Friday, September 11, 2020

Cape Cod Observations

Observation is something that any good naturalist must be well versed in. I'd argue that the best anglers are usually also good if not great naturalists, and by proxy are excellent observers. That said most anglers are neither great at angling nor great at observing. That's to their own detriment. I myself end up lapsing into lack of awareness too, but I'm also so easily distracted that I just have to see most of what is going on around me and understand it. Often this leads to me putting my rod down. Not long ago, I went to Cape Cod, probably New England's most well known fishing destination, for two days. And though I could easily have spent most of those two days, if not darn near all of them, with a rod in my hand, I didn't want to. My friend Ian Devlin and I were there to fish, but with our eyes. Our quarry was the most impressive fish in these waters. We went to Cape Cod with the specific intention of seeing and photographing a great white shark from the beach. 

We could have gotten on a boat and had a far greater chance as seeing a white shark. We didn't ant easy, we wanted a very specific experience. I think of it in the same way I photograph snakes. When I find a snake my favorite way to photograph it is laying on the ground, very close to the animal, for a low angle tight shot. That's what I wanted to get with a white shark. Tight to the beach, dorsal and tail above the surface, me with camera in hand, keeping pace as the shark swims, sitting down for the lo angle shot. That's my dream, and Ian's as well. Secondary but also incredible would be a higher angle and more distant, a shot from up on the dunes looking down on the beach. 

Ian and I are cut from a similar cloth. I can think of very few people I know that I would rather have gone on this sort of mission with. Our mindset was going to be pretty much the same, and that is key to accomplishing the goal and enjoying the process. We were just going to go observe and try to take in as much of the surroundings of the outer Cape as we could. We'd play it by ear, learn what we could, and if we didn't see a white shark we'd have a fair understanding of the lay of the land and a better action plan for our next attempt. Also, most other people I know wouldn't have the patience and persistence to try something quite frankly extremely unlikely when there is so much else to do on Cape Cod. I myself am easily distracted, and I was sure Ian being there would make it easier for me to stick to our plan of attack and not veer off course looking for snakes or striped bass for too long.

From here on out, I'm going to keep the writing in this and the second and third posts about this trip very minimal. It's essentially just going to be foot notes and photo captions. I want this to be a mostly visual journey, because that's what it was for us. 

This was both Ian and my own first time on the outer Cape, and size and extant of the dunes was genuinely stunning.

The beach structure was like nothing I'd ever seen: huge long sand bars, a deep first trough, and incredible ocean holes.


Though we did see lots of seals and some large colonies, to both Ian and I it seemed like the number had been far overblown. It's my opinion that there's no "seal problem" at all on Cape Cod... these animals have simply become and easy scapegoat for fisherman. 

This humpback whale was quite close to the beach at Race Point. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. I'e been fascinated by whales since ell before I ever picked up a fly rod.

Race Point Lighthouse

Marsh hawk. Ian knows birds far better than I.


*Our hike to and from Race Point was longer and dryer than would have been ideal. That part of Cape Cod is basically a desert. Ian drew the connection to a scene from "Beavis and Butthead Do America" as we basically stumbled through the dunes back to the truck. 

Until next time,
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, and Franky for supporting this blog on Patreon. 


  1. Wow! What an exciting adventure....You stirred up memories of my travel writing days, following whale migrations on the Upper St. Lawrence. In a way, you are lucky to get Cape Cod relieved of the usual "madding crowd."

  2. I enjoyed you photos so much. Thank you for the journey!
    Tie, fish, write, conserve and photo on...