The Midnight Rambler…Hurry-Up Surfcasting

John Papciak
The Midnight Rambler
Hurry-Up Surfcasting

After reading the latest issue of SJ, and recent blogs, it’s clear that I am not the only member of the Surfcaster Piss and Moan Society. Early fall was nothing short of a disaster. But much like the Giants, it looks like the fall season still holds a little bit of promise.

But I am also aware of where we are on the calendar – and I know that a major storm or two could bring the game to an abrupt close. And even if the fishing holds up (with sand eels that is very much possible), I know my comings and goings in the middle of the night start to wear thin on my wife. And once we get into the holiday season, there is much much less willingness to lose me for extended parts of the weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cocktail party as much as anyone, but my wife just does not want to see that grumpy face when I’d rather be on the beach on Friday or Saturday night.

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you know most of the open beach action is all about sand eels. Lots and lots and lots of them. Sometimes too much, in fact. But there are fish on them. Not always a lot. It is still possible do the wrong thing or pick the wrong spot (more on that in a minute). But with the sand eels as thick as they are, I’ve been fishing places that have been cold many previous falls. I won’t spot burn here, but I came off the beach yesterday with an old fishing buddy. And we asked ourselves, when was the last time we saw sand eels like this, and when was the last time we seriously a spot like this on the open sand beach, plugging no less?

But the clock is ticking, so bring on the hurry-up offense.

With all this supposed bait and decent fishing, it is still very possible to pull the skunk card. I did that last Saturday morning. The wind had laid down just enough to make fly fishing possible. So I left the beefy stick in the jeep and headed down the beach with my 10 weight. And sure enough, as soon as a glow took control of the eastern horizon, we could see sand eels blowing up here and there – and often within 20 feet of the beach.

I was feeling bold, like I was in the right place, at the right time…and with the right gear.

Oh I caught them, I did! I caught at least 100 of them – sand eels, that is. They were so tight that I literally could not pull the fly through the water without hooking one or two.

“Very Picky” became the catch phrase of the day. One after another surfcaster stopped on the beach, to watch me fly cast into sand eels packed like a can of sardines. Even when I moved away from the rolling fish I still caught them.

Each surfcaster who stopped offered their opinion – and sometimes their condolences.

“I figured you’d be killing them with that fly rod”…

“We can’t buy a fish either, but we figured you’d be killing them with those flies”…

“You have a perfect match, why aren’t you hooking up like every cast?”…


Oh, how annoying after a while!

After an hour I ran out of excuses. Why was I able to stick good fish at will with the same pattern on an open beach two weeks earlier, same wind, same conditions, but today I was not able to buy a fish?

Well, I finally did hook up with something really nice…but then broke her off. Like a perfect pass dropped by a wide-open receiver, maybe it was not meant to be.

Under normal circumstances, with a kid’s soccer game at 8am the following morning…followed by field hockey…followed by more soccer, I would be done for the weekend.

But this is where you have to go into hurry-up mode. Call an audible. I was back on the beach at 5:30am the following morning.  The wind was now WSW, at a solid 25. It had been cranking all night. Waves were breaking over the outer bars, a good 2 casts out for even the best of us. This was not fly fishing conditions. The water inside the bar was like a washing machine, but perfect for bass to feed on sand eels. I was hooked up on the 3rd cast, thanks to the heavy super strike needle. Then again. Then again.

A friend of mine saw I was back to the heavy stick. He asked me what fly I was using. Smart ass. You gotta do, what you gotta do.


But I left them biting at 7am sharp. And as I drove home, I passed another beach where the concentration of birds suggested the mother of all blitzes was well underway. Trucks were crammed in everywhere. I had to get my tail home, and could not even stop.

I got my mini-fishing session in, and had to be happy with that. I was.

And as I write this, the forecast has the wind spinning all around the dial this week. And temps will dip to their lowest since last March.

More Hurry-Up.

Editor’s note

John Papciak is Surfcaster’s Journal columnist. To read his regular column and those of other contributors, articles and videos, subscribe to the Surfcaster’s Journal today.

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