All Encompassing Passion of Surf Fishing

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Fall Run is just knocking on the front door and off we go. Well not all, for some of us have been walking, searching , patiently waiting daily for signs..  They come in the shape of schoolies, blues, false albacore, birds.  Also the bait fish o’ plenty with fierce propulsion and trajectory to reach heights out of the water to escape their predator fish on the tail.  Shorter days and vibrant sunrises and sunsets are here again.

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This is the Fall Run.  Inside of it a driving force to pursue one the  most sought after fish on the East Coast. The beautiful Striped Bass, Morone saxatilis.   As we line the surf with little sleep we walk with the history of those before us. Each in their rightful places and long ago little technology of gear. We live it, talk it, breathe it and dream it. It’s something so unexplained most can only relate as the same.  That maybe were we see eye to eye. Often without any consideration – just a shared passion for the unexplained drive within us to embrace the run.

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As we immerse ourselves in the salt, sand and commitment  of the pursuit I am documenting with watercolor the local lures/plugs/gear. It’s out shared history and what we have on hand most often.  I’ll be updating as I go along a few at a time.

Mr Wiggle (Stetzko Lures)

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CCW

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PPW

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Big Rock

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Wishing you a successful Fall Run.

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Fishing Takes You Places

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You keep a blog a while and you start hearing negative stuff about “bloggers” in general and you start slacking (guilty). My drafts are many in queue.   This  has always been a place to kinda say out loud what I hold in my heart. That part of fishing you hold close. If you’re blessed enough you meet some others who can connect on what it does to your soul and how it sustains you.  It is an endless passion. Thank you for letting me share this with you through the written word. I am truly grateful for the experience as humble as it was.

It was a plan in the making to travel back to a place that set dreams on fire and gave me many sleepless nights throughout my life.  Back when life was an adventure through the heart and mind of a young girl just old enough to go jump waves on her own.  Adventures it seems as I look back now full of many good memories of life outdoors.

A gazebo by an Inlet held some of the most significant memories for me. To witness Fishing Boats pass through, loaded down with people and gear.  Out they went, people standing on decks smiling and waving.  Their hopes upon the bounty they would bring home for their families. My hopes were set in motion witnessing  that kinda happiness and it filled my thoughts with wonder.  What would they see and catch out there, what happens, how deep is the ocean, what if the fish is bigger than the boat. As a child I was sure each trip was full of white marlin grey hounding and mako’s throttling themselves out of the water for the delights of  fishermen.  In reality it was most likely a trip to find summer fluke for a quiet sunday dinner. But my imagination was active and running whenever I witnessed such a big boat.

The beach was fun I loved being in the ocean. But it was that spot along the rocks I remember with most clarity. Buckets of blue crabs live lined up those rock next to that spot. Tipping over of same said buckets in the car on the way back on the parkway.  A day at the beach was simple,  happy, filled with laughter, shell collecting, eating a packed lunch on the sand, an occasional trip to the boardwalk before heading home, and not wanting for anything more than to be on one of those boats.   With those thoughts deep seeded plans of fishing were created left dormant for a very long time to experience. My life now, I pick those dreams off when possible, keeping them as simple as when I was a kid. As many  boats I have been on, as many fish I have found from sand and deck. I wanted to have that feeling of being that boat passing the spot. To see the faces, experience the perspective of a memory from long ago.

It was the first time since my childhood I went back to that area. A flood of good thoughts entered my mind.  Prior I was nervous I was not  prepared. My gear, my expectations, my knots, metal, clothing – was it right? Could I come to this place held inside for so long and feel satisfied by anything I was about to do. I held it close to heart and just hoped.

By chance I took my place in the spot I would have the best view of that gazebo and it ignited  hopes it was still there.  And it was. The sun was not up yet but there it was like a beacon of light from my childhood held onto for so long. This time I was on the other side and it was right then I saw myself as a child in my own mind I welled up and smiled.

Dreams do come true.

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If I just was able to do just that it was satisfying enough. But I got to do more. We had  mackerel and albies around. We pot hopped. There were tangled lines and sea robins and skates. My knots were good and my gear choice correct.  My love of bucktails runs deep and  threw in lots of  shiny things like AOK Tackle T-hex’s (one of my very favorites all year round) , Kastmaster, S & S Bucktail product’s and a few others.  Within me a lil smile – because I am figuring this all out.  Not just fishing different applications, but myself.  On the way back in for a minute I forgot for a moment and then there they were, people. Standing, watching the fleet return. Which made me feel like I had accomplished something very personal quietly.

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This one was special and experiencing it made me realize how much happens in life, how quickly it goes, how important it is to hold onto dreams. Most of all your life is your story. There are many versions of it. But yours is the unfiltered autobiography of truth.  Holding onto who you are at heart without letting people, life, situations, tragedies take that away can be difficult. Keeping that light lit inside you – is up to you. Fight hard for it on the darkest days. Go grab your life and live it and cheer on the people you love and hold close to do the same.

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Invictus

By  William Henly

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

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

GEOFISH – Mexico Volume 1-The Review

This past August I stumbled upon a rare gem of the internet. It piqued my interest so much I shared it here (August 2012) and waited the arrival of the release of

GEOFISH – Mexico – Volume 1

Description from their site:

The plan is simple: bridge the language gap, convince the Federales that you’re not trying to smuggle cooking oil into the country to corner the market on cheap fish tacos and at the same time, spend little money, sponge off the local delicacies and see if you can kill stomach cramps with a combination of tequila and lack of sleep. Trying their best to avoid break-ins, break-downs, break-ups and broken rods, join four fish bums as they cover 8,000 miles of Mexican dirt in hopes of finding out-of-the-way locations—with fish, and escaping with captured memories.

Armed with nothing more than fishing rods and cameras in hand, the GEOFISH series will follow 4 fishermen turned filmmakers as they travel around the world in a diesel pick-up converted to run on cooking oil while soaking flies at every opportunity they get. With a new obstacle around every corner and the determination of setting foot where few people dare to go, the angling quartet cuts their own path through some of the planets most rugged terrain on a mission to find the world’s greatest spots never fished.

I don’t know, maybe I did something right somewhere along the way in life as one of the gentlemen from the crew sent me a copy (can’t thank you enough). Not really a review writer so my honest opinion follows.

I was excited like Christmas morning to see this. So what did I do…. what normal people do. I made myself wait until this past Sunday to watch. It was my Bday and if I was not fishing what better than to watch fishing. Follow me?

It never goes as planned does it? Because this movie proved to be so much more than any fishing show. Since the passing of Jose I am hard pressed to find something to watch that isn’t filled with product pushing and big ego’s. Sorry for being so honest but most fishing shows (except Jersey Cape Fishing-which is local)  are lacking the passion of what fishing is all about. It in your soul, its flame that never goes out, it’s….life. These four gentlemen get it, it radiates from them. They laugh a lot, they do not give up, and when they finally get to fish first time  into their journey.. you’re ready to for them too.

From the very beginning of the journey everything is well-defined in the footage. You have the pleasure of getting to know the adventurers – the vision. Lot’s of planning goes into the conception of the idea and it’s put together piece by piece. Obstacles abound but the spirit is inspiring with these guys.

I kept thinking where is the fighting, yelling, disappointing, blaming that we have come accustom to with shows even remotely like this. While I am sure it was there and edited it never come into play. You can’t help but want these guys to succeed in their journey and  cheer for them. They just keep on going.

They face so many obstacles along the way but in doing so it provides them with some of the most beautiful footage. I have some favorite scenes like what they found on a beach, striped marlin fishing, huge snook, bass and tarpon. The lugging  of the boats into remote places – through some tough terrain, just incredible.

There really is no low in the video. It will appeal to people on a mechanical level an adventurer’s,  fishermen,  travelers, dreamers and soul searchers. Trying to do my best here to not  give it away, it’s an experience to watch.

The link to get your hands on a copy:

http://www.motivfishing.com/store/

My one and only thing slightly negative… the packaging. While pretty sharp it’s a bit hard to read anything on it. So if your going to display in a tack shop or anywhere else it needs some pop. Because what’s inside on that DVD is all the colors of the spectrum just waiting to bust out. Now the wait for the next dvd.

People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.-Edmund Hillary

Tackle Changing Thinking

TCT-Tackle Changing Thinking (the struggle)

Have I told you I love what I have? I have this sweet little  Avet sx 5.3 and  G Loomis reel combo that has landed just about every fish I have hooked up the last 4 years in the salt. It was not always that way… I was a spinner who took time to embrace the ways of the conventional. To me conventional is smoother drag, more power lifting a fish and most of all my lil thumb is boss on the reel.  There have been exceptions when I do not use it;  when FW fishing , fly-fishing (roll your eyes here hard-corer’s-), when I was stupid enough to wrap the line snagged and broke the tip-off  the rod (it went to the rod hospital),  on someone else boat-when they are already geared up, or when someone has  yelled” fish on grab that rod”.

For the most part I always fish with the same combo for sea bass, stripers, flounder, mahi, tog when  inshore and back-bay- which is where most of my time is spent. Even with the repair and missing some of the top… this set up completes me (sounds weird but some people may get this).

My tackle is minimum (like in – you’re wearing that again?)and I am always amused by how much other people have. Some stick to what they have and keep working it and some go for the bangs and whistles of a showroom inventory. Whatever works for you, whatever makes you happy, fishing is a great–> if not the very best activity one can have and share.

My Frightening Fishing Disability (FFD)

For a long time I have had this fear, I attribute it to when I first started fishing.  Using someone else’s tackle and every time I picked up a rod the words would resonate… if you drop the rod you are going in after it.  I became afraid to touch someone elses gear,  fear of getting snagged and always felt like I was doing it wrong. When reeling in a bigger fish I would keep thinking the rod is going to break because it is bent over or the fish is going to pull it right out of my hands. Ask anyone who has fished with me and they will tell you I always think I am snagged but the snag almost always turns out to be a mighty nice fish (I am that sensitive to the tiniest nibble).

Lacking confidence I became my own worst enemy to the gear.  Big Penn reels and Tuna fishing Offshore would excite and frighten me at the same time. The thoughts will rush through my head when I heard fish on…. because the night before I would not just mentally prepare I would think physically also. And the belt, my my my those belts… love them hate them it has to be just right or it will not work. My  great lesson, which should always be taught first: USE YOUR LEGS. Ten steps forward, 9 steps back always, when I fish with someone new or on someone else’s boat. I get on and say where do you want me, and what can I do. But I have so much respect for the amount of money, time and effort put into boat ownership that I am going ask and wait because it’s your boat, your lover (LOL).

Perception is about to change….through gear intervention (GI)

I rec’d a beautiful custom rod for my Birthday. If you all have been reading here a while you would understand the art… my love for stripers and last year my favorite catch… squid.

This is more than a rod to me it’s somewhat of an artistic master piece

I have been out 2 times with it (the new rod) and am scared to death of it because I do not want to “break it”. But now the ante has been upped with this new beauty- (Avet MGX 5.8). EXCITED??? You bet I am! Plus I treated myself to a few PENN items and I am just on overload with anticipation of getting out there again.

Use it or….

Stupid winter taking so long….

which means only one thing. COD?