The Midnight Rambler – Sharing the Stoke


The Midnight Rambler

John Papciak


Sharing the Stoke


“stoked” – adjective – to be “stoked” is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilirated, or excited about something.  To be in a state of happiness, excitement, anticipation, pride, and optimism. Word used often in Southern California by most surfers and skateboarders. (Urban Dictionary)


Surfcasters don’t really have a word for this, so as much as it might pain a reader or two, I’ll use it here.


Surfcasting used to be a much more solitary and secretive sport. That’s what the Old Farts (ahem, Old Salts) will tell us anyway.  If you caught fish, you never said how or where.


Well, that’s not exactly true either. Surfcasters always talked. They might not have told you the truth, but they talked. They most often fed you a complicated mixture of truth and fiction. And just like the Oscar Meyer Bologna of the day, it was up to you decide if you really wanted to consume it – but good luck trying to figure out exactly what was in there.


But even as a teenager in the 70s, fishing Sea Bright and Sandy Hook NJ, I picked up on this complicated game. Someone would let you in on their hot little tip, in hopes that you’d spill some of your own beans.


Voice in head  ”…Geez Mister, thanks for that awesome pile of horse sh*t information, now let me dish an even bigger load of my own…”  but at least I smiled and acted the part.


Anyway, it can make you stop and wonder why a newbie would ever take an interest in surfcasting. Let’s see… you’ll be doing this in the middle of the night.. you’ll be sleep deprived most days… you’ll be wet and cold… once you get really into it, you’ll be sleeping in your truck … you might go for days without a shave or a shower…you’ll smell like fish… and when you don’t smell like fish, your clothes will smell like mildew… so no, the chicks will NOT be digging YOU.


But somewhere along the way, surfcasting as we know it, has come to appeal to a small but sizeable segment of the general population – mostly male, but not all. That population is actually quite small, but if you were to visit Montauk over a Columbus Day weekend, you’d beg to differ.


Sure, a very large segment of the population would LIKE to go surfcasting, and many have gone once or twice, but those who have vowed to becoming proficient in the sport is really quite small. And I’d bet most readers would just as soon keep it that way!


But despite all the negatives mentioned above, there’s a raw connection to the ocean and the wild that can never be matched on a Links Golf Course. (That’s what many of the men in my age group seem to get most excited about). It’s that connection and ability to interact with striped bass, in the water and in a wetsuit, that I find so very appealing. 

I could say that actually catching a fish is not important, but that’s not true. If I go for a few trips without catching a fish I get cranky just like everybody else. But it IS different from other types of fishing, like boat fishing. Surfcasting IS much more rewarding. And for me, fly fishing in the surf even more so.


But getting back to an earlier topic, the secrecy versus sharing thing is a bit of a surfcasting conundrum, even for me.


I mostly fish alone. It’s not that I want it that way. But it’s often just too complicated to fish with others. First we have to negotiate where we will fish. And then I have to lobby for why I want to fish where I want to fish. And then I have to go into my reasoning, and then some of that is probably because of my log book or gut feel. Some may be based on additional information that I’d rather not get into. And then there’s the pressure that MY suggested game plan doesn’t pan out. Or worse, if it works out really well, I’ll be fighting for casting room the next 10 weeks.


Sure, sometimes it’s easy. The place is agreed based on some clear-cut reason, or maybe a whole bunch of people are meeting up there, and its more a big social thing than a serious fish-hunting thing. And that’s cool, we should all make room for those kinds of trips. Maybe even end it off with a big beach bonfire and BBQ.


But the conundrum is that, for me at least, its a solitary pursuit, but the sport can go flat without a little bit of outside influence and enthusiasm.


Most of us do need to “share the stoke,” at least once in a while. Sure, you get to compare gear, talk about your favorite lures, and as much as we think we know it all, you learn something whenever you fish with someone new.


But above all, the stoke is complete when you feel as if you are looking into the mirror. You immediately recognize the energy and enthusiasm – someone who is not yet jaded, and quite willing to take one more cast. They might not know the spots cold, and be plugged into the INTEL, but they are more than willing show up at 3:00 am, prepared to give it their best, even though the reports have been pretty bad, and the latest NOAA marine forecast is even worse.


Even when the day calls for a skunk, I think we all need to set aside a day or two each year to share the stoke. Me anyway.



Case in point was a small fly fishing get-together a number of us did back on October 18th in Montauk. A great day to share the stoke.




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