Sunday, July 22, 2007

Monomoy Trip

Its hours after my return and I’m still picking sand from blisters. I walked a lot. I walked too much. Playing down the roughly nine mile round trip, I neglected several factors; sand, wind and my curiosity.

5am and dawn broke. The weather called for highs in the low 70’s and a steady 20mph wind. The golden hour greeted me with a cool but refreshing breeze out of the NE and a brilliant red sunrise. The walk from the hotel to beachhead was a blur. I was excited; I was practically at a jog. Once I left pavement I made my way down the Atlantic side of a grass and sand scoured peninsula known as South Beach, ushered by a dozen or so curious seals. My pace was brisk, moving with nimble steps despite the energy sucking sand. Thoreau, in his Cape Cod essays describes traveling through the sand as "heavy"; I can think of a few other adjectives.

Despite slow headway, high tide was peaking and the quickly approaching flats were covered in a blanket of 68 degree water.

The beaches were full of wildlife I had never seen before. Plovers, Sandpipers and Terns squawked wildly as I inadvertently approached their nesting area. Habitat unfamiliar to me was all around and I found myself zig-zaging to and from patches of Salt Rose, tidal pools, grass covered dunes and the flats. I was like a kid in a candy shop; corralling basketball size Horseshoe crabs, digging through the exposed dunes looking for insects and turning over large pieces of drift wood to see what organisms it exposed. It was all I could think about until I remembered why I was there. The fish!

My eyes were constantly scanning the water looking for moving torpedo shaped bodies, nervous water or sea birds dive bombing a bait ball. Things were calm most of the early morning. The only sighting of fish worth noting was a large group of gulls hammering down on some forage food pushed to the surface likely by blues or bass. Unfortunately, the action was out further than I was willing to wade and I could only watch as a great opportunity at fish unfolded just out of reach.

By 10:30am, after five hours of walking and observing I decided it was time to get serious and started inching my way down the edge of a flat, search casting using various patterns and stripping techniques. What felt like hours went by. Step cast, step cast. The water I was fishing looked prime. A deep channel rip laid just off the sand flat hopefully concealing lurking fish. And then it happened...

I must have been in just the right place. I had the rod tucked up under my arm and was stripping a large sand eel imitation with both hands. The strike was violent and the slack line that filled my stripping basket was out of the guides in a flash. The drag moaned and I was hooked up.

I managed a goofy grin as I played out the bass. My hard work paid off, this was the reward. I landed the 16in fish and snapped a few photos. I rinsed my hands and got right back out there casting away. Fish number 2 also came on a sand eel fly and then I hit a lull. I changed up patterns and moved just a few more feet and I was hooked up again. After about an hour things slowed down and I retreated to the bank to collect my thoughts. It was only then that I realized how far I had come and how far I had to go to get back. I managed to walk from downtown Chatham to within a hundred yards from South Monomoy, the newly formed land bridge stretched out in front of me, growing larger by the minute as the outgoing tide exposed more sand. I looked at the time, 12:30 and realized if I left now, I would make it back sometime around 5pm.

I was fine until about half way back, then I hit a brick wall. Walking through the sand, water and wondering back and forth across the peninsula had taken its toll. To compound things further I had consumed the roughly two liters of water I had brought and had neglected to take the lunch that I had prepared the night before out of the fridge and place it in my pack; stupid mistakes that could have turned into disaster. As I came within a mile of the parking area at South Beach my blood sugar had dropped to a dangerous level. I lay down and closed my eyes for what seemed like minutes but turned into an hour. My legs throbbed, feet were sore. I had to use every bit of strength to muster the balls needed to make it back to the hotel. As I got up and trudged along, all I could do was think about the bass I had just caught and how well deserved they were. I don’t think I have ever worked so hard for a few fish in my life but the adventure, the experience would never be forgotten.

As I walked up the steps of the hotel room my legs were trembling from exhaustion. I threw my equipment down on the floor and headed right for the bathroom where I threw up what was left of yesterday’s dinner and then proceeded to drown myself in a bottle of Ibuprofen.

Tomorrow I’m taking the day off.