The Timely Casting of California Chris

December 15 is the closing day of the 2013 Striped Bass fishing season.  But before I get to a season wrap up and move on to the annual holiday “Fishmas Card”, I have one more fall tale to tell.  This one of my remarkable nephew and his uncanny sense of timing who proved that sometimes once is just enough.


Surfcasters stretched for a mile along  Napeague beach in pursuit of stripers.

First light on a chilly late October morning revealed a picket fence of surf fishermen, spaced 20 yards apart and stretched for a mile east and west of the sandy entrance through the dunes to Napeague State Park, west of Montauk. This army of anglers had swarmed to this normally deserted idyllic beach in pursuit of striped bass which had been feasting on sand eels since Columbus Day.

Bucktailin' Billy: Sunrise striper on the beach

Bucktailin’ Billy: Sunrise striper.

By the time the sun poked through the low clouds on the eastern horizon, Bucktailing Blliy S. had a fat 31-inch keeper bass in the cooler. Big Brother Frank had caught and released a schoolie just shy of the 28-inch minimum.

My nephew, California Chris, sat in the truck…and waited.

Allow me to reintroduce you to Chris.  He last gave us all a fishing lesson on East Hampton’s Main Beach, nailing one schoolie bass after another on a sunny day in fall 2010.  He doesn’t always make the surfcasting season here on the East End, but when he does, he has a knack of making it count.

Back to the present: A cloud of gulls worked the waters coursing over the very deep bar, far beyond even the most yeoman cast. Here and there along the chorus line of casters, a sweet spot existed, where the fish ventured close enough to where mere mortals could reach them. But mostly it was throw as hard as you can, as far as you can, as often as you can–and hope for the best. A slow but steady pick of bass and blues brought up a quality crop of teen-size fish, with an occasional 20-pound trophy.

Meanwhile, Chris continued to sit in the truck…and wait.


Sam’s 26-plus pounder. Royalty among surfcasters.

Now, among the copious lies and lore of fishing, there is one adage that is certain:  You can’t catch fish from the truck. Indeed, you must put the line in the water.  So I asked Chris:  “What’s up with you?”.

“I hate this kind of fishing”, he replied as I watched four or five rods bend with fish on their lines. “What kind if fishing would you call this that you hate ?” I answered. “Sharpshooting”, said  Chris. Hmmm. My definition of sharpshooting is casting blind into a seemingly dead sea with fragile hope that something will swim along to swallow my lure by dumb luck. This morning, conditions were anything but dead.

Still, Chris remained in the truck…..and waited.

More poles bent. By 8 am, Slammin’ Sam Doughty, one of the resident royalty of local sandy-beach striper hunters, joined the fray. Sam took 3rd place in this year’s local surfcasting tournament with a 26-plus bass he caught a week earlier. And for a brief moment on this morning, as if drawn to Sam himself, a pod of fish darted inside the bar producing swirls, splashes and a dozen fish on the hook.


California Chris nailed this 33-inch striper, his first ever keeper, on a single cast.

Now Chris stepped out of the truck.  He walked some 10 paces to the water’s edge.  He hadn’t bothered to don waders, but took a stance on dry sand. On his first cast, Chris’ line went tight and he leaned back on his heels. In minutes, he dragged ashore a fat, 33-inch bass, his first ever keeper.

Shooting me a wry grin, Chris lifted his catch and retreated to the truck.  Say what you will, but on a fish per minute, or fish per cast basis, Chris had the best season of us all.

Can’t wait to see him here again next season. In the truck, of course.


One Response to “The Timely Casting of California Chris”

  1. Big Cee says:

    Great story Fred!!!

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