"The Walk"

Why is it we generally want what we can’t (easily) have?

Whether we *need* it or not is another story.

New Jersey reportedly has about 130 miles of coastline, Long Island has about 118. But if you double that to include bays and inlets, points and coves, you might still be underestimating the total surface area that a surfcaster can access.

Let’s make it easy and call it 500 miles of fish-able coast, a conservative estimate for just these two states. So why all of the fuss over those relatively few miles that cannot be easily accessed?

New Jersey has the infamous Sandy Hook north rips, situated at the northern extreme, and the Cape May Inlet at the other. The former requires a hell walk through agonizingly soft sand in waders. Cape May requires either a Coast Guard pass (if attempted from the south), or a 1+ mile walk from the other direction. I’ve enjoyed the fruits of both locations, but I’ve been obsessing over better ways to access these spots for years.

Then we have the islands to the north: Block, Cutty, Vineyard and Nantucket – all that time in I-95 traffic, and all that money on gas/tolls/ferry/lodging, just to make a cast into waters thought to be so superior to anything we have in our own back yard.

Montauk has the “south side.” It should come as no surprise that the most coveted real estate here is also the very hardest to access. Those who fish it would defend that it’s certainly worth the effort. I seek not to change opinions, but by my own log, and by my own observations from surfing and free-diving, it would seem fish are just not as married to spots quite the same way we surfcasters are.

I’ll be just as quick to admit I am not immune to that fisherman’s curse – a desire to chase after some surfcaster’s vision of the Flemish Cap – chasing that dream of more or bigger fish.

If only I could get there more often, or more easily…

I’d plead the fifth to any accusation I might have veered off of public property in order to access certain locations by inland route. But the last few times I attempted to go by land in Montauk, I found myself covered with ticks. I still have flashbacks of being awake way past sun up, picking off dozens and dozens of at least two different species of tick. Nothing is creepier than fishing all night, and then finding you still couldn’t fall asleep, because of thoughts you still had ticks crawling all over you!

I’ve also tried going by way of sea. This generally involved a kayak. I’d launch at night, and then anchor out there, somewhere in the vicinity of the spot that I so desperately thought I needed to get to. Then I’d jump out and swim in. This worked out much better, some of the time. Some nights I found the yaking approach far superior – especially on those tides when the fish were better than two casts out. Then came the night when a swell kicked up, and the yak flipped. The flipping wasn’t so bad, but with expensive gear that I was trying to hang on to for dear life, and the fact that I was now drifting away from the boat, in fog…. There were a few tense minutes there, when I thought I was going to have to ditch something. My writing about it here and now is proof positive that it all worked out in the end. But as I struggled to climb back in, and then realized I had to take the yak through a building and heavy breaking surf 3am, in the fog, I said to myself, “F this, maybe doing THE WALK isn’t so bad after all.”

It sounds so easy. The Walk. I am not sure who applied the term in Montauk, but Jack Yee popularized it some years ago when he was in the fishing reports business: “A couple wabbits did the walk and each had a 30…” It’s not really the distance here that is the problem. It’s the rocks. What makes this location so interesting for fishing equates to absolute hell on dry land, where the force of gravity takes over..Stones – I gave them all names. Some coves are confined mostly to pebbles, not so bad..then you have the golf balls. The going gets really tough with acres of rounded stones the size of baseballs, or even coconuts. There you’d find me, tripping and stumbling, sopping wet from sweat in a wetsuit, with my flashlight. I am sure I’ve left a trail of plugs back and forth over the years. I hope you enjoyed those needles and darters, whoever you are. Sure, I try to convince myself it was worth it. But when that didin’t work, I’d reason that the exercise was good for me. But in all my years of going to a gym, or even doing triathlons, I never needed Tylenol quite like after a late night doing “The Walk” over those rocks.

This much is certain – either I will get smart, and learn to follow my common sense more, and rotate in more locations with easier access, and thus enjoy more fishing time… or I can wait for my age to one day make that decision for me. Highly unlikely – all that walking, and I confess that my best nights, by far, were all within 5 minutes of the truck.

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23 comments on “"The Walk"

  1. Chris

    Those walks are usually worth it…..time some of them with the right wind and tide and in you’re in like a fat kid on to CAKE.

  2. Jimmy Z

    I’ve been doing this thing we do for over 40 years. It is what it is, and don’t think about what you call, “the walk”. There is a reason for the walk, this is why it is part of what we do. I just find the good in all I do, does it make me better at this? No, I just enjoy doing this thing, so much.
    Thanks for the story!

  3. mikec67s

    sooner or later….all our horses stop running……wonder if you can get a cane or walker across those rock…fish on…..now if only i can a gaff on the end of the cane…..

  4. Robert McCarthy

    Oh yes those TICKs!!!!!
    I walk the Rocks many time mostly in the dark,
    who would ever guess you mite be walking 1 mile an hour.
    I keep it to easyer accessible spot now,
    and don’t feel I’m missing anything!!!

  5. bob jones

    I think the night that you & I met involved some walking.
    I can still; remember Manny saying to me; “I hope these guys can keep their mouths shut, maybe we should ask them into the club & swear them to secrecy”.
    I’m 64 now and still do some ‘serious walking’. It’s part of the charm of surfcasting. And walking on rocks, builds charecter!
    Best to Naula. Mr J

  6. CTMatt

    The walk is much easier after a few slobs are beached but significantly longer when gear is lost/broken or if your body is badly beaten from the rocks/waves. I have fallen bad on rocks just losing my perch or because of hard conditions but a nice slammer is the best medicine.

  7. in & out

    I fell and was found after 38 hours,between the shattered bone and infection ,I have a coconut size hole on my leg. Not worth it.

  8. Moses

    Great read! This is why this sport isn’t for everyone and separates the weekend warriors from the hard core fishermen.

  9. lurejunkie

    this says it all. i used to love watch hill light in ri. the hill back to the car can be hell if you have any fish. there is a perfectly good road and a great parking lot but they won’t let anyone use it except for handicap drivers at hours that rarely produce fish. if i take care of my body it might last another 15 years, if not i may be looking at 10 or less. i used to love standing on rocks casting. as i age i have had to re-guide 2 rods in 2 years, lucky for me a buddy does it real cheap for me. i just pass him a couple of my hand tied fluke rigs every now and then.


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