The decision to flee came suddenly, like a wild brook trout rising to a silly insect, trapped in the surface film way up in the mountains….actually, no, it was nothing like that. It was more like a boiling army of Jack Crevalle a mile wide, chunks of baitfish, birds, turtles and old ladies splattering everywhere while tornados, thunder and lightning crashed as far as the eye could see.
It wasn’t really quite like that either but fishing in the wrong hole had become truly enough so we loaded the truck and made a break for the beach
My partner in slime goes by Nicholas Jones – aside from being a top notch dude, is an excellent spear fisherman, fly fisherman and photographer. Nicks introduction to saltwater fly fishing occurred less than a month before this little story I’m about to tell you – on the Pacific side, which was a great launch pad but not nearly as challenging, rewarding, refreshing and engaging as patrolling the beach, making sure helpless fish don’t drown. He took to it well his first time, greeted with a solid 25 knot wind and 4’ surf and managed to pick up some Toro as practice. I’m pretty sure his first experience had him crazy over fly fishing, for lack of better description – He’s hooked.
We arrived to our destination, haggard from the perils of travel, late in the evening and prepped for an early morning wake up for a day at the beach. The weather report was bleak to say the least, but the decision had already been made – we rise to fish!
The dismal conditions were confirmed upon arrival: discouraging – big wind, big surf. We walked the beach holding our hats, watching the waves crush the shore. Random surfcaster guy was cursing the beach saying nothing was around and he was ready to head over to the Pacific side. Good for him I thought; he’d do better there and we’d have the beach to ourselves. We continued further down the beach and started working blindly in an area of relief. Within the first few casts we were hooked up to ladyfish, after ladyfish – which was great being that our only objective was to fish the beach, we didn’t count on catching anything.
I had seen a few good roosters blowing up on bait and one charged the fly to the beach, but I dropped the line when he ate. This took me entirely by surprise being that my best success on Roosters had been in the spring. Who or what controls this? The random surfcaster noticed us repeatedly running down into the surf, grabbing fish and throwing them back – he came over to get a better look – called us the “little fish kings”
I took clue from the sea and changed our flies to resemble ladyfish. I was taking the hook out of one and looked over at Nick to see the fly line rapidly exiting his rod and the backing coming off fast! I ran over to coach him and really wasn’t sure what he was hooked up to. The fish easily pulled 200 yards of backing off his Cheeky 425 before he was able to turn it, 20 minutes later I was grabbing the fish from the surf.
It was the biggest Roosterfish I have ever seen landed in person – a beautiful turquoise blue, yellow, green iridescent sea monster. Nick and I were ecstatic and the surfcasters mind was blown (who came in handy with the camera) -Thanks, If you randomly read this somehow! It was by far the cleanest, easiest catch, photo, release and the Rooster took off angrily back into the sea. Nick went off and rolled around in the sand for a bit while I continued working.
After a few more casts I had a monster rooster blow up on my fly – chase and miss all the way up to less than 6” of water – he didn’t miss on his last swipe and neither did I. The strip set was textbook and the scrap cleared fast, before I knew it I was deeper into the backing then ever before, I could see the end.
I knew I was attached to a tanker but remained calmer than I’ve ever felt in my life. I have 100% confidence in my gear and knots – all I needed to do was stop this thing. I worked it in slowly, evenly guiding the backing onto my Cheeky 425 with my pinky finger (which left a nasty burn) and my Echo 3S #9 dug deep into my hip. Before I knew it Nick was tailing my Rooster and all was right in the world. We photo’d and released the beast and both took a seat in shock of what had just happened. Persistence was the name of the game, and if it wasn’t for the ladyfish – we probably would have left. Surfcaster guy returned to express how impressed he was with what he had just witnessed and again after the action seized he approached us with more praise! We saw him every day for a week, looking for that grande. “No one comes here in the winter time to fish for Roosters…you guys really are “TRUE BELIEVERS.” We went from being “little fish kings” to “true believers”. Duh.
All sorts of fun happened that week, but ultimately it was rejuvenation of the soul. It was a perfect lesson from the universe on how staying positive reciprocates positivity. Our goal wasn’t to walk away from the beach with trophy fish, our goal was simple – to go to the beach to clear our minds, to heal. With that attitude, nothing else mattered. The conditions were far less than optimal, didn’t matter. We were simply happy to just be there fishing! In my life, I’ve measured my success and happiness in fish. Sometimes you go a while, watching other people succeed while you get skunked – I’m always happy for them, never upset with myself. It’s a personal journey about being the best YOU can be–not competing to be better than others.
People go to the beach for many reasons. What we came for, we walked away with in spades.
Collaborative effort by Jeffrey Feczko & Nicholas Jones @ TOTHEGILLS 2015
-PS- We saw a bigger one.
One large never ending swoop of adventure.
Essentially, this is the highlight reel.
I casted and just after the mend was distracted by a sharp pain in my thumb. I looked down to a devils club splinter then all of the sudden this dark beast was doing backflips on the surface, fly in mouth. I was standing on an ultra slick waterfall and had just removed the cleats from my boots. Once I got near safety I started beating the fish and its tail was almost in hand. He dodged and bolted downstream “NO!NO!NO!” I chased him about 1/4 mile through boulders and fast water when to the point where it was too dangerous to continue. The King was into backing and I thought for sure it was gone. I tested the limits of my Echo SR 6 wt switch, nestling the cork in my hip, top eye bent near the butt – waiting for a loud crack. After a few minutes I grabbed that bastards tail.
It’d been a few years of heartbreak chasing the estuary King with the long rod. I remember thinking while riding my bike in waders 6 miles to the river in the pouring rain, that my efforts might have some weird, karmic reward. I casted a thousand times before I realized what the fish would do with the changing tide – then it clicked and I hooked up to slack on 6 fish. I was even more sick than when I started so I returned to get even, finally landing my first 2 kings in the salt with my little meaty fly. I almost threw the first one back in question of its size when a new friend said “You caught that fish fair & square on the swing, that’s your fish brother” He then held out a 5$ bill and said, “This 5$ bill is 6 inches long, do you think there is 6 5$ bills on this fish?” I replied with a swift and respectful net handle to the predator head and found myself kneeling in pool of blood, thinking about dinner.
That next day, same tide I guided a new fly fisherman and said “You see those fish over there? The second that tide switches they’ll come right behind the rock” Like clockwork it happened and a guy who had fly fished once in his life, caught 2 King Salmon. He said to me “Why aren’t you fishing?” I replied “Well, cuz I’m guiding you” -He told me to pick up the rod, which so happened to be a piece of junk 8 wt shop rod and on my first swing, picked up a 35# 14″ tall slab of gunmetal chinook – then after nearly 40 minutes of fear ended with my client netting it.