My Plug Bag For A Pillow


It was one of those nights where you just get that feeling.

I’m sure most of you know it, there’s something about that one cool night in July or a certain wind—maybe it’s an ingrained instinct? Who knows? But you get a feeling and you know you have to go. How often “the feeling” pans out is a very different thing but, we all want to believe that we’re as in tune with nature as our long lost ancestors who hunted and fished to survive—either that or we want to believe that we’re “sensitive” like the Long Island Medium. In either case, I think my “feelings” pan out more often than not—but maybe I have selective memory.


So it was one of those nights. It was mid-July, the moon was near full but there was a low bank of constant cloud cover that replaced the piercing white moon with a low gray glow, the wind was blowing hard out of the southwest and I knew just where I wanted to go. My fishing partner called at the last minute to say he couldn’t make it, I felt a slight twinge of indecision set in, but I pushed myself to go solo.

I packed up about 10 eels and a bag of plugs tailored to fish through a stiff wind if the eels were getting blown back in my face. Truth be told, I could count the number of fish I’d taken on plugs in this spot on one hand, it was and is and eel spot. It’s also a long and deep wade through water that features a pretty good sweep—which is why I felt hesitant without a partner, but I’d done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I stepped into my wetsuit and left the top half folded down, pulled on some fishing shirt that definitely should have been torn up for rags a decade earlier, toed into my flip-flops and hopped in the car.

Driving south toward the water that bank of low clouds was quickly lowering toward the road and by the time I arrived at the shore everything around me was obscured by the blinding quiet white of nighttime fog. And I thought I was hesitant before! Fog notwithstanding, I was still feeling the “feeling” and since I had already made the drive I figured that I should at least walk down there to check things out. I don’t know what I thought was going to be different, but I do remember thinking that fog on a windy night is usually short lived—so I made the walk.

I felt a little better when I saw two lanterns trying to beat through the fog; they looked like two distant galaxies through a cheap telescope. I walked past them and then walked until I was at the edge of my long wade. I looked up at the sky and, wouldn’t you know it, I could see the stars! The wind was doing its job and blowing the fog inland. Slowly the fog dissipated and the impossible haze was replaced by an almost clear view of destination.

This wade is over 200 yards and the water depth is armpit-to-neck-deep most of the way. I slowly made my way out onto the bar, stumbling over a few rocks before feeling gravel below my feet. I was about halfway there when a new bank of fog began to roll in on the stiff wind—within seconds I was just a head floating between the fog and the reflection of that fog. I felt a heavy lump grow in my throat but I knew that I had to stay on course, any deviation would erase my bearings and could send me off the edge of the bar where I’d be set adrift in the sweeping current! I had made this wade hundreds of times and I knew I was on course. I finished the wade and climbed up onto the large boulder. I looked back hoping to see the light from the lanterns, but it was just a persistent gray and featureless wall.

Two things were in my favor for a long stint on a rock in the middle of nowhere, it was almost the top of the tide, so there was no chance of the tide flooding me out and the surf, despite the strong winds, had not yet built up, so there was little chance of a wave cleaning me off the rock and leaving me helpless in the foggy ocean. So I did what any red-blooded surfcaster would do, I stuck an eel on my hook and hoped for some fish to catch while I waited for the fog to lift.

Within two casts of my arrival, I felt that telltale thump-thump of a fish taking my eel. I lowered the rod and set back, firmly. The fish fought hard for about three seconds and then I knew it was a small bass. I landed the peppy 25-incher and tossed him back. A few minutes later I caught an even smaller one and then the water in front of me seemed to be inundated with shorts for about 20 minutes. After that, there was nothing. So much for being connected to my ancestors!

I fished for another hour and a half, using every weapon and trick I had with me. Nada.

I looked back toward the beach. Nada.

I wasn’t the least bit scared, I just wished that I hadn’t been so damned pig-headed. There are two types of stubbornness in surf fishing; the kind that makes you go because you don’t want to have to say you didn’t, and the kind the makes you stay because the bite is slow—both are usually bad. And I was cursing myself up and down for the former.

There wasn’t much I could do out there and the time was passing at a glacial pace. I began to think about the probability of falling asleep out there! I surveyed my small piece of rocky real estate and found what seemed to be the most accommodating ‘bed’. I took off my belt and threw my plug bag down to rest my head on and I laid down among the black slime and seagull shit and closed my eyes.

There was a certain measure of relaxation out there, the waves and the wind blended out to white noise. I was at peace with my poor choices and laid there with a half-smile on my face knowing that, if nothing else, I would never forget this night. I started to feel very relaxed and all of the thoughts whizzing around in my skull drifted into my subconscious and I actually fell asleep; on that rock 600 and some odd feet from shore. And believe it or not, I slept quite well.

I woke up, I’m guessing, two hours later. I had that split second of confusion you have when you wake up in a strange place and then I remembered. I looked back toward the shore, the fog was still hanging heavy in the air, but I could see a light on the beach! I didn’t waste another second, I jumped in the water and waded straight for that light, the water was only waist-deep now and I made it back without a hitch. I got into bed just as the birds began to chirp and I didn’t even wake up my wife! Perfect!

In the morning she asked, “How’d you do last night?”

“Funny you should ask…”


What seems perfectly normal to a surfcaster is a story that probably shouldn’t be shared with the general public. And this is just ONE of my many.


14 comments on “My Plug Bag For A Pillow

  1. Doug

    Great surf tale, well told, and in a way that almost anyone that has been on the rocks in the wee hours of the morning can identify with. Thanks

  2. Chris F

    Great story. although I don’t get the opportunity to fish the rocks as much as I would like, I can definately identify with this scenario. Thanks

  3. Billy D

    Great article Dave. Those times laying back in the rough is what “normal” people call crazy but we know better. Be safe out there.

  4. Joe GaNun

    I would have been worried about a rogue wave splashing over me and drowing or some shifting producing a hook in some place I don’t want to be hooked. But still a good story and something I would never tell my wife about.


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