bold negotiating of the rocks (on Arden’s part) and even bolder maneuvering of the boat (by Rob). The decision was made to take advantage of the glass calm and make haste for Narragansett, where we arrived after a memorable crossing that included a stop to check out a huge school of dolphins (one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen on the water). Once there it didn’t take long to find the fish and to connect. Again it was almost too easy, and yet the best was still to come. As we rounded the corner into Newport Harbor on our way to the boat ramp we were greeted with the sight of blitzing fish once again. I was convinced these were bluefish as they were literally in the mooring field. Rob and Arden thought otherwise. Soon enough the boys would be proven right. All three of us cast into the melee and all three of us hooked up. What an intense scene as these fish sped off around the boats and mooring balls of the harbor. A truly epic day and a fitting end to this chapter in my angling experience with these fish as the 2011 season would play out much differently indeed.
I won’t bore you with the excruciating details that make up this part of the story. There’s nothing much to tell really. Suffice to say there have been lots of trips this year, more than the previous few years combined. There have even been a few game-changing improvements to “my game” so to speak. There’s the new ski rack that holds my albie rod at the ready. Then there’s the new spheros 4000 filled to the brim with 12# Berkley Nanofil, a line that casts so far you’re left thinking “did my po-jee really just land there”? But most of all I’d say the main “improvement” was not any piece of gear but a newfound determination to make the most of the short period of time these fish frequent our local waters. “I will go more than ever before”, “I will be better prepared than ever before” I thought to myself. I HAD gone more. I HAD been better prepared, and all without even a glimpse of an Albie or Bonito. Beaver’s post bears repeating:
“There may be days when you catch 10 albies and there will be entire years when you don’t catch any.” Beaver had put it so well, and then he promptly went to MV and got into Fish.
Why did Beaver have to post that? I used to like him so much. I won’t lie. Things got bad. This year I’ve zigged when I should have zagged and watched as Facebook has blown up with pictures of local fish. Doubt crept in. I came to the conclusion, this was the year I wouldn’t catch any.
Enter the mentor. It wasn’t any sage piece of advice this time that made the difference. Quite the opposite really. While out and about with some friends the other day I happened across the old master and he was definitely “into it”. I shouted over asking how the fishing was and he responded something completely unintelligible. “Did he just say: THEY’RE here or WE’RE here?” I thought. Oh well, the important thing was that his attention was obviously on the water and not on my presence… He had a touch of that giddy intensity that develops when hardtails are possibly imminent and THAT was encouraging. Encouraging enough to get me back out there this week and push me towards ultimately breaking the prolonged fishless streak I had endured. Just how the streak was broken is chock-full of excitement just as it is ANYTIME you encounter these truly special fish. But we’ll leave that story for another time. Here are some pictures though.