The warm air temperature and clear sunny sky pushed me back into midsummer mode. I was standing barefoot in the sand gazing out at the wide open Atlantic, completely enveloped by the blue color of the water and sky.
On the horizon was a whale watch boat, probably making one of its final trips of the season. Along the shoreline stood terns and gulls, patiently waiting for their next feeding opportunity. The scene felt more like July than October, and a part of me wished I could stow away this moment and save it for a cold and snowy February afternoon.
I had two friends with me, Mike Morin and Andrew Massard, and we had an entire night of surfcasting ahead of us. If the weather held we would soon be enjoying one of those crystal clear nights with the Milky Way above and stars for as far as the eye can see.
Recently my girlfriend Lauren has been joking that I spend more "romantic" moments and nights on the beach with my male buddies than I do with her, and I must admit that it's true. The weather so far this fall has been spectacular for surfcasting the beaches of Cape Cod and I've been doing everything in my power to take full advantage of it.
The Off Road Experience
Gone are the days of driving the entire 40 or so mile backside beaches of Cape Cod. Piping plovers and their enthusiasts have put an end to that. However certain small stretches of beach are still open to four wheel drive vehicles, which provides a taste of what it must of been like in the "good old days."
After airing down the tires to 11 psi we set off through the dunes to one of the few stretches of coastline still open to four wheel drive vehicles.
The trail brought us past high sand dunes that had been built up over the centuries by howling winds. The shifting sands make subtle and sometimes drastic changes to this landscape year after year.
If we have another harsh winter, some of these dunes may look quite different come spring.
Upon our arrival at the beachfront we were greeted by a variety of sea life. Gulls were lined up along the shoreline, keeping a watchful eye on the sea.
Of course it wasn't long until one of the gulls wandered over to us, perhaps attracted by the bag of potato chips we had just opened.
We still had a few hours until darkness and plenty of time until our best chance at catching striped bass would arrive. Yet I couldn't just stand around and wait for nightfall, so I grabbed my spinning rod and pencil popper and made my way to the shoreline.
Seals, Seals & More Seals
Apparently I was not the only one hoping to catch a fish. A pack of seals quickly swam over to me as if to investigate what I was up to.
Some of the seals were small and were probably less than 100 pounds. Others were downright enormous and looked like they belonged on an ice sheet in the Arctic.
I realized that we would probably be competing with the seals for whatever striped bass were scouring the area.
Over the past few decades the seal population on Cape Cod has exploded. It can be difficult fishing around seals because they can steal a striper right from your hook.
Additionally, one would imagine that most stripers would try to keep their distance from packs of seals. Yet on the other hand, perhaps seals in the area are a sign that there are also bass in the same spot.
It's a bit of a catch 22, but if you ask most fishermen how they feel about seals, they will most likely explain to you that they hurt the fishing.
After working the area we decided to move on to another beach where we hoped there would be more fish and less mammals.
Bass in Tight to Shore
The ride back through the dunes was an enjoyable one. By now it was getting late in the day and the sun was sinking low in the sky. Dusk is my favorite time to be on the Cape's backside beaches, because the way the light bounces off the dunes is really beautiful.
We had arrived at spot where a sand bar extends perpendicular out from the shoreline. I like the spot because it's different, and areas that are different from their surroundings often attract fish.
Mike, Andrew and I got to work and spread out along the shoreline. With three lines in the water I really liked our odds at finding fish, granted at least a few were in the area of the bar.
Mike, who is pretty green when it comes to anything fishing, made his way into the water and began casting.
Andrew set up on the opposite side of Mike and also began casting into the Atlantic.
We were all fishing on the eastern edge of America and enjoying picture perfect conditions. All we needed to really cap things off was a fish or two.
I had just settled into my own casting routine when I heard Andrew yell from down the shoreline "Hey Ryan, I'm on!"
My head jerked around to my right and I looked down the beach to get a glimpse of what all the fuss was about. Sure enough Andrew's rod was bent with the first hookup of the evening.
I’m fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I’ve been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!