Coastal Blues

My family and I recently returned from an East Coast trip to visit relatives and enjoy a couple of days at the beach. It went remarkably well. There was family and food; the ocean and relatively pleasant weather.

I typically don’t plan on much fishing time during family visits but usually pack a rod and depart with high hopes. This trip was no exception.

We were on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington. We arrived to hot weather and howling winds. But by the third day of the trip and the second visit to the beach the winds had calmed, vastly improving the fishing conditions. I bolstered my hopes with a $10 nonresident North Carolina coastal license and we headed to place my uncle referred to as “north beach.” It was nice. Nearly 100 yards of deep, clean sand separated the dunes from the surf. As the Jeep bounced along the deep ruts in the sand I spotted several fishermen near the water. Only a couple actually had lines in the water.

We stopped about 200 yards from an inlet where several fishermen were set up with surf casting gear. I don’t do much surf fishing but do have an 8 weight saltwater fly rig – a leftover from some long ago trip – so I walked up the beach to a spot between two of the bait fishermen and begin my usual tactic of beating the water to froth.

I’ve fished off shore several times and aside from a couple of bouts of seasickness have always enjoyed it. But I’m not much of saltwater man and basically find myself a stranger in a strange land when confronted with sand and salt spray. My family loves the beach, the sand, the surf  . . . all of it. I find it amusing in small doses. Fishing helps.

An hour passed before my wife arrived to check my progress. I’d had a couple of hits but nothing more to show for my efforts than a deepening sunburn.

The wind came in with the tide, the family was hot, tired and sunburned, so I broke down my gear and headed toward the car.

During the walk back I veered back to the water to query a fisherman who was dressed in shorts and a hat and was taking his leisure in a lawn chair anchored in the surf; his rod nearby, dormant. He had been bottom fishing with shrimp and had caught nothing but didn’t seem bothered by it.

We chatted briefly and I wished him luck.

“I didn’t think you liked to talk to strangers,” my wife asked, noting my natural shyness – a trait a few close friends often find hard to imagine.

“He wasn’t a stranger,” I said. “He’s a fishermen.”