Author Archives: danderson

Cinnamon Buns


My daughter is 18 months old and, as any dad with a surfcasting addiction should do, I take her to the beach every chance I get—which translates to pretty much every day. A couple weeks ago we were out running errands and I thought we should swing by a beach that overlooks one of my favorite sets of rocks—she could play in the sand and I could hang from the eyepieces of my binoculars looking for signs of life.

I was hungry and I could tell that she was too. The stash of Goldfish in the diaper bag had been exhausted, so I stopped at a local bakery to look for something we could share. I settled on a cinnamon bun that seemed to be calling me from the street. We hit the beach, spread out a blanket and shared that twisted miracle of dough, butter and cinnamon—it was the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had. Hands down; and I’ve had many. I didn’t see any signs of life but Lila kept me entertained by repeatedly trying to pet seagulls—attempting to call them over like you might call a cat. It was a good day.

A few days later it was Friday and I called my fishing partner, Dave Daluz, to weigh the options for the night ahead; should we fish early in the night and hit spots A and B or should we head out around 4 a.m. and hit spot C? We elected to do the morning thing. To make the details of a very slow trip less boring; I dropped a good fish in the dark and Dave caught a 30-incher about 80 minutes after sunrise. The minutes before and after were sprinkled with rapid plug changes, glances across the point at one another, silent cursing of various boats coming too close and endless minutes of ‘in head’ wondering and self-flagellation about what our fate might have been had we elected to fish the night tide instead.

Mercilessly, one of us declared that he was going home and the other made the requisite “last cast” and followed closely behind. As we were walking out my mind wandered to that cinnamon roll. I know Dave likes quality baked goods as much as I do; he should know about these! Food is one of our top five subjects of conversation when driving long distances—the others being fishing, adolescent stupidity, present day stupid people and Kate Upton—not mentioning these cinnamon buns seemed like a violation of the bro code.

I should add that in the intervening days I had been back to the bakery no less than three times and each time they hadn’t made the cinnamon rolls! This had built up quite a jonze. This had also given me the chance to get a feel for the place; it was run by a group of college age girls, there were rarely any people in there and, I don’t know, maybe I’m overthinking things, but… well you’ll see.

I headed straight for the bakery on my way home, I half-expected Dave to follow, but he was nowhere to be seen. I was still in my wetsuit and I had a moment of mind-stutter when I thought about walking in there as their only customer, wearing a wetsuit. I didn’t want to make these girls uneasy. Might they think that I thought I looked good (Hey ladies, yeah I fish in a wetsuit…) or tough (Check out the pipes…) or maybe that I was trying to show off my 35-year old ‘dad’ physique to a bunch of college girls on a Saturday morning (Who needs help with their homework…)? For the record, none of those things are my strong points; and I am well aware of, and at peace with, these facts. In the middle of the night I’ll walk into almost any place with my wetsuit on, but for some reason, this place at 8 a.m. on a sunny day, made me stop.

So, I reached over and grabbed a pair of gym shorts, my worst pair too. You know the ones… the pair with the worn out elastic, paint smears on both legs, the pair you have to tie so tightly that the waistband looks like a diaper leg when you’re done tying a knot that you wish you had a third hand to properly cinch, the pair with at least one ‘mystery stain’ that you really don’t want to remember… yeah. I don’t know what made me think this was better, but I put these horrible shorts on OVER my wetsuit and wore them into the bakery.

The absurdity hit me when I was about two steps away from the car, but now I was out there (Jerry) and now I had to own this. I prayed that Dave would not show up, I caught of glimpse of myself in a window reflection and I had to grit my teeth to keep myself from bursting out laughing. Then I heard it—beep beep—it was Dave, F! I HAD TO OWN THIS. I turned with a straight face and gave a short nod and a nonchalant wave, like nothing was odd, like I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, like I always wear terrible ‘swishy’ shorts over my wetsuit into public places.  I would normally wait for him, but I quickstepped through the doors; owning it like a boss!

The girls were all down in the kitchen and I didn’t see any cinnamon rolls on the counter. There’s a partition that’s close to five feet high separating the work area from the retail space. I walked over and asked one of them if they had the cinnamon buns, they didn’t. As I surveyed the area it became apparent that, because of said partition, they couldn’t see much below my neck anyway… I could have walked in there wearing a t-shirt and a gym sock and they wouldn’t have been any the wiser. I walked toward the door laughing at myself and then I remembered that Dave was waiting outside. Shit!

Owning it while walking toward the truck was not going to be as easy—there would be no opportunities to pull myself together between looks.  He was on the phone, probably telling his wife about my self-induced wardrobe malfunction—(in hindsight, I’m just glad he wasn’t taking video!) But despite his broadcasted play-by-play of my humiliation, the fact that he was socially engaged might offer me the opportunity to get out of there without too much interaction! I looked down to gain my composure and then looked straight at him, I made a matter-of-fact face while shaking my head and giving the ‘thumbs down’. His window was cracked open so I just said robotically, “No cinnamon buns” and tried to dash into my car. I felt like I had dodged the humiliation… I really HAD owned it! But then I looked back to see his automatic window creaking slowly open, in this instance it was like a principal’s curled index finger beckoning after you THOUGHT you got away with something.

I did NOT want to roll my window down, but I did. In my last attempt to slide out from under the embarrassment, I spoke up first and authoritatively, hoping to drown out any blossoming sarcastic remarks, “Ahhh, sorry man, no cinnamon buns today…” I turned toward the wheel and fished my phone out of my terrible shorts—just to have SOMETHING to make me look occupied.

I wasn’t getting off that easy.

He rode over my little charade like an M-4 Sherman tank, like he didn’t even hear it—I might as well have said nothing. “That is one badass outfit you’re wearing…” he said with a smile and a heavy chuckle.

For a split second I rushed to come up with something to defend myself but I just sputtered and then closed my eyes and shook my head… I no longer owned it, I never owned it, I had been outted and there was NO dignified slant play I could run to save face. I felt a Stimpy smile unfurl as my stupid mouth hung open in surrendered embarrassment. I tried to explain about the girls and the superhero spandex suit… he wasn’t having it. Without speaking any words, my face said, “Listen, I know l look like an idiot, I know this was a terrible idea and I know that these shorts should have been burned in 2006…” then my face morphed into a look that begged for mercy. Which, as any good friend would, he gave me after one last smirking head shake, a wide laughing smile and then a few short seconds of additional laughter.

I deserved it.

I laughed the whole way home. What else could I do?

It Can’t Be Explained



My last blog post, as you might remember was about losing my grandfather, the stages of letting him go and how the simple act of fishing—being alone in one’s mind—made accepting his loss a much easier pill to swallow. Well, last week I had the chance to fish with his daughter and son (my aunt and uncle for those that don’t have a firm grasp on the workings of the old Family Elm.) I owe a huge chunk of my fishing abilities and obsession to my uncle Jon, someday I’ll post some of our stories from long ago, but to make it simple, he was the one who was always there to take me fishing and I don’t think I could find the appropriate words to state how thankful I am that he was there to do that.

My aunt Betsy is only one year older than I am, so we were raised more like brother and sister. She would come and “babysit” my brothers and I after school, my mom worked the 3 to 11 shift at a local nursing home and my dad usually came home around 6:30. I would describe Bets’ and someone who is up for anything—you can’t gross her out, you don’t have to mince your words and you cannot knock this girl down; she also loves to fish. She is as determined a fisherman (woman) as you’ll find. This past spring she wanted to start fishing the bass pond near her house as soon as the ice broke up. She called and asked me what to use, I recommended jerkbaits and gave a detailed description of the way I have had my best luck using them in cold water. I don’t think it was more than a week before she sent me a pic of a fish that looked to be pushing 5 pounds caught on a jerkbait. I think they call that a ‘quick study’.


Last week the two of them fished the Canal and invited me along to lend some insight into where to go and what to throw. Jon had caught many stripers from the surf and Canal, but Betsy’s only stripers had been caught from a boat—that needed to change.

As the sun began to illuminate the world around us, we made the switch to topwater plugs, and the deathly slow nature of the fishing we’d experienced in darkness bled over into the first hour of daylight. I assured them that when the tide began to move we’d see at least some action. To my delight, I hooked up right as the current began to roll, but then it fell quiet again. I watched my two companions fade from alert casters to ‘going through the motions,’ who could blame them? Then, like a smoke alarm at midnight, Betsy was jolted awake by a hard hit in close to shore. It wasn’t a giant but she was on the board with a 24-inch schoolie. The adrenalin rush was apparent when I landed the fish and placed it into her shaking hands.

Everyone was back on high alert now, but most of the visible action was on the other side of the Canal! One of the schools came out to just about the edge of my casting range and I fired a cast to try and intercept them; I fell short. As I was working my plug in a small pod of bass erupted about halfway between me and my plug. I looked to my left and pointed to the breaking fish, Betsy was on it! She whipped a perfect cast about four feet ahead of the breaks and began working that 2-ounce Guppy with everything she had. The plug was assaulted within seconds! This fish put a much better battle on and when she had it close I could see panic was starting to control the situation. She was frantically trying to figure out how to get this fish up on the shore. She was grabbing her rod at the first guide, high-sticking… I said, “just back up.” She did and I was able to grab the fish. This fish was no Canal beast either, a respectable 33-incher weighing in at 13 pounds. After we shot a few quick photos and released the fish, Betsy turned to me and said, “I can see why you love this!”

We’re already planning another trip in June.

She has no idea what she’s in for.

I think Gramp was smiling that day.




Some of you may know that I lost my grandfather on September 2nd of this year and, even though he had been sick for more than a year and had lived a pretty full life, it really took a toll on me. He was the person in my family that I aspired the most to be like and he was the center of what makes our family what it is. A hard worker, a lover of the outdoors and one HELL of a great guy. I could go on and on, but I won’t… I just wanted to share an excerpt from the speech I gave at his memorial service, it’s a realization I came to at a time when most of the people reading this will understand, when I was thinking clearest… when I was standing on a rock in the ocean.

…In this last week we have all had realizations. In the most naïve corners of our minds we have been hammered with the sudden fact that he is gone—and that this is final. But not long after coming to that conclusion on my own, I began to realize that this is nowhere near the actual truth. I called one of my closest friends that night and we made plans to go fishing—something that Grampa and I shared a love for. Later that evening I found myself standing on a rock surrounded on all sides by the dark ocean as I began my usual, mind numbing, routine of casting, retrieving and hoping for a bite. In those first few minutes, I forgot that he had been ill, I forgot that I’d said my last goodbye, I forgot all of it—and for those minutes, life felt normal again.

Then I remembered.

But I wasn’t crushed by the weight of his loss or the sadness of its supposed finality—I felt like I could talk to him. I felt like I could finally take him with me. I had described this very moment to him probably 10,000 times but now I felt like he was there. It was a eureka moment—I actually said out loud to the waves, “Oh, Gramp! I can take you with me now!” This may sound like my grief had taken over a large portion of my brain and that a course of strong meds waits in my not-so-distant future. But the fact is—and this is the truth—in that moment, my head was completely clear, my memory was purring like a Cadillac and all of those feelings of love and pride that I’ve described as something tangible that I could feel, almost hold in my hand, for all of the years of my life until now… Guess what? I could feel them again. I could see his smile. I could see his plaid shirt, his glasses, I could see him smirk with a mix of astonishment and approval. “Yup, this is what I do Gramp” I said out loud I again. I could feel our minds working together as they had so many times before when I needed help building something or when he was explaining “the right way” to trim out a window. We were surveying the situation together. And all of the things that I knew he would have seen—a shooting star over the southern horizon, a single seagull’s black silhouette against the dark plum sky—had more meaning because I knew that the fact that I always notice those things comes directly from him. To me that’s goosebump material it’s like unexplained magic, living in a Fairy Tale.

Am I trying to say that Grampa came to visit me that night on the rock in the ocean? I don’t necessarily think that this is what happened. I think that a person’s spirit lives on because they are remembered and I believe that when you’re close to that person, you carry some of that spirit with you, always. That spirit is embodied by the memory of the feeling that the person gave you; and that feeling you felt is their love. And it is so familiar because it was always there, you can’t forget it—you didn’t have to be talking to them to feel it, it was understood, the tap was always on. That feeling is much too strong to go away—he loved [this family] so much that there’s enough left here to last all of our lifetimes. As long as his memory lasts, his love still exists. I have learned that you can call upon these feelings simply by remembering with your heart. Those feelings we all felt from Grampa are still there, we’re never going to forget him and because of that, his love will outlast us all.

Love is an unexplained energy and it lives on in anything that makes you think of someone. No one questions its existence, everyone feels it and you should never let it go. We’re all going to miss you Gramp, but since we can all carry you with us we’ll never feel like we’re without you…

These words came from the center of everything that makes my life worth living, I wanted to share them because that night in the surf really showed me that, no matter what your religion, beliefs or spirituality happen to be, we’re all human and we all suffer these losses. Keeping the memory of your loved ones alive will not only bring you comfort whenever you need it, but it will keep your familial ties strong and it will help you pass along that strong core of family values and self-understanding that older generations seem to have a much better grasp on than what we see on a regular basis today. We all have great men and women in our lives and I couldn’t be more thankful that I had my Grampa around for more than 35 years of my life—every second of that time helped to make me who I am.


Editors note

Please look into the author heading and you will realize that it was Dave Anderson who lost his grandfather and wrote the blog


The Hiss


About a week ago I was out fishing one of my favorite spots. It’s an area that has given up dozens of big fish over the years and it will forever be a place that I keep near and dear. After fishing the first stop on this particular stretch of beach we made our way out to two of our favorite rocks, one of them I call the Corner Rock because it makes up the outer corner of a boulder field, and the other I call the Forty Rock because the first night I fished it, I caught a 40—both rocks have given up 40s since. I set up on the corner rock and my fishing partner, Dave Daluz was on the 40 Rock. This night had no fishy excitement in store.

The waves were mostly small but there were a few pesky 3-footers mixed in and when you’re standing on a rock that’s a foot below the surface, a 3-footer can be hard to shoulder through. I had been on the rock maybe 40 minutes and I’d had to battle maybe three of these waves. My needle wasn’t getting any love, so I decided to switch to a metal lip. I reeled up, ripped my bag open and turned on my light. After removing the needle from my line I felt a sudden impact. A wave had snuck up on me and now I was falling over backward with a needlefish clutched in my left hand, my rod in my right and my plug bag wide open! I landed kind of sideways but on my back, I plunged under the water, my butt hit the bottom—I’ll never know exactly how, but when I gathered myself, my bag was closed and no plugs were lost. This occurrence got me thinking about a night more than a decade ago—the night I first heard The Hiss.

It was late-June 2005 and I was fishing with my former fishing partner, Dave Parrillo. I know it was a Monday night because I had Tuesdays off back then and we used to fish through the night quite often on Mondays. The surf was downright sloppy and it was dark as hell. If faced with the same surf conditions today, I would probably stay home. But we were, clearly, hungry to fish.

There had been some very nice fish around and we were trying to find a place that we could fish safely while still reaching some deep water—we settled on a large offshore rock that was tall enough to protect us from the waves, it was wadeable on the backside and dropped off sharply on the front. As I remember it, the wind was not all that bad, the swell must have been caused by an offshore storm or maybe it was residual heave from winds the days before.

We stood on the beach and watched the waves—they didn’t look that bad—we peered out at the large rock we were hoping to fish from, it didn’t look bad either. Relieved that we had made a well-informed choice, we set off on the long wade and, when we arrived, we climbed up to the one of the high spots and made a closer assessment of the seas. The sky was low, black and cloudy; it could rain any minute—the ocean looked the same except for the glints of white that flashed as the waves turned over on the outer reef. There was no rhythm to the swell, no sets of waves really; it was just washing machine sloppy. After three minutes of watching we decided that it was safe and headed out to fish.

As we walked out I remember there was a geyser of water that keep exploding out of a small crevice in the rocks, every wave that passed was punctuated by what looked and sounded like a whale spout. We had brought a ton of eels with us that night, probably because of the ferocious eel bite we’d experienced a few nights before, and we had them in a large bucket instead of the soft cooler we usually carried. Dave set the bucket down on the rocks behind us; I grabbed a rag and got ready to grab an eel as I flipped on my headlamp. In that same moment, I heard it. It’s a sound that’s hard to describe, it’s almost like pouring a gallon of ice water into a searing hot pan, an explosive and crackling hiss! I swung my head around and saw a garland of white foam draped over a wave that was more than a foot taller than I was towering in the low-glow of my headlamp.  I yelled out, “Holy shit! Hold ON!” I felt Dave’s hand grasp my dry top as the massive wave smashed us. I heard the bucket clattering around on the rock as the overflowing water spilled over the edges. Within seconds, I heard it again and another mammoth wave washed over the front of the rock as Dave and I clung to each other like scared school children. “We have to get out of here, NOW!” I yelled as a third, but slightly smaller wave crested over the reef and flooded us out again. And then there was a fourth!

The first two waves were large enough the my hat was soaked and they hit hard enough that I think if Dave and I had not been close enough together to grab one another, we both would have been bowled over and who knows what would have happened when that second one came! We scurried around the rock like two guys in a silent film, trying to gather up our scattered gear before another set of rogues came along. Only when we were back on shore did we finally allow ourselves to laugh it off. In the moment, we were literally fearing for our lives, but on the way home laughter was the only way to celebrate not being swept off that rock into a wild sea.

I make light of the situation now, but the raw truth of it all is that the ocean has no empathy. Every year people are killed in situations like this one and, even though we all think we’re invincible, we’re not. These days, especially now that I have a little girl, I crosscheck multiple sources for wind and wave data; NOAA is my number one, but then there are those nights when you look and you just know it can’t be right. This is when I look at the more optimistic wave data that comes from the surfer app WindFinder. You have to take it with a grain of salt because it will give unrealistic data for back bays and rivers but this has more to do with the fact that the app includes “beach locations” that no one would even think of surfing—but for the open ocean, it’s often right on the money particularly on those tricky wind nights. Your last lines of defense are your eyes and your instincts, listen to them. Getting knocked off a rock by a 3-footer might be almost fun in the right situation, but being smashed into a reef by a 7-footer really could cost you everything. Learn from my mistake.

Chaffage: A Guide

Warning: Graphic content. Without taking the full-on clinical route, there really is no way to make the subject of chaffing pretty and politically correct, if you’re easily offended, you might want to visit Martha Stewart Living’s website for some delightful napkin rings that can really make your holiday table a ‘good thing.’ If you’re up for a dark and satirical look at one of the ugly truths of fishing in a wetsuit, please read on…

Call it what you want; wetsuit rash, crotch rot, thigh fire, bag drag… chaffage is the scourge of any surfcaster who walks anywhere while wet. I don’t want to hear about all you malnourished vegans with three percent body fat that can briskly jog four miles with a handful of chunky peanut butter smeared on your grundle and not chafe, this story is not for you and, seriously, go eat something real. But if you’ve ever spent the night walking around like you were trying to hold two rolls of quarters between your buttcheeks, doing ANYTHING to keep your sticky, raw and painfully tender thighs from touching… then welcome to the party brother.

I consider myself to be the undisputed KING of chaffing. I remember my first GOOD one… it was July of 1995. I was 15 years old and I had just really caught the striped bass bug. Growing up in central Massachusetts, I couldn’t just run down to the beach and go fishing whenever I wanted to. I had to beg my parents, under the guise of a ‘family day’ at the beach, to take us to The Cape for the day. Our beach of choice was Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and that left me with a doable two mile walk to Nauset Inlet.

In those days I didn’t have a lot of gear I wore my bathing suit and a t-shirt, carried my rod, a few lures, weights and hooks and a couple bags of fresh sand eels. This day holds some significance, because it was the first time I ever caught a striper without someone telling me how to do it. I only caught one, on a Slug-Go, I think it was maybe 24 inches but, it was a definite victory.

After wading for hours, I had been thoroughly brined, and it didn’t take long before some kind of convection in my shorts changed the cool evaporating water on my legs into something that resembled packing tape adhesive. With more than a mile and half to go, the pain just kept increasing—think road-rash blotted with rubbing alcohol. I distinctly remember jamming my hands into the crevices next to my manparts and praying for salvation… it never came. In the ensuing years, I have learned many dos and don’ts of chaffing. I also know the solution, but let’s take the long and painful road to that end.

DON’T pretreat with Gold Bond. I’ve seen it done. Guys that slap heaping handfuls of the wintergreeny powder onto their undercarriages so thick that they could raise a dense fog advisory with a single fart. I’m telling you this is a mistake because it will work. You’ll walk out there like your ailment never existed, fueled by thighs that glide like they’ve been lubed with Quaker State. You will probably loudly and proudly declare that you’ve licked your ball problems and your buddies will wish that you’d kept that comment to yourself.

However, after fishing a full tide and having several hours’ worth of lapping waves flowing through your skin-tight neoprene cat suit, the powder that had you singing the Lord’s Prayer will have turned into something that resembles the last bits of dough left on the rolling pin after mom makes one of her famous pies. Only this time, the floury slurry will be dangling from your leg hairs (and worse hairs) and smearing into your thigh skin setting the stage for you to do some slow-cook baking of your own. Good luck with that.

DON’T try to pretend that you’re not in pain. The only thing worse than watching someone perform the double roll of quarter buttcheek walk is watching someone try to pretend that they always walk like they’re trying to straddle a sleeping lion while pawing at their pant legs so hard that they give themselves a perma-Melvin. Yes it’s embarrassing, your balls and thighs and even less appealing parts feel like they have been zested like a lemon but don’t belabor the issue by trying to tough it out. There is a strange component of the male psyche that makes us not want to admit to feeling pain that the other men involved in the same activity are not feeling. How many times have you seen it? A group of guys out for a run and one of them is visibly not able to keep up—red face, shirt weighed down with 8 pounds of sweat, breathing like he’s giving birth to twins—but does he stop or ask the other guys to slow down? Hell no, he pushes himself to the brink of cardiac arrest and prays that his imminent death will be quick and painless. If chaffage is taking over your normal gait, say something, your pulsating thighs will thank you for it!

DON’T tuck and roll. The tuck and roll is a cheap method for temporary relief that involves gripping a handful of fabric from each side of your crotch and then tucking it into the dank crevices beneath. I suppose this would be a fine method if you were alone, but the resulting Bermuda Triangle of man meat alone is reason enough not to do it around anyone or anything with eyes. But when you add in the fact that you have to walk like you’re wearing a micro mini skirt and stiletto heels AND that walking like that will turn a 40 minute walk into a three hour runway show means that the tuck and roll is just plain, out of the question!

DON’T shave “it”. I have heard more than a few guys—desperate and in pain—come to the erroneous conclusion that the horrible raw, red rash must have been caused by their supposedly abrasive pubes. Maybe some guys really do have a puff of coarse grade steel wool between their legs, and if that’s the case I’m sorry—for everyone who has come in contact with that thing! But in my years of chaffing expertise, and mine settles on the inner thigh (thankfully) not my unmentionables, I have found that the harbinger of chaffing is that the hair on the affected area is rubbed away—leaving bare, vulnerable skin to fend for itself in the most inhospitable environment the human body has to offer. Whipping out the razor and turning your Mini Me into Mr. Bigglesworth will, I promise, only make things worse. I think most guys have tried it at least once and found out that the adolescent boy look doesn’t impress the ladies—and were then introduced, a week or so later, to the porcupine effect. There’s nothing quite like having 10,000 short, prickly hairs growing out of what is—let’s face it—the most delicate piece of equipment any of us own. Just… just don’t.

DON’T jelly leg it. I have not tried this method so I might be talking out of school here, but listen to this and tell me what you think. I have a friend, who shall remain nameless, he is a chaffing champion like I am and he swears that smearing a generous handful of Vaseline in between all of the moving parts “down there” will solve the issue. (For the record, he recommends coconut scented! Why? I don’t know and I was afraid to ask.) I will admit that this does sound like it would work! It’s an effective lubricant (keep the jokes to yourself), it’s inexpensive, it smells nice and it’s waterproof, so it’s not going to disappear and leave you ‘hanging’ when you turn around to walk to back to your vehicle. But that’s also the reason why I just can’t see myself shining up my lower extremities with a petroleum product. I’m spit-balling here, but wouldn’t that be like rubbing Rain-X into one of the places that needs to be washed the most? I think I just found the answer to the coconut scent question….

Now for a few do’s. A trick I learned from attending multi-day music festivals (summertime, no showers) is that baby wipes are soaked in a solution that breaks down human excretions—and sweat is not all that different than salt water. If you’re lucky enough to get back to the truck with just the beginnings of a case of chaffage, bite your lip, shield your pride and give your nether regions a quick once-over with a baby wipe—I figure they’re made by Johnson and Johnson for a reason and even though that unmistakable baby wipe smell might conjure memories of lying bottomless on your back in front of grandma, they really do help stop the advancement of the ‘disease’. (Don’t use disinfecting hand wipes though—bad scene). If you get back to the car and you’re doing “the walk”, this is the time to break out the Gold Bond. (Pro-Tip: do not apply until after you’ve showered. Thoroughly dry the affected area and then straddle the toilet while you apply the soothing powder so that the resulting snow storm doesn’t accumulate on the bathroom floor.) It will sting for a minute, but the combination of slick cornstarch and numbing, healing menthol will alleviate the pain and, if you go to sleep or sit still for a few hours, it will often heal your chaffing, post haste.

But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and since there is no cure, prevention is paramount to keeping your ‘gangsta walk’ in check. I have seen those deodorant sticks of glide lubricant surfers use to negate wetsuit rash and I have heard that they work pretty well. I would think that rolling that stuff on would apply a much more appropriate amount than would roughly groping oneself with a handful of Vaseline. But, you don’t need to experiment with salves and jellies—all you need is a tight fitting pair of moisture wicking boxer briefs; Under Armour is my preferred manufacturer. And ever since I started wearing them, I walk proudly, I don’t chafe and (welcome side effect) my wife thinks they’re sexy. That’s what’s known as a win-win-win.

A Man And His Ice Cream


I don’t remember what year it was, probably 2005… my old fishing partner Dave Parrillo (he’s moved to Florida now) and I had been struggling for a few weeks fishing the shores of Rhode Island and we were looking for a change. We were getting solid intel from Nauset Beach on Cape Cod and we finally gave in to the temptation and set our sights on a beach we barely knew… on what would turn out to be one of the darkest nights of the year! The day before I had been talking with my longtime friend Alex from high school, he had been working on a charter boat docked in Rock Harbor and asked me to leave a few eel traps and some plugs on the boat—so we decided to kill two birds with one stone.

The weather was nice when we left Dave’s place in Warwick, RI; the sunset was streaming through a curtain of steel blue “Simpsons” clouds as we sped up 95 North. By the time we hit the Canal it was almost dark and the clouds seemed to get thicker as we neared the open Atlantic. Driving down Route 6, our minds raced with a mix of anticipation and questioning; questioning whether or not we could actually pull this off.

As we pulled into the lot at Nauset a hard onshore wind was blowing through the dune grass and small spits of sand were pelting in from the beach. Then it started to rain. We looked at each other with a smirk… Dave smiled and muttered, “Oh, what the #%$&!”

Undaunted, we suited up and set off down the beach hoping the breaking waves would reveal some structure below. Clearly, we should have left three hours sooner so we could eyeball the beach and find something that looked fishy, but I think (hope) that everyone has made a desperation move sometime in their fishing career and allowed the blinding promise of fish to obscure the vision of their common sense long enough to do something stupid.

I won’t draw out the play-by-play of a night that was doomed from the get-go, but we found what we thought was a decent bowl, fished it hard without a touch, moved down to the next one—with bitter winds and needlelike rain drops battling back—fished hard, caught nothing, repeat, repeat… and then Dave blew up his brand new custom rod.

We just shook our heads, but I think we were both happy to have a reason to head back, rather than be “the guy” who couldn’t take it. We headed back to the lot, which turned out to be a challenge in itself since it is hidden behind dunes that look like the rest of the dunes on the beach and it was so dark you could barely make out the horizon over the water. We eventually got back to the truck and laughed at ourselves. It was now around 1 a.m.

We drove north across the Cape toward Rock Harbor, when Dave noticed that we were dangerously low on gas. He again uttered his quote from above. We had to find a gas station, pronto. And with the very real pressure from the fuel light urging us on, we drove aimlessly toward 6A and thankfully, we found a White Hen Gas Station that was still open!

While Dave gassed up, I went inside to find something to quench my nagging sweet tooth, candy bars were not going to cut in on a night such as this. I peered through the glass on one of those sliding-top freezers and spied the perfect remedy—a Biggy Iggy.

For those of you who are not familiar with a Biggy Iggy, it is THE ultimate in packaged, one-handed, ice cream fantasticness. It is two HUGE, chewy, chocolate chip cookies between which gobs of silky-smooth and delicious vanilla soft serve are sandwiched. No, there is no dignified way to eat one. And yes, you automatically feel like Augustus Gloop (google it) when you bite into one as smudges of ice cream and melted chocolate chips festoon your cheeks, lips, chin and nose. Basically you automatically look like a four year old on his birthday—complete with wide eyes and plastic perma-smile.

I hopped back into the truck and endured the anticipated stream of ribbing from Dave, “When you get to be my age you’re going to be ONE FAT BASTARD!” “It looks like you’re REALLY enjoying that, that’s good huh?” “What are you seven!?” “Jesus, are you really going to EAT THAT WHOLE THING!?”On and on… but I barely heard him, all I could hear was the sweet musings of my ice cream as I continued to happily and excitedly devour it.

We arrived at Rock Harbor and I slung the plugs into one of the eel traps and carried them down toward the harbor on one hand while taking bites of my Iggy with the other. If you haven’t been there, Rock Harbor looks like it must have been a small estuary off of Cape Cod Bay that was dredged out and then built up for use as a harbor—something that would never be allowed in this day and age. The environmental impact study alone would probably take half a century! The parking lot butts up to typical wooden dock railings that dress up the top edges of huge rusty walls made out of what looks like corrugated steel on steroids. These walls have been driven into the mud below to keep the surrounding land from filling it in; It’s basically a deep pond surrounded by retaining walls, with a floating dock below.

It was dead low tide, so the water was more than 10 feet below the lot. We located the boat that Alex worked on and descended the rickety stairs to the wooden platform below. There was a single street light about 100 feet to the left of the boat and because of the height of the walls, a strong, black shadow was being cast onto the dock and there were assorted items—coiled rope, fish totes—scattered on the dock as well—a minefield of obstructions. We looked for an out-of-the-way place to put the stuff, we didn’t want to step onto the boat in case the Captain was sleeping on board. I spotted an open spot just to the left of the boat and walked over to set the stuff down. I leaned on a large wooden piling and skirted by some totes to set the trap down, but as I put my left foot down, I felt myself leaning. I had my Biggy Iggy in my left hand and I didn’t want to get it all nasty, so I reached out with my elbow to brace myself against the wall.

My foot continued to go decidedly downward as more of my weight began to pile up behind my elbow, then it began to slide down the steel wall; at roughly that same time I could feel a cool sensation rapidly running up my leg. I was so confused! A split second later, my right leg had folded up like a frog’s leg and my right knee was just about level with eyebrows! The cool sensation had now ridden up past my waistband and was traveling northward—fast! My body, thanks to the laws of leverage, had now layed over, my right foot clunked off the dock, my shoulder met the steel, I twisted and writhed in too-late protest. The cool sensation rapidly closed the gap between my belly button and chin and right before I FINALLY realized that I was falling into the water I looked upward fast and gulped one quick breath of air as my head plunged below the oily, stagnant, disgusting water leaving my hat floating in the ripples.

The water was surprisingly deep! Because I had fallen in such an awkward position my momentum carried me down at least two feet below the surface and I never touched bottom! As I was swimming for the surface, I found that I was having some trouble paddling with my left hand… then it hit me. My ice cream! NOOOOOO!!!! Mercilessly, I let go of my half-eaten treat and burst through the surface to see Dave’s face, right at eye level with mine. He was crouched down on the dock already in position to haul me out. “What the HELL are you DOING!??!” he said in hysterical confusion. I could barely breathe because I was laughing so hard. He grabbed me by the armpits and helped me back onto the dock. I said, “I didn’t do that on purpose! I couldn’t see where the dock ended because of that *&^% shadow!”

Dave just shook his head and said something like, “You’re a @$%# idiot!” I can’t remember a time where I laughed harder. Even as I was standing naked in the parking lot putting on the dry clothes that I, thankfully, brought with me—I could not stop. My whole left forearm and elbow looked like I had done a gainer off a skateboard and stuck the landing directly on my arm, but all I could do was laugh. The whole ride home, we’d laugh until it was quiet and then we’d look at each other and as soon as we made eye contact we’d burst into hysterics again. It was the kind of laughter that hurts—your throat is soar, your sides hurt, you can’t breathe and you can’t stop! There’s no real lesson in this story, but one of the few things in life that you can’t buy, you can’t seek and you can’t replace is an honest to God, true friend. I’ll never forget that night and I hope that one day when Dave is back up here in the Northeast we can go out and have another adventure—whether it ends in success or failure… well, I couldn’t care less.

Any Given Sunday


We live in strange times for the surfcaster. A dwindling population of stripers has shown that it will set up shop in just a few areas each season. And as that population has continued to decline those areas have become more and more concentrated. This has given many striper crazies the travel bug and plates from all over the coast can be seen at most of the famous striper outposts that harbor a (usually) consistent bite.

This fact has also brought out the braggarts, people who use social media to make sure that people everywhere know that they are catching when the going has gotten tough for so many others. Closer looks reveal that many of these proud Mary’s cannot be taken seriously as they recycle new shots of old fish to keep their legends alive. What they don’t seem to understand—or maybe they just don’t know that they should care—is that they are placing a big, red target on their backs and it will not be long before their own hallowed grounds are overrun by the hounds looking to exploit whatever work they’ve done to keep themselves catching.

I move around a lot, fishing the waters from Cape Cod to South County Rhode Island and even moving north when conditions line up. Fishing mostly within a “doable” drive of the Canal has had a strange effect on the way people fish on my local turf; the Canal is easy to predict and relatively easy to fish and a lot of guys have migrated there, seemingly permanently. But the last two seasons—this one especially—have been inconsistent, the four day tides that used to be melees are now usually only really good for one day; the others fall somewhere between ‘working for a few’ and ‘skunk’. This has had a sort of “reverse osmosis” effect on many of the surf spots I frequent.

I’m starting to see lights again. Which is kind of bittersweet; on the one hand it does my heart good to see that there are still some surfcasters left out there who don’t mind working for them—but on the other hand, it has forced me back into stealth mode.

Being stealthy is more important than it ever was. Before the Canal started to blow up with big fish, bass could be caught just about everywhere and just about any time. Sure, there were nights and even weeks where the action was very slow, but most areas, at least within my range, had resident fish every year. It was so easy to take for granted, and there wasn’t much worry about being seen catching (unless the fish were big) because odds were that the other lights on the shore were catching too.

It’s not like that anymore. Now it’s all about tide windows and very specific slots within the spots—places that feature the perfect blend of current, structure and depth. And even when I feel like I know the formula, on all but the best nights, there’s still a lot of waiting between fish. But these days, when I see lights, I hardly use mine and I don’t take photos—it’s just too risky.

The exception seems to be Sunday nights. The end of the weekend coupled with the beginning of the work week seems to keep nearly everyone off the water. I never used to fish Sundays either unless I was on a hot bite and didn’t want to lose a hold on the pattern. It’s strange to say, but fishing on a Sunday night makes it seem like 50 percent of the world’s population has been beamed to another planet. There are very few cars on the road after 10 and the shore seems to be soulless. It’s the only night of the week when fishing the surf feels like it did every night 15 years ago when, even on the Canal, seeing the lights of more than three or four people was rare—in the surf I almost never saw another light.

Of course, this Sunday phenomenon is negated at the famous crossroads of striper fishing, there are guys fishing the Canal at every hour of every day and I would guess that, especially as we near September, places like Montauk, the Rhode Island Breachways and Block Island have their own contingent of steadies that are out there no matter what the next day has in store. But if you’re finding yourself being forced into ninja mode like I am, take advantage of the rhythm of the American work week, Sunday nights feel like they could be set in 1940 or 1840; and you don’t have to hold your breath for 20 minutes—waiting to see another—when you’ve had to turn on your light.

Sealing The Deal



I am fresh off a relaxing family vacation to Cape Cod; the former surfcasting capital of the world and home of some of the tastiest looking sand beaches you’ll find anywhere on the planet. I have been visiting the Outer Cape, on and off, since I was a little kid and fishing the beaches was one of the things I used to look forward to most—I have gone for a week each of the last four years and I have brought a rod with me exactly zero times. You may be questioning my grit as a surfcaster or my devotion to the sport—but unfortunately it’s not that I’m going soft, it’s that I have learned that it’s just no longer worth my time.

On our first day, we headed to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham; this beach makes up the northern edge of the famous Nauset Inlet and then stretches two or three miles before being shadowed by the majestic dunes the Cape Cod National Seashore is so famous for. As we picked our spot among the sunbathers my mind slipped into overdrive and went through an involuntary rundown of the tide, wind, current structure and wave action. At roughly the same time my conscious mind was running through stories I’d heard or read by many of the surfcasters that made their names on the Cape beaches from the 1960s through the early 2000s.

By chance, (or was it?) we sunk our umbrella right in line with a cut in the offshore bar. The tide was low and coming in, a quick scan with the Costas revealed that a deep hole accompanied that offshore cut and a long finger bar reached out to meet the water flowing in from the Atlantic. Words from the late Tony Stetzko began to float through the back of mind as I walked through the shallow cut that was carved by the incoming water as it eroded the base of the finger bar and spilled over into the next bowl. I remembered him telling me about some amazing nights where big bass were slurping sand eels in a spot just like that. Dozens of fish, all over 30 and some over 40 working that little nearshore jet of current—their backs fully exposed—a swimmer and dropper reeled with the rod tip almost jammed into the sand getting eaten almost every cast. And when the school cleared, you’d drive down to the next bar and find another pile of fish ready to play.

I am not a sand fisherman. I’m not saying I can’t do it or haven’t, but I like my boulder fields and I like my deepwater rock formations. But as I walked out onto that finger bar and saw how steeply the water dove off from inches deep to well over 10 feet, my brain was on fire—it took some serious willpower to keep myself from playing the fisherman’s version of air guitar as I placed imaginary casts in my head. It was one of those places where you look and you just know that fish would be there—or, rather, should be there.

The current, the structure, the exchange of water between the ocean and the trough, the water jets rushing downtide between the bowls… sheer perfection. I really wished that I’d brought a rod… but the one thing I’ve left out of is that there were four huge seals and a smaller harbor seal swimming with the sunbathers in that hole. Looking south, the next bar was a “table top” (not connected to the shore) and there were easily 200 seals basking on the sand and another 50 sitting submerged with their heads poking out of the water like turtles, gawking at the gawkers shooting pictures.

As the week progressed we hit Lecounts Hollow and Marconi Station Beach—each of them had their own angling charm and their own armies of seals. When I visited those beaches at dusk I saw a single caster fishing with a small panel of seals hoping he’d luck into a fish so they could take it. People have told me that the seals know to follow people carrying surf rods and now I’m a believer. I was able to talk to one of the surfcasters, he told me that it has become a game of perseverance on the Cape beaches, you have to fish a lot of nothing days and nights to get into a few fish for the season. He did tell me that the beach I was walking had a good shot of fish the night before, but it was all seals after that—he added that a fish over 20 pounds would be considered extraordinary these days.

There are a lot of emotions that surface when I walk any of the Outer Cape beaches, they will be forever tied to my soul and childhood. I remember in all of the years we went between 1990 and 1998 I saw FOUR seals and they were all together in one spot as I was walking out to Nauset Inlet. When I see hundreds and thousands now it kind of breaks my heart. The Cape used to be known for its fishing and anyone had a decent shot off of those beaches. I remember seeing dozens of buggies with rods in the bumpers, big fish in the coolers at the shops, photos galore on the shop walls and now, there is no draw for surf fishermen on the beaches. I have no doubt that there are some hardcore locals that have figured out how to fish around the seals, but for average Joe or even the seasoned traveling surfcaster, the only things left of those bygone years of world class striper fishing are the stories and the memories. Too many seals is no good for anyone—I hear rumors that the State may step in to thin the herd a bit, but until someone is killed by a great white in plain view of thousands of vacationers, I doubt very much that any action will be taken. I didn’t even get to enjoy those great years on the Cape and I miss them, I can only imagine what it must be like for the guys who actually lived it.

Eeling or Chunking?

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Last week my friend Keith and I swam out to a rock that we fish regularly. It’s a consistent spot that produces quality fish pretty regularly, we’ve never taken a really big fish there but, I think it’s just a matter of time before that happens. There are many particulars to the pattern that produces there wind, tide and wave action all have to be right. One of the things that has really proven itself to be true is that, no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to get much (if any) love if you’re not throwing eels.

It could be the steep grade of the bottom, or the fact that a decent cast has your bait landing in water we estimate to be around 18 feet deep, or maybe it’s just an anomalous thing where the few times we’ve fished there with only plugs that fish weren’t around. Some things in fishing can never really be known. Last week, we were there, throwing eels as usual. The unfortunate part was that I wasn’t able to get to the bait shop before it closed so we were both fishing out of Keith’s eels and what he thought was a dozen turned out to be more like seven. I’m sure you can imagine my displeasure when my second cast was interrupted by the chattering, jerky tug-o-war of a bluefish—I reeled up to find about half an eel.

Keith and I have been friends for a pretty long time and we get along well, like the same music etc, but I don’t like the feeling of having to use someone else’s anything and that goes up by a figure of about 87 when the supply of said thing is low and I ALREADY need another one after only a few minutes of use! So I stuck with the cigar butt eel in an effort to ‘take one for the team’ and so as not to deplete our eel supply too quickly. My resolve began to waver when Keith bagged a 25-pounder 10 minutes later on a live eel. I acquiesced and grabbed a new eel, but I left the cigar butt lying near the bag, just in case.

Well, I can’t write my exact words down here, but needless to say within three or four casts I found another woodchipper with fins and again I was left with about 8 inches of my once 17-inch eel. I cast the half back out in shame and decided to just let the chips fall where they may. The eel fell unceremoniously to the bottom where I moved it with very short lifts of the rod tip every 10 to 30 seconds. A couple times my already shortened eel was trimmed again by a bluefish, but about five or so casts later I felt a solid and short thud and then the slow movement of a bass, I set the hook and it was game time. Not a giant fish, but a nice 20-pounder! I re-hooked my half-eel, fired it back out and let it settle using the same lift/drop routine. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, I felt it again; bam, slow movement. This fish was a very healthy 26-pounder. Around that same time Keith was verbally lambasting an unseen bluefish and changing eels again. And then he was bluefished yet again! As he was eyeing the last full-length eel in the bag I set the hook on an 18-pounder and I told him what I was doing to catch the fish.

After that we were both using half eels and before long Keith was tight to a 20-pounder, then I had another around 15 pounds, then a schoolie, then another in the upper teens and another low-20. Somewhere along the way Keith turned to me and said, “let’s not kid ourselves here, we ARE NOT eeling right now, we are chunking.” As our tide window closed we had about 10 bass between us including a 25 and a 26-pounder, one dogfish and a rogue keeper sea bass. I made one last cast with an eel head that looked like it had been dragged behind a formula 1 racecar for three hours and I felt a pickup. The hit was uncharacteristic of a bass, but didn’t feel like a bluefish either. But then it changed and seemed to me to be a definite bluefish. I came tight and set the hook hard, the fish took off like a cannon shot, but I soon landed the yellow-eyed bastard, roughly 8 pounds, and during its angry display of head shaking it regurgitated no less than FIVE eel tails. I got him. And that, we decided, completed the eel chunking grand slam; a striper, a blue, a dogfish and a sea bass. I doubt, very much, that we’ll ever do it again. So don’t discount or discard your cigar butt eels, sometimes they can save your night and (full disclosure) this is far from the first time half eels have saved or made my night.

Step Into The Freezer

ugh 011I was at the Canal Thursday. The results were atypical for a famous “breaking tide”. There were the expected pods of breaking fish, the expected reports of a few big fish landed, the expected schools of mackerel hugging the banks—but there was no consistency to the bite, no pushes of bass traveling through. Some isolated pockets of fast action did make a few anglers’ days though.

One such angler was a guy that I would guess was in his early 20s, someone who is most definitely in the early stages of his love for our sport. There were two nice fish displayed on the access road, a 36-pounder for an older guy nearby and a 28-pounder for this younger guy I stopped to talk with.

He told me that the fish had taken an SP Minnow thrown among a large school of macks. He added that it was his first good fish and he was very excited about it. You can’t blame him for that, 28 pounds is a nice fish for sure. We compared notes on the action throughout the morning, my results of five fish from a schoolie to a 22-pounder matched up roughly with his, although his fish was bigger than my biggest. I showed him the mackerel-colored Guppy Pencil that took all but one of my fish. He told me that he’d never been able to get a fish to hit a topwater plug. We talked about that for a bit and shook hands, but as he was walking away he said something that stuck in my mind.

“Well, now I have to go home and YouTube how to cook this thing!”

I offered up a basic recipe for my favorite way to eat the few bass I keep each year. In case you’re wondering, battered and fried bass makes great fish tacos with the right fixings. I was quick to add that a 28-pounder would make enough tacos for his entire neighborhood, but I don’t think my words landed where I hoped they would.

I don’t fault anyone for keeping a fish, I do it now and then and think that it’s a practice that should always be a part of our sport. But taking a fish just to take one is not a good practice. I would obviously give this guy a free pass, he was fired up—and I wouldn’t want to take that away from him, I only use this example because it’s fresh in my mind. But, if you don’t even know what you’re going to do with it when you get home, you should really release the fish. If you’ve ever thrown a fish into a dumpster after killing it you should feel bad about it. I hope that my new friend from the Canal had a great dinner with family and friends that night and I hope he a gets a 38 tomorrow. But what I hope above all else is that he realized that a fish of that size is enough to feed a family function and that the mythical 38 I just hooked him up with in the near future is much more valuable alive.

As the tides we’ve come to rely on become less and less consistent, it is going to become increasingly important that we all harvest with extreme care. People make the argument for ‘gamefish status’ but I have to wonder if a no-harvest fishery would hurt or help the sport overall. Personally, it wouldn’t stop me from fishing, but I think a large percentage of the people that can’t fish four nights (or more) per week like I usually can, depend on taking a fish for the table as the justification for the expenditure of their precious time and money.

Of course, this is abused as well. Striped bass just doesn’t belong in your freezer, unless you’re very good about how you care for it and you make sure that you eat it within six months of the catch. Some of my friends that are charter captains tell me that they hear the same line laughed over and over from their patrons, “Now we can throw away the fish from last year!” That’s every bit as bad as the dumpster crew. The striped bass shoulders a huge amount of the recreational fishing load here in the Northeast, it’s high time that we get our heads on straight.