First you imagine success. Then, if it matters enough, you learn in ways that help you achieve it. Too many times before Pete had followed me out to Montauk and either the conditions prevented our launch or he landed fish that, while entertaining, were fairly unremarkable. Pete had caught big bass before at Block Island and Montauk, but always on someone’s boat and usually with their tackle, so by his account the sense of ownership just wasn’t there. With kayak fishing, that changed. Mistakes are made – nobody’s got the script – but when you’re kayak fishing, unless you’re in a tandem you get to take 100% of the credit.
But at first the things that you learn the best are the things that already work for you, so doing new things – that you don’t know will work for you – is always a leap of faith. Eventually, however, preparation meets opportunity and something amazing happens: that picture that you had in your head becomes a reality. Pete had his “kayak cow” on the line last year at the end of the season, but for reasons that are not entirely known (but probably relate to his drag settings) it escaped. This was a lesson that I recently re-learned on my last trip out to the Point. It was a brush with greatness that left me feeling very unfulfilled.
We were two very motivated kayak fisherman. As we packed for the Point, we talked a lot about our tackle selections and “weak points” we needed to guard for. We talked about the NWS info we had at hand and whether the wind would lay down. We lamented the recent re-educations we had experienced that resulted in our frustrating near-misses with big bass. There was also a lot that we were not talking about.
Neither of us spoke about how the skies had cleared, how it had become more evident by the hour that we would probably be able to launch. We didn’t dare speak about how there were likely to be some big bass around. No jinxes.
The Little Lie
When we got to the Point I remember thinking that I should send a text to my wife to let her know what our plans were. I sent her a text saying that the water was flat and we’ll be off the water by 11:30. As I looked at the shore I realized that it wasn’t quite as flat as I had made it seem and that perhaps maybe this was one of those little “lies” that we tell ourselves to confirm our pre-existing bias. Sure, things looked great.
The wave sets were small but regular at first, and when we got into deeper water we were rising and falling from sight of one another in the troughs of swells that were coming in off false bar. But we had prepared. We had done our homework and we were going to fish. I said that we might get a little wet heading out, but that it would be fine. Fairly quickly we were both catching bluefish. It was shaping up to be like my last trip out there: I wasn’t marking anything. Just like the last time my 10 blue fish were punctuated by one large bass. I was probably 5 blue fish into the evening before my line came tight with something that I was certain was a striper. It turned out to be a 42″ bass that I eagerly tethered to my kayak. Pete took pictures, so I wouldn’t have to go back to shore.
I was back at it, but ironically I wasn’t feeling as good about my catch as I would have if I were alone. Pete’s been coming out to The Point with me for years in the hopes of landing a “Kow” (a kayak cow). Our tide would be ending soon and Pete wouldn’t be able to get back out to Montauk for another 3 weeks. I could drive out there again tomorrow but Pete’s window of opportunity was closing. As I headed back to where I had connected with my fish, I offered some fleeting advice about where to try and we separated. Pete drifted north as I trolled into the current. It wasn’t long after that when I heard Pete whooping and hollering as loud as he could. It had happened. Pete had connected with – and landed this time – his “Kow.”
As Pete had done for me, I took numerous photos of his beast before he released her back into the rolling swells of Montauk. We stayed a bit longer, but at almost precisely the same time, we both met to plan our return to shore. Lsnding is always harder than launching, and we knew from the beating we took going out that getting in would take good timing. High tide had nearly covered the visible rocks that we’d typically use as markers, and there was scant moonlight to help us find the launch. Fortunately, GPS got us where we needed to be. Pete came in right behind me and though we were both “surfing” a little, we got in safely and in two intact pieces. Celebration ensued.
Montauk is a special place. Anyone who has experienced that magic will attest to its allure. Pete’s quest for a Montauk Monster was fulfilled at last. I know, however, that this is really just the beginning for Pete. He’s going to re-live that battle and the feeling of that massive striper draped across his lap, pressing down. Looking at the light of the lighthouse as it reflects off the shiny scales of a freshly-caught 40-pounder is an image that stays with you forever.