What would I want to do on my 21st birthday? The answer was easy. I didn't want to cut loose, to get drunk, to party it up.
I wanted to do the thing that makes me most happy and then celebrate it with steak, pie, and just the right amount of whiskey.
Stripers were the target. My preference was to sight fish for them in shallow water, and though other possibilities were explored it was the sight fishing that was fortunately most fruitful. I am more and more obsessed with pursuing big stripers, but when the query can be seen in shallow clear water, stripers of any size are challenging. Big fish are possible. But it they are also likely the most difficult targets on the eastern seaboard.
Stripers feeding on the flat are the most neurotic fish I've ever seen. They are the furthest thing from reckless. They examine everything. They move quick. There is no room for error here. Sight, stalking, casting, presentation, fly, hookset, and fight, all have to be on point. If you aren't so good at just one of those things, that's going to be the one thing that leads to you not catching fish consistently. It's tricky stuff, and it takes practice. I'm still learning but I'm definitely adequate.
After a slow morning I found some fish willing to eat sand eels around a bridge. They were testy, most of them would dart back and forth as they examined flies, unsure whether to attack it or to run away, but when they ate it they ate it hard. Then, later in the day, when the tide was right, I was able to access water where crab eaters live. the conditions were great. Tide, wind, lighting... I could have asked for better. I could walk down wind and search for tailing and cruising fish see them from 50 feet away, and make quick cast to them with fast sinking crabs.
It was spectacular. The fish were about as easy as they could be on this day, practically biting their own tails in their haste to grab my tan Merkin. I caught some of my best crab fish yet, including on over 28 inches. She wasn't one for the camera though, popping off and gently swimming away as I leadered her. I followed her for two minutes, taking in every detail of that special little fish.
To wrap this all up, I'll share the first fish I caught in the morning. It's a new species for me. #77. Oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. An objectively ugly fish, but when I look really, really closely... I see those striking color patterns, the resemblance to an algea covered rock, the evolutionary perfection... I see beauty.
Most importantly though, I have to thank my mother, for taking time off to spend a beautiful but tiring day on the water with me.