Red Hill Capos Return for Surfcasting 2010

For the Scotch? The food? The poker? I think not the fish.

October 15-18, 2010

Capos on the beach. But were they here for the fishing?

Back for their third October visit to Amagansett in three years, the Red Hill Gang, or Brooklyn’s CCNY (Capos Club of New York), have been playing the role of sporty surfcasters since 2008. But the way the Johnny Walker Scotch flows, the steaks, linguine and frittatas are consumed, and my poker losses mount,  I suspect they don’t always come for the fishing. When Tony showed up this year with a box of goodies from Veniero’s Pasticceria near 1st Ave, two loaves of lard bread from an East Village bakery, a liter and a half of Black Label and two bottles of his personally labeled red wine, I was pretty certain an alternate agenda was at hand.

Big brother Frank (rt) joined the Red HIll Gang for fishing

Which probably was a good thing because after a week-long run of consistently blitzing striped bass at Montauk Point, a vicious noreaster moved up the coast just before the weekend to shut down the bite like a light switch. Bobbie A. and Doctor “Charlie Boyz” C. literally blew in along with the front Thursday night. Rain and wind persisted overnight. Friday morning was overcast, blustery but not very wet.  Winds were WNW at 30 mph, gusting close to 40-mph. But we went out for a morning hunt just to keep the beach honest. We were nearly swept off the bluff at Camp Hero but the surf was still white and foamy on the south side; fishable but unfortunately not fishy.  The northside, churned like a washing machine, was out of the question for casting. Big brother Frank, newly returned from La-La Land, joined us for the usual rounds. Capt. Harvey Bennett at The Tackle Shop had been touting the ocean beach fishing since before the storm so we paid close attention to the sandy stretches nearer to Amagansett. We found lots of high flying birds. Promises, promises. But nothing to hook and cook.

Felix & Tony: Our Lady Of Grace parish's dynamic duo

When the Our Lady of Grace duo–Tony and Felix–arrived, we broke for lunch; homemade fish chowder chock full of calamari, shrimp and, of course, striped bass from Wednesday’s catch. We washed this down with chilled Orvieto.  Recharged, we did some late afternoon sharp shooting at Turtle Cove, and Hither Hills. But this day was destined not to produce. Reluctantly–right?–we moved on to drinks. Our cocktail menu comprised nearly the full spectrum of Johnny Walker Scotches–from Black to Green to Gold to the capo di tutte capo: Blue Label. Dinner was built around striped bass and linguine puttanesca. Thanks to a couple of tricks from my friend Laura, I used some capers, anchovies and Kalamata olives to adapt a perfect tomato sauce cooked up in advance by Natalie, the BW. Of course, there was broccoli rabe for Felix and Italian pastries provided by Bobbie and Tony. Frank stuck around for Hi-Low poker–taking at least 25 of my dollars off the table–while Dr. Charlie Boyz and Frank’s wife Toni rooted the Yankees to a come-from-behind victory over Texas in the ALCS opener.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Culture Vultures

Rubber slippers replaced neoprene waders on Pollock's floor

Saturday, if possible, was windier still, howling out of the NW. The beach was overcast and cold. Stripers don’t really have a mind sloppy weather–in fact they thrive in it.  But my buddies feel otherwise. We passed on the morning fishing, did breakfast at the Golden Pear in Sag Harbor, and then joined the 11am guided tour of the Pollock-Krasner House Museum in Springs.  I showed the boys some local scenic spots–Accabonac Harbor Creek, Gerard Drive and Louse Point. We talked about our families. We solved each others’ problems and the world’s. We bided our time.

Fish On: Macaroni Beach produced!

The afternoon warmed up enough for a tailgate lunch of cold grilled chicken and beers at Turtle Cove. Checking the ocean beach on the way to TC, Tony spotted a flock of black ducks taking wing over the breakers.  “There’s some birds! There’s some birds!” he cried, hoping to repeat his role as the fish finder of the Clark’s Cove Blitz of 2008. Politely, I instructed that he was looking at the wrong type of birds.  “We’ll they’re eating something and I don’t think it’s macaroni,” he replied. He had a point. And so the legacy of Macaroni Beach was born.

At Turtle Cove it didn’t happen. We cast as if we came to fish–heck, some of us did!–but the only life we saw was a big black seal. 4Runner Dan and his long-casting friend John from Centerport tipped us that there were fish earlier at Napeague Beach.  So back to, ahem, Macaroni Beach we went to catch the outgoing tide and the last few hours of sunlight. With the wind at our backs, we casted long and strong. The surf got birdy and as the sun started to descend, fish began busting.

Short Bass: No keeper, but our fortunes were looking up

It took about an hour, but we got into a slow pick of fish. A couple of blues were beached and many short stripers were thrown back. A keeper or two made it to some coolers–not ours. I had one throwback baby bass; some 22-24 inches. The boys wanted lobsters so I ordered up a bunch of dinners from Stuart’s Seafood, complete with corn on the cob, mussels, steamer clams. That meant we had to leave the beach before 6pm.  The action was still heating up,  but we vowed to return in the morning for more. Back home, I grilled New York strip steaks, heated striped bass brandade that I made from my birthday bass,  and invited Capt. Bennett to join us at the bar and the table.

Weekend Guests: The Johnny Walker family from Scotland

We drank deep into our array of Johnny Walker Scotch. Harvey stayed for surf and turf. Then the poker cards came out over coffee. I guess I don’t have to tell you how that turned out.  Felix at last finished “in the chips”, thanks to his skill with 5-card Bridget, 7-card Tanya and various other games that he surely makes up on the fly and that we will never win without a PhD.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Snooze and lose.

Blues Brothers: cocktail bluefish for dinner

It was clear we needed to return to the scene of the crime—Macaroni, nee Napeague Beach–and do so early. This was break away day for Bobbie, Felix and Tony–all except Dr. Charlie Boyz.  My mistake was to serve breakfast  home instead of packing it to the beach.  We saw the price we paid for lingering over our tomato frittata when two departing sporties told us at the Napeague Beach entrance:  “you missed it.” As evidence, they pointed to a pair of fine fat fish in the back of their pick up.  Chastened, we traveled east and managed to catch up with a school of bluefish and small bass near Hither Hills.  Our mood brightened.  I nailed one throw-back striper and put two bluefish in the cooler.  Charlie shook the skunk with a cocktail bluefish he hooked on the feathered teaser.  We chased and chased east until the tide dropped out near Gurney’s.  Tony saluted his money at Bernie Madoff’s former beach house below the bluff and we took a coffee and crumb cake break at the Montauk Bake Shoppe. Our weekend fishing efforts were essentially sealed and it was back to the barn for goodbyes until next year to Felix, Tony and Bobbie.

Charlie and I packed some sandwiches for an afternoon run. Surf Rookie of the Year candidate Billy S. drove out from Manhasset to join our hunt. But the fish never rematerialized at Napeague or elsewhere.  We watched the sun set to amazing colors over the Double Dunes at Atlantic Ave. and retired to a grilled bluefish dinner supplemented with cole slaw (Stuart’s), home made skillet potatoes, and a mixed green salad with local beefsteak tomatoes.  For dessert, we wolfed down the last of Veniero’s pastries. The scotch was dwindling but we didn’t have a single keeper for the weekend. The next morning would be the last chance for fame and glory.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Massacre At Macaroni Beach

Before the sun got high: I predicted we'd each have............

.......keeper bass in the cooler before 8am. I was right

Breakaway day.  Dr. Charlie Boyz had an afternoon flight to the Left Coast.  Billy S. had contractors to visit up island.  I needed to get back to reality because I felt gills growing behind my ears.  Frank returned from a visit with his daughter Gina.  I coerced everyone into the truck at oh-dark-hundred. We needed to be beachside by sun up. Straight to Napeague we flew where, lickity-split, we spied working birds to the east. I had an incredibly optimistic feeling that we’d all get well this morning and said so.  “Keepers in the cooler by 8am” I predicted out loud.

When we spotted swirls inside the gentle curl of the waves on the inner bar, I was out of the truck, into the water like a shot. The fish were in very close.  Gulls squawked and hovered above, pointing the way.  The wind was negligible, down to 5 or 10 mph out of the west.  The tide was moving and water and air temperatures seemed identical: somewhere in the low 60s. I fished in shorts and barefeet.

I banged a fish on my first cast, but got bit off inside the bar.  Bluefish. To save time, I simply switched rods. However, same result: fish on and dropped when my line was bit through. I was furious.

The sun peeked over the horizon as I retied my leader.  Frank’s line went  taut. His rod bent, his back straightened and he became the perfect sunrise silhouette. He landed the first fish of the day and it was quality: A 30-inch plus keeper bass that took his white feather teaser. Then the good doctor was on with a keeper.

The fish were on the move so we followed them hopscotch style. When Frank hooked into a shorty bass, I signaled Billy to move close to him in a patch of deep water. Charlie and I worked the bar nearby.  Success for Billy.  He switched off his heavy bucktail and nailed a healthy keeper bass on a Kastmaster with white feather.  Charlie then took a bluefish.  Frank took a bluefish.  Oh yeah, I finally got my keeper: a 28-inch “runt” of the morning litter. Then I added a cocktail bluefish to the larder.  It was 7:40am and we had a cooler filled with four keeper bass and three cocktail blues. Not a bad morning’s haul.

A Fine Fat Fish: Harvey's 20-plus pounder

A fish call from Harvey Bennett alerted us to big  bass in Amagansett to our west. But a gill net crew was working the beach in between, so we didn’t venture forth. Harvey came to meet us and showed off his 20-pound plus cow.  A beauty.  It was proof that he fishes.  He shot a Mobile Tackle Shop video that you can see here. Pistol Packin’ Pete stopped to say hello.  As we gabbed, the tide dropped out and the fishing was done.

Fish cleaning toast: we drained the JW Blue Label

We quit at 930am ahead of schedule with plenty of time to clean and dress fish, polish off the last of the Johnny Walker Blue Label and mercifully clean my sand encrusted, mud splattered, fish stinking truck. Niece Gina filmed a down and dirty bass-filleting lesson. An Oktoberfest Bavarian lunch at Shippy’s Pumpernickel Tavern in Southampton prepped Dr. Charlie Boyz and me for the ride to JFK.

I was back to the world by 4pm and already plotting my poker strategy for next year. I gotta’ get back to night fishing just to save money.

For a full gallery of Capos Go Surfcasting 2010 photos, click here.

Why We Fish: Because autumn mornings like these are magical and mystical

One Response to “Red Hill Capos Return for Surfcasting 2010”

  1. chaweenee says:

    Fabulous Fred — Love the pictures too, especially Frank at sunrise!!

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