Monday, October 31, 2016

Montauk State Park, October 2016 - Dictated but not read

I have been working at my current job for just under a year now, and in that time I've accumulated a good chunk of paid time off (PTO). Fortunately or unfortunately, I am only able to roll over 40 hours of PTO into 2017, meaning that before the year is over, I have to take six or seven days off, otherwise I am going to lose them. Earlier this month, I did just that, and took off on a Monday through Wednesday and did a solo-camping trip down to (surprise surprise) Montauk State Park for three days of fly-fishing, cook-outs, camping, and beer drinking. Aside from a few hiccups, it almost went perfectly according to plan. Almost.

For this trip's blog entry, I decided to try something new. One of my most significant challenges with this fly-fishing blog, aside from being a mediocre fisherman, is that I have an equally mediocre memory. Most of the time when I get home from a trip, I'm a bit burnt out, and the last thing I want to do is clean and store my gear, much less write a blog post about it. By the time I finally do get around to updating VossFish, the memories have begun to fade. But fear not. This time I had the bright idea to verbally take notes on my phone at the end of the day. This way, all of the nitty-gritty details, like fly selection, fish size, and location will all be preserved as an mp3 file stored somewhere on the cloud, I think. Of course, this means having to listen to the sound of my own voice (terrible) and transcribe the dumb things I have say (equally terrible). But hey, at least it's all well documented.


So, here it is. The nearly seven minute transcript of me sitting at my campsite, and reflecting on that first day's fishing:

"Okay, uh, so... Montauk blog post voice recording: Night 1. October 10, 2016. And I'm sitting at my campsite. So here's how the day began: I woke up . . . You know what? Let's go back a little bit more. I tied a whole bunch of flies in preparation for this. Umm, so I woke up this morning at about 4 o'clock, and I had been loading up since the night before. I'm off Monday through Wednesday. It's great. I'm not worrying about work. I'm just coming down here to do some fishing. Emily's not here. I wish she was. She has work. No big deal. I don't know why I'm being so awkward. It's my . . .

"So I woke around 4:00, and coffee was already on. So I woke up, took a shower, grabbed a few remaining things, like a chair and pillows, and some other crap. I iced down the cooler. I left pretty close to 5 o'clock. I had to get gas first thing because the Prius was on empty. Umm... Nothing really too weird at the gas station.

"So I listened to Lady Gaga the entire way down here. So here's the thing about Gaga: her first album [The Fame] was just all about just going to clubs, dancing, partying, ya'know. Being paparazzi famous. Whereas her second album, Fame Monster, I think was about giving into your dark side, because I think she realizes what the fame is, and still wants it. The third album, Born This Way, was just a gay pride anthem, which is fine. I love Born This Way. Artpop seems to be a reconciliation between her religion and her sexuality, or the image of what she wants her image to be. Where Joanne . . . Joanna?, so far seems to be a break-up album, which is devastating, because I just really wish the best for Lady Gaga.
(Editor's Note: I told Emily about my Gaga discography critique, and apparently this is a total misreading of most of Lady Gaga's work. Oh well.)

"Anyhoo, I got to Montauk around 7:30. Pretty easy drive. I saw a coyote on the way in here, which is pretty neat. The 24 miles between Salem and St. James is just brutal. If it wasn't for that, I would be here every weekend. So I got here. Went to the store. Got my license. . . or my daily tag, some indicators, and I'm thinking I immediately went up to the dam. I mean, that's always been the spot because it's easy and it's never that crowded. However, the rest of the park was surprisingly crowded for a Monday.

"Umm . . . let's see. I initially tied on a white thread jig, and it just wasn't doing it for the fish. It might have been too early in the morning, and the sun wasn't really appearing yet. It was up, but you know, we were down in the valley. So then I switched to a John Deere, which is what I got my first fish off of. The next two were on a white jig hook, with red floss. The second one was smaller than the first, but the third one was very big. Massive. Huge fish. Really happy with it. Saw it happen.

The first morning's catch.
"After that, it was about, probably, 10:30 or 11:00. I drove down to Baptist Camp Access, and fished downstream there, moving steadily more downstream, maybe an eighth of a mile - not very far. I fished on that same red floss. I only had one. Red floss, white head fly. I switched it up to maybe a John Deere at some point. I was fishing dries, one yellow calf-hair, Adams, parachute style. Then I switched from that to one of my crawdads, which didn't do anything. But there were . . . there were a lot of browns. They just weren't hitting anything I was giving to them. So maybe tomorrow, I'll go back there. Depends on whether I catch my limit or not. I'm here for fish, but I don't wanna tap out early. I'd like to back to that spot again tomorrow though. Maybe I'll do that.

The valley leading down to Baptist Camp Access.
"After Baptist Camp, I came back into the park and tried to check in, but the family here was still leaving my camp spot, so I went and fished the low water bridge and below. I did catch my fourth fish that I put back on the dam. I had to revive him with my net, and he was fine. From there I went and set up camp and cooked some bratwursts for lunch. So my tent, I dunno, I like the size of it but it's designed poorly. I miss my old yellow tent, which I think I still have somewhere. Do I? (Editor's Note: I don't. It caught on fire one time. Long story.)

"I did fish below the low water bridge, and there just wasn't as much debris down there as last time, at the end of July, early August. Disappointing there actually. I probably won't go back there tomorrow. It might have just been too late in the day. I'm going to start the day tomorrow on the dam, and get some fish on my stringer and then head down to Tan Vat if possible. I ended the first day on the dam using a white jig. That red floss one was just worn out. I brought my fly tying kit to tie flies here, but I just don't think that's going to happen. It gets dark so early, and I don't feel like it. That's it for now. I'm gonna hate hearing this because I hate the sound of my own voice. Over and out."

Thank god I did not record any more of my thoughts, and I can just use my memory instead of a terribly awkward voice recording. After getting my daily allowance of Montauk ice cream, I spent the first night sitting around the campfire, drinking some Public House brews and preparing my campfire chili. This is a 3-bean, turkey-based chili that I supplement with pineapple chunks. It's incredibly delicious and anybody who ever tells you that pineapple doesn't belong in chili (i.e., my wife) is completely wrong. Montauk recently upgraded their wifi to extend all the way to the campsites, which is great for two reasons. First, I could actually videochat with Emily and Norma from my tent, and she was able to know that I hadn't drowned (yet). Also, I could pass out on my cot while watching Frasier reruns on Netflix. You know, truly roughing it.

Campfire Chili
I slept well enough, and I woke up on day two ready to hit the water hard. I began the day with some bacon and eggs cooked in my cast iron skillet over the campfire, along with campfire coffee. I geared up and went fishing above the dam, getting there before the opening bell rang. For the first time in my life, I caught a fish on my first cast of the morning. It was a decent size rainbow and worth keeping. I thought having such tremendous luck early on was going to be a sign of things to come, but in reality, it was all downhill from there.

At about 9:00 in the morning on the second day, I was fishing from the dam and noticed a strange clopping sound when I was walking along the stones. I soon realized that the heel from my wading boot had detached, and was only hanging on by a few inches of rubber near the toe. It was a catastrophe, and there was no way I would be able to keep fishing with my wading boot in that condition. I went to the lodge, and luckily they had some ShoeGoo. I cleaned and dried the boot as well as I could, but according to the packaging, the ShoeGoo would take 24 hours to dry properly. Dammit.

More glue than shoe at this point.
I ended up renting a pair of thigh-high wading boots from the store, and was able to fish the remainder of the afternoon. The whole boot situation really stressed me out, so the fishing the second day was not as enjoyable as day one. I did catch several good fish, including a very large rainbow that would serve as dinner on night two.

At this point, and especially lately, I've written ad nauseum about fishing at Montauk, so there's not too many exciting details that you haven't read a half dozen other times on this blog. I did catch my first rainbow on a dry fly - a size 12 Royal Wulff that I believe was tied using Norma's butt fur. So that dog is good for more than just barking at the mailman. It was near the end of the second day, and the sun was beginning to set. I had been fishing jigs and nymphs all day to some success, but by dusk, the trout simply seemed uninterested in anything underwater. I had never had any luck previously with dries, so I was very happy to finally see a rainbow trout go after one that I had tied myself. It was incredibly satisfying to see the trout rise to my fly, take it, and actually be able to set the hook in time.

I spent the second night of camping eating leftover chili and stuffed trout. I cleaned the fish earlier, but stuffed it full of onions and garlic. I wrapped it in tin foil along with some lemon wedges and cherry tomatoes. I didn't put it directly in the coals, but it was getting a lot of direct heat from the fire. When my dinner was ready, the skin of the fish peeled right off and I was able to (mostly) debone it without any issues. It was a satisfying meal for sure, especially considering that six hours earlier, that trout was happily swimming in the Current River.

I went to bed somewhat early, and woke up at about 4:00 to visit the tree near my tent. In the distance, I could barely make out some faint lightning. Sure enough, when I checked the radar app on my phone, a large looking storm system was closing in on the park. I cut my losses, packed up my gear then and there, and got out of dodge. Between the waders, the rain, and the 2.5 hour commute I still needed to drive back home, I decided it would be easier to just leave.

I stayed ahead of the rain on the drive back, and took a glorious nap when I got home. There is a happy ending to the wading boot situation. After a somewhat passive-aggressive tweet to Cabela's customer service team, I was able to exchange my broken boots out for a new pair. It does make me nervous that my first pair only lasted just over a year. Hopefully it's a fluke and that this new pair will last for a long, long time.


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