A Mind of Fishing

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It’s a daily journey for me that starts with one thought  “where are the fish today”.  It leads me places I only dreamed of and fills me up with knowledge of things I had no idea existed.  This wonderful, beautiful world and life we all walk though with so much going on around us.  I invite you to stop a bit and consider if  and when you leave makes no difference as nature continues to exists on its own terms.

It’s often by accident I am studying one thing with great conviction  that I stumble upon another great discovery  that makes me look at everything differently. My recent reads have been about the New York Bight and the Apex facts and findings, Ben Franklin mapping the Gulf and his cod eating habit’s and lastly Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork  by Peter Matthiessen .

Some days I have to stop and take it all in.. because we walk on sandy beaches as did people in our past on the same quest but for different reasons.  It leads me to the thoughts of such a vast difference in the way we handle technology and publication now.  People of  past worked so hard to catch fish to provide a meal for their families.  If you think there were not cyclical years please do some reading.  They relied upon  fish to sustain them. And now for the majority it is for internet notoriety or to be best among peers – a different kind of personal thing to feed.  Years from now I often wonder how will this blip in history will tell our generations story… and stories of the simple fishing trips. The kind you keep close to your heart, family and friends that mean the most.

 

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 A Simple Fishing Trip

2016

My morning alarm is set to lull me out of sleep with the voice of Jeremy Wade screaming “Fish On” over and over.  I am ready Mr. Wade.  In the morning shuffle I pick and chose to throw a couple bucktails that have always given me success into the pouch. Feathers all dried I run my finger tips down them to make sure all is intact.  These are my favorites, my go to’s, try as I may with other things I just love fishing bucktails.

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Step outside to see the moon still up and bit of a glimmer of light towards the water.  The night crew will be leaving, I’ll see them packing it in and heading home. Most will have no fish with them. The surf fisherman I know almost never take a fish. It’s often not because they would not like to share a meal of them – it’s because of stocks and also the stigma of someone seeing you take home a legal fish for your family. It’s 2016 and you’re damned if you do or don’t. Greed still runs rampant. But for many people, most of us we are more conservation minded when it comes to this beloved fish – Morone saxatilis.

It is still the most exciting feeling to me to load up the gear and leave knowing what my destination is. A thousand things go through my mind as I am checking off again the –  do I have everything – water and sunblock included.  Upon reaching the destination for the first few minutes I am an observer of the display nature is putting on.  Waders on and my heart starts to pump a little faster those first few steps. Some days I feel like I am almost running when I get on the water although I know I am not.  Just as the sun makes direct contact I am throwing into it with hopes of presenting perfectly to a passer-by in the water. Living so close to this is where I find myself and the world melts away.  For now until this time ends I am myself at the apex of happiness.

So often now when I have a bite I wade into the water to let it go there. Trying to be so careful as not to stress the fish I almost panic if it is not quick enough on my terms.  I am not keeping it, not today.  I get to do this everyday as long as fish are around.  For that I am grateful.  For that I respect this fish. What you do is your own business. I stopped looking. Looking at the same thing over and over of fish held high above heads like trophy’s.  It took me this long to realize that we are different. We fish for different reasons.   Technology pushes hard on ego’s and some look to the path of least resistance.  I needed to quiet my own mind before I got caught up in what the internet deems me a good fishermen and come into my own. When I sopped looking at all those reports online I set myself free to experience this on my terms in this pace in my heart.

Happy for you – happier for me.

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The whole time I am walking I watching, learning, filled with wonder.  With miles under my feel having walked I start to head back.

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Usually some kind person will stop me and share their love along my journey of fishing, surfing, the sea… whatever it is that calls our hearts here.

Packing my gear back in the truck with grateful intention I know God willing, I’ll be back again tomorrow.

For  I  bring home with me the greatest gift – a heart filled with so much love for this life and fishing.

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To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.- Herbert Hoover

 

In Like a Lamb

If it continues to be as beautiful as today March may never see the lion.

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During which I have become an observer and celebrator, a learner and a soul at peace.

It’s taken a lifetime to get here. Maybe it just took me longer to understand some of the things you already know.

How very carefully  I take my line and run it through each guide knowing it will meet the acquaintance of water at some point.  Knots tie together a quiet confidence of bringing life to shore.  Running my fingers over each lure, metal and feathers  with hope of making the right choice. Each little thing we do and think of  to bring us to water so intentionally.  I walk, I walk so far and so long some days. In each step I walk towards a feeling so hard to capture in words. It’s freedom, happiness, love and hope all hanging on to each cast I let got of.  No one can touch me here with any negativity because it’s here where I heal and rejoice this life.

This life I am so grateful to still be here experiencing.

A brush with death is something you never forget no matter how many days ago it was. You wake up with a heart so thankful that the grains of sand in your shoes are proof you get to do it again.

It becomes almost difficult when interacting with people who take this all of granted. Try as you may you hope for some understanding of why you are overflowing with happiness each sunrise.

Forgiveness and retribution.

It is perfectly sensible to feel that several of the traditionally self-sufficient philosophical justifications of punishment may be necessary. ‘Retribution‘ implies that offences should be balanced out with equivalent penalties. 

2004 study published in Science by University of Zurich researcher Dominique de Quervain and his colleagues had people think about exacting revenge on an “enemy”. What they experienced was measurable pleasure: their dorsal striatum (the pleasure center of the brain) lit up in a PET scan while doing so. 

At some point in your life something is going to happen to change it. It happens to every single one of us. Something or someone is going to turn your life upside down good/bad. It could also be a parent, sibling, friend, BF/GF, or stranger. It’s going to bring you places unimaginable. Resist the urge to let it own you. Make your peace because what you do with such a major life event will determine the rest of your life and what you live for. 

Retribution can take many forms and I live mine everyday.

It’s sunrise and the light through the windows are these beautiful, bouncing beams. My first thought is panic. Seconds later,I remember where I am. A warmth fills my soul and immediately makes me grateful. At some point today I’ll touch water, a trail, or maybe you…but everyday I am going to get even by living… and doing so beautifully. xo

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I want to live in this place in my heart forever where fishing takes me.

Days.

Days of which start with a clear view into the night sky full of bursting diamonds and a moon so bright it forms light of almost mid day.  With my first foot placed upon the sand I know I am walking into my future. It’s there waiting, always waiting with so many possibilities.  As I begin my journey it is often quiet except for the sounds around me nature creates.  I can’t help but think the universe conspired to bring me there.

To deem me worthy to take all that in. And at the very end of most days put on a visual showcase of colors of sunset.

Everyone different, each beautiful.

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I have been blessed to encounter many a beautiful fish of all species in fresh and salt water. It’s never been quite as important as now to let go of what you do not need for future generations.

This calling  was placed in my heart long ago, before I could even figure out what was pulling me to the water. I don’t question it, just rejoice in finding it , my love of fishing. Something I hope anyone who loves it can get to.

We do get there when we become quiet and listen to ourselves and what makes us happiest.

Spring run is soon upon us and it is my sincere hope that you find your way to the water .

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It hard to believe a year has gone by since Tony left to fish the heavenly universe  – no greater a fishing friend to so many of us.

I miss his enthusiasm for this life, stories,  his kindness and his genuine extension of friendship.

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My Gravitational Pull

Fishing.

It’s been a while and I apologize. My last post was entered in May and time just slipped through my fingers. Or line I should say.. line slipping through.

Not only have I learned a lot about surf fishing, marine biology, the history of the area and night sky (yes) I have grown to understand life more.

I’ve learned to forgive and have patience with myself on the water.

This journey, our journey each day gives us a chance to  make it right, safe,  and embrace what sets our souls on fire.

Try not to ever let anyone or thing take that away from you. ♥

JUNE 2015

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I am overflowing with words I do not have.”
— Adam Falkner

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JULY 2015

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“No one has it all figured out, especially not the people who are acting like they do and judging you because of it. Pretending to be something you aren’t because you’re trying to please a bunch of judgmental hypocrites and shitheads is not the way to be happy. Living the life you want to live is. It really is that simple.”-TM

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AUGUST 2015

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It is a basic human need that everyone wants to live a happy life. For this, one has to experience real happiness.
The so-called happiness that one experiences by having money, power, and indulging in sensual pleasures is not real happiness.
It is very fragile, unstable and fleeting.
For real happiness, for lasting stable happiness,
one has to make a journey deep within oneself and get rid of all the unhappiness stored in the deeper levels of the mind.
As long as there is misery at the depth of the mind all attempts to feel happy at the surface level of the mind prove futile.-S.N. Goenka
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SEPTEMBER 2015
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As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can. –  John Muir
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You never know when a few sincere words can have an impact on a life. – Zig Ziglar
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NOVEMBER 2015
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Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.-Cheryl Strayed
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Troubles that may come and go
but good times they’re the gold.

Bucktails, Stripers and The Red Light Special

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them-words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” – Stephen King

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Staying up late to finish this as it has been in que for a while.  I was holding on for a bit because while I had this whole new write-up for Surf Fishing Beginners (which is what I am) I am myself immersed in the process of learning.

 I was doing a lot of thoughtful thinking. Walking the sand surf fishing challenges you one on one. I have come to realize how our lives are all connected each and everyone you encounter. Even you reading this.. something brought you to this page. The universe is always working to give us these gifts. When you get to the place in life when you can be quiet with yourself and accept them you find a freedom to honor yourself.  To pursue your passion that lies deep within you. It is the most complete feeling I have ever experienced.

If you told me just how wonderful it was going to feel to live in this place in your heart of surf fishing I would never have believed such happiness could be achieved. But I committed to it through perseverance, laughter and tears this past year. I made mistakes, – some big ones. I walked a million miles. My daily adventures to the sand through rain, snow, heat, bitter cold, ice and fog fulfilled a self-concordant goal. There was no deadline just personal on level so deep. To get a striper from the surf in one very particular area.

I was often told there were no fish there. I was asked to join people all over to “better holding” area’s. I was on bites in different, but close beaches and did not get anything but blue fish – but I kept going. The more I went I learned. I learned from the people who have become mentors and friends. I read everything and watched a lot of videos. At night I would often work on leaders, knots,  gear, plugs, metal, bags, belts, moon, tides and learning about the striper patterns for the area. If that was not enough I was also painting Morone saxatilis in my sleep. My life is fully immersed in this with great love for the passion – it’s not  sport. It’s something so deep within you. It’s a calling undiscovered until it embraces and takes hold of your every thought.

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Last week I stepped out onto the sand at high tide.  I packed my bag with SP minnows and one very special bucktail. I carried out the rod my dear friend had given to me. I just started walking like I do almost every day. There was a slight chill in the air and the clouds would have their way with the sun. I walked past one clammer to the long trek I have been watching when the tide was blown out and stated throwing out the SP.  My visual site markers behind me let me know I was off a bit, I readjusted and kept throwing. I was not looking for a blue fish. I knew the big ones were around. I also have caught so many and particularly in the last year – I wanted to get under them. I knew somewhere my beloved stripers would be.

And there they were. I almost could not believe the first one I reeled in. As I went to grab my phone to take a picture it popped off. I stood in the surf and the tears just came like a steady stream. I collected myself enough and called the people who have been along this journey cheering me on. I pulled myself together got the bucktail in the water and for the next hour and about  half had fish after fish after fish. All returned safely to keep going on their  journey.

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Almost a week later and my heart still feels like it’s about to burst. My journey now expands to find bigger fish as they make their way here. I am hopeful but am also still a student of the sand. Everything in time.

With those words now written the very first part of my small contribution to starting off surf fishing is  going to be re-posting the valuable information I was given by members of the community.

At that start of this I had no idea of any of the terms used when it came to gear other than very basic knowledge.  So if you’re thinking this is something you are interested in here is a short list of the must have lures to start picking up. Next up on the write ups I’ll go over with the help of others Rod, Reel, and some basic things to have on you to get started other than  the lures. The future will be more in-depth about metal and touch on some bait also.

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10 MUST HAVE LURES THAT CATCH FISH

By JM Basile

   One of the biggest mistakes fisherman make myself included, is bringing to many lure choices to the surf. I have found that the fewer choices you have the more you can actually concentrate on the physical act of fishing.The key is to bring the right lures that will produce in most circumstances. When it comes down to it ,in most cases 10 lures should cover most surf conditions in New Jersey. When choosing lures keep in mind they should cover all water depths, top water,mid-water,and bottom. Always observe what the fish are feeding so you can pick a lure that best resembles the baits profile ( Match the Hatch). The 10 lures I would suggest for a Surf fisherman getting started would be the following:
Gibbs wood pencil popper ( white, yellow or Chartreuse)
Gibbs wood metal lip Danny swimmer (white or yellow)
Super Strike little neck popper (white or yellow)
Super Strike needle fish ( Yellow or black and purple)
SP Minnow floating ( Black back silver sides or bone)
Yozuri Mag Darter(Bunker or black)
Storm Shad (soft plastic bait)
Tsunami Eel ( soft plastic)
Cast Master (2oz metal)
Ava jig green tail (007 to 017)
   All of these lures produce and cover most bait profiles. If your going to fish nights I would darken up your color choices. Always watch the Sharpies to get a good idea on what to use.
Remember try to keep it simple!
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UNREAL….. Get up at 6am… check radar..

thought i could do it… GOD SENT me a message….one hour later… it is summer again… all I can say is it was ELECTRIC !!!! – Tony Stetzko

It’s funny how connected things are. There are forces we cannot even understand going on at any given moment pushing you along a path that did not make much sense at first. One day it all does and you welcome the arrival of such knowledge.

Life and the journey.

I did not pick surf fishing, it picked me. I was getting pretty good fly-fishing sweet water and thought I could transition that to salt. But no. And it was not for lack of wanting to try. So I’ll take you back to why.   I was late to FB .. reluctantly I joined. Lucky for me I happen to know a couple of people who sent a friend request and I welcomed them from a past fishing message board. And  (Keith and Amy) being the wonderful people they are recommended a bunch of  their friends also. So there I was, new friends. All walks of life friends, and from all over. I did not know most of them. But it was important to me to make my experience on FB a good one so I kept the door to friendship open ever so slightly.

At first I did not talk much about fishing (shocking I know), had some real heavy stuff to get through. But I kept producing  art and taking pictures. On one occasion I posted up a sketch which would mark the beginning of one of the very best friendships with  man I would ever come to know. He commented on the sketch and we talked a lot about art – commercial art, photography, etc… and NJ

 

 

Fast forward and here I am sometime later working on this basic how to for beginners like myself in surf fishing. Reflecting on how I got here.  And it was his push… to get my hands on a surf rod.  Tony Stetzko – a man bigger than life itself. I was already going to the beach everyday exploring every inch of the ocean side, the back, and the bay.  I was taking it all in and slowly letting it heal me. So with his encouragement I gave it a try. With a heavy bait rod and reel in hand off I went. From the first cast I knew this was it.  One on one… I walked the sand and with each step and cast I accepted everything the universe gave me. I did it wrong. Wrong set-up. no belt, no surf bag, little gear, no idea. It rained, the wind was relentless, the sun sometimes painful, I tripped and fell on slipper rocks, walked through mud and sand fleas. Behind the sunglasses I shed a few tears, some-days a lot. But I let go and I forgave…. myself. I also learned to stop giving so much power to fear. The kind of fear that someone else hands you. I let go of so much at that water. And in turn started to believe in myself again,  it’s healed me… that and those striped bass and their journey.

And so my friend and I talked about everything. Sometimes everyday.  We talked about the good and bad,  but a lot about that good feeling…. of being on the beach alone and seeing the sun come up on the water, stars, sunsets, surf, swell, tides…. dolphins in the surf, horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, porgy, blue fish, striped bass. He said he caught a few. How humble right.. because he is a record holder.  He made written stories come alive, gave people enormous credit for just being kind to him, gave life to the crazy forces that align on the beach at night,  there was jaws always in the surf and seals received a whole new zip code.

Tony made people feel special – I am not in one bit unique, there are so many, many friends of his in this world who shared the same kind of friendship with him. And so the talks went on.. and it was never about fishing technique except “keep moving”. It was always conversations about life, families, friends and the way people treat each other.  A real honest to goodness friend who got this passion I have for seeing the good in everything and fishing. No judgement, just genuine and encouraging.

So I was right there in life accepting this friendship. One for years prior I would not have felt worthy to accept from anyone.

When Tony fell sick in November in my heart and I think everyone else too thought, he would get better.  The severity was never as real as in the last couple weeks of just how hard the battle he was still fighting was going on. In light of it he had the capacity within himself to want to let go on his terms. For that we can all be grateful. But the loss is a hard one among all of us he has touched because he sincerely is a good soul.  And what more really is there to life than to live in such light and love and share that with so many people.

What a beautiful legacy.

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(Photo credit – Tony Stetsko in a personal message 2013)

 

I am grateful to have known him.   I sincerely appreciate his good friend Danya’s offer taking the task of being my first call when I get lucky enough to get my first striper from the surf. Although I know Tony will be watching.

This past late spring start and summer went along. It was a slow start, lots of mistakes. But I started paying attention and asking questions. Little by little gaining some confidence to even ask. People like Allen W, John Beers, Keith,  Chris Gately, Nick Luna, Steve Adams, Fran all started saying try this and do that and I was starting to get it. Everyday I went, everyday I tried throwing everything. I started getting bluefish. Ummm that was enough to make me lose my mind knowing what was possibly under them. The miles I put on my feet the last year are immeasurable. But my realization of this community of surf fishermen – (fly people too) is overflowing with gratitude. I posted about writing this how to and I had so many great people respond on all different aspects. I am going to share all of them one by one.

As I put the finishing touches and pictures on the first chapter to the next post with the help of John Basile and Lou Caruso (Plugs and Rods – For Beginners) I stopped first to recognize this force that works without us knowing and the connections. Most of all I really just wanted to say thank you to all the people helping me.  You are all a testament of what good and kind people are. And each and every one of you have been wonderful mentors. And if your name is not on list it is coming… these were the people at the get go.. along the way so many more have offered their knowledge.

A great big Thank You to Tony for being my friend and whatever beautiful beach you are fishing right now I hope your soul is at peace. I am going to miss the talks and stories, the posts,  but most of all,  your enthusiasm for life. What a remarkable gift.

 I leave you with the most valuable lesson I have learned from this …. and this comes from inside of me to you : sometimes we hesitate to invite people into our life because we feel like our space isn’t good enough. Things are a little messy,  our place settings don’t match, or our situation isn’t quite what we want it to be. Don’t let that stop you. Invite people in any way and let the friendship take off like a 50lb pound bass hooked up in the suds during a nor’easter.

NJ Winter Surf 2/11 &12

Interrupting this regular program for some BIG SWELL pictures because …….. it’s 1.6° C water temp in NJ

Happy Valentines Day!♥

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add some music !

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Beware: I have found my fire. Surf Fishing 101

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Simple definition:
Surf fishing is the sport of catching fish standing on the shoreline or wading in the surf. A general term, surf fishing may or may not include casting a lure or bait, and refers to all types of shore fishing – from sandy and rocky beaches, rock jetties, or even fishing piers.
When I arrived at the Atlantic last spring I immediately knew I would walk the sand everyday possible. The connection to water and fishing wherever I am is a constant. This is where I was supposed to be a ll along. What I did not know is it would also become one of my greatest challenges and in it I found home. My early days were a mix of major mistakes. I resisted asking for help because having fished in most other environments I thought “I could figure this out”. It doesn’t just happen that way.
My first mistake was to walk a bait rod casting out plugs and metal like a maniac. Often walking away with gym arms and a stretch of disappointment.  One day a good friend and accomplished angler said meet at the beach for a bit let me see what you have going on. That time gave me valuable information and a great starting point.  I made it a part of my daily life after that to get to the beach everyday possible and try, walk, move…. put time in – all different times of the day whenever I could. Up until a few weeks ago I was still out there trying to catch some time before the daylight saving sunset and cold.  The first thing was to lighten the gear and learn about metal, plugs, bags, surf, tides etc… It’s a wonderful journey I am on.
It is here I found my place in the world. It’s my beginning and it’s just baby steps. I still boat, fly, kayak, etc fish… but this is where I found out who I am. My one on one. It’s all you baby. Looking back every single time I picked up a rod and fished it brought me to this place. My only regret is not getting into it sooner.
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So let’s consider this the starting point. My how to 101.
There is so much on the web,book,etc.. regarding getting started.  It has been a habit of mine to get in up to my elbows before actually reading some how to. Let’s face it when you just start out you are holding some masterpiece in your hand from a plug builder and a book in the other and the plug is going to win. Gear always wins. Then you get to the beach and that plug is such a masterpiece you’re having second thoughts about even throwing it. Yeah you put it on the mantle and show it off – other surf fishing people admire it. But you know you should be fishing it.
My intention is only to share what I have learned as simple as possible.  I threw the question out to some of the best of the best out there and was overwhelmed by the response of how to’s and tips. So I am going to use the platform of this blog to share them. Each new post introducing an aspect important to the beginner with an interjection of my own experiences and that of others. The people at this a while are some of the most helpful, sharing people I have encountered.
If you feel you have something worthy, insightful and easy to share – reach me through twitter. Most of what I will refer to is for NJ/Atlantic Ocean fishing and the species we often encounter. The #1 being the Striped Bass. Having taken part in past Fall Run and the fever and passion is what dreams are made of.
Step 1 -Starting out keep  your cost within reason but good quality. Promote the gear as you advance and get more confident. Learn to tie a great knot – not a “good” knot a great knot. You’ll thank yourself. The very first thing you’re going to need though is a passion for fishing and a will to put some time in. Don’t listen to those people who talk down about surf fishing… if you like it get out there. Your soul will thank you for it.
Next up – basics to start – rods & what is in your bag.
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 “The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back.” -Ram Das
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