I turn my car into an empty beach parking lot, shutting the lights off as I pull in so they don’t shine on the water. On a mid-September night, there aren’t usually too many people out on the beach. The tide is starting to go out as I get my waders, rod, and tackle bag out of the car. I timed it right this time—there is no sense wading out into a rising tide unless I feel like swimming back to shore. I can hear the waves breaking from the parking lot—it’s a higher pitched sound, not the low boom of large waves—it sounds like a calm night. There’s about a quarter moon so I should have some light, but it won’t be too bright. It’s easy to see what you’re doing on a full moon night—but the darker it is, the more luck I’ve had.
I wade out into the surf and make my way past the first breaking waves. A bigger wave starts to crest so I move behind a large boulder as it passes by. It’s been a while since I’ve fished the rocks at night, and I must be rusty, because I step a little too close to the back of the rock and into the washed-out hole behind it. I’m lucky this time, as the water is inches from going over the top of my waders. The water is as warm as it’s going to get this time of year, but nevertheless, it isn’t too enjoyable to start the night with water in your waders.
I see the rock I’m looking for—not the best rock to stand on, but right next to a perfect flat rock with plenty of open water in front of it. Problem is, that flat rock is still underwater and won’t be exposed for at least another hour. At this beach, there’s a few prime rocks to fish off, so if you don’t get there a little early, someone else might beat you to it. I’m surprised I remembered where it was. After I wriggle my way onto the rock, I notice a light further around the point—someone making their way out to their usual spot, I suppose.
It feels out of scale–standing on (or on a rock maybe 100 feet from) the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and casting out a matter of yards. Sometimes it seems ridiculous to think that I can catch anything from a water body so vast. Is there even one fish in the area to see the lure I’m casting out? At least in a small lake you know that the fish are there, it’s just a matter of whether they are biting or not. Out here, there may not be a fish within a mile of my lure, and I would be none the wiser.
Block Island stands out tonight, the little hump of amber lights along with the red lights of the wind farm to its east. The summer haze is starting to dissipate this time of year, and the crisp dry air of early autumn increases visibility even at night. I fished steady for a while, trying a few of my favorite floating lures until the flat rock was awash. I slid down off the rock I was on, timed my climb up onto the flat rock with a passing wave to assist me, and my back muscles relaxed a bit now that my feet were on a flat surface that I could walk around on. Here, I put on my favorite 7-inch floating swimmer, and casted into the open water in front of the rock. I had a good feeling about tonight. It took a while, but I caught and released a nice striper, and caught another after what felt like half an hour. It’s harder to keep track of time at night but it was getting darker as the moon disappeared below the horizon. The tide dropped until the rock I was on was well above the water, so I decided to call it a night. It’s much easier to wade back at a lower tide—no worries about getting wet now unless I slip on a mass of seaweed.
The ocean is a wilderness that sits on the edge of human settlement. I feel like I’m temporarily leaving society behind when I wade out into the water at night. I’m on my own out there, even though I’m steps from civilization. I could be a few yards from someone’s house, but they may never see or hear me if I need their help for some reason. It feels liberating and relaxing to be on the edge of society; society being a difficult thing to detach from in the era of smartphones, emails, and Twitter feeds.
I used to be a lot more excited about these trips than I am now, even though when I do go, I find that they hold the same magic they did back when I was younger. Why is it that I used to lie awake at night, getting up to look at the moon phase on my fishing calendar and digging my tide chart out of the desk drawer, thinking about how I should be at the beach fishing, and now I need to force myself to go? Then, when I get to the beach, I feel the same as I did when I was 18 and recently discovered that I could spend all night chasing fish along the coast.
In my effort to rekindle my lost enthusiasm for plying the southern New England coastline at all hours of the night, I thought I’d write down some of the stories and mini-adventures I’ve had over the years. This is the first of those stories and I’ll be adding more of them in the future. Some of them are short, some exciting, some may be insignificant to the reader—but they all mean something to me. They bring me back to a time when it seemed like the world was in front of me. May these stories remind us that adventure and lifelong memories can be made in something as simple as a trip to the shore at night. It doesn’t matter what your age is or responsibilities in life are, I’m sure we all can spare a few hours in exchange for some long-lasting memories.
I’ll be publishing new stories (hopefully more frequently than usual), so check back every now and then if you’d like.
Thanks for reading,