Cape Cod is one of those places that is beautiful beyond belief.
The ever changing panorama oft defies description. This is even
more so at the tip of the cape. For decades the tip of the cape
has inspired artists and writers including Thoreau, Mailer,
Kunitz, Motherwell, Chiam Gross to name a few. It has also been
home to the once large whaling fleet of this country and then
the fishing fleet. Tip of the cape is now home to a smaller
fishing fleet, sport fishermen, a fleet of whale watch boats.
It is also a world class destination for on shore fishermen
such as myself.
The tip of the cape is like an island, 20 miles out to sea.
Minutes from the Stellwagon Bank fishing grounds and home
to numerous Striped Bass and Blue Fish. I have been visiting
the cape since I met my wife 30 plus years ago and she has
been making the annual trek for over 50 years. Each year
the magic of the cape repeats itself and reinvents itself
drawing us back. It is a destination for fishermen, sun
bathers and nature buffs alike.
This year our timing was a little early for the fall Striper
migration but I was hoping to catch the start of it. Along
with my wife Joan and myself I was to be joined mid week by
my daughter Alice and her friend Nick. Joan is not a fisherman,
and Alice will fish on occasion, but Nick is a committed
fisherman that has just gotten the fly fishing bug bad and
especially the saltwater flyfishing bug.
We got there on a warm Saturday, and after a visit to the
beach and setting up our cottage Joan and I went for a
paddle. We stay at a cottage that is on the beach. The
tide line is about 20 feet from our doorstep. The tip of
the cape is less than 3 miles southwest across the bay.
We headed straight out, towards the tip of the cape, with
the sun in our eyes. There is a shelf that slowly increases
its depth to near 20 feet then drops off to 30 and 60 feet.
My target was to reach the shelf. As the water pushes in the
bait is pushed up by the shelf and there is gathered for the
larger fish to eat. We had seen no action on the flats which
is traditionally Striped Bass habitat so I was hoping to find
some Bluefish action near the drop off. Shortly after I crossed
the drop off, I felt that wonderful tug on my line. I put
down my paddle and picked up the rod. In short order I was able
to land my first Bluefish of the season, about 10 lbs in size.
It was fat and healthy and none too happy to be staring me in
the face. A quick release and off it went. We got underway
again and Joan spotted some birds working. Off I went, and
got there before the blitz ended. I quickly hooked up and
after a wonderful fight was able to land a Bluefish that was
closer to 15 lbs. When taking out the hook I got the sense
that the fish was looking at me like I might be a nice meal
for him. They are clamp jawed fish and I am always careful
to not put my fingers near their mouth. There are too many
stories of these fish taking the tip of someone's finger.
This was enough for tonight. We had paddled almost a mile
off shore and the wind was starting to pick up. Fortunately
it was to our backs so it helped us make the paddle back.
I woke up the next morning to rain, and the rain continued
for three days. I did not do much fishing during that time
and contented myself to sitting around and relaxing, reading
some good books and visiting Joan's brother and sister-in-law
who lives out there. That might not be totally accurate. While
the rain was coming down I often positioned myself so that I
could watch the bay looking for the signs of Stripers bursting
on the water. I figure there is no reason to stand outside
getting wet waiting for the fall migration when I could do
it from the comfort of my cottage. I don't know if this is
fishing, pre-fishing or virtual fishing but it was enough for me.
Wednesday with the let up of the rain, Joan and I took a paddle
in Provincetown harbor. The wind was stiff, blowing near 15
knots so we stayed close to shore using the shelter of the boats,
the piers and then the breakwater as best we could. Again trolling
as we went along I was able to catch a Striper right of the Coast
Guard pier. The fight was interesting because with each second I
played the fish I was being blown closer and closer to the pilings.
Hitting the pilings with a kayak in 1 ~ 1 ˝ foot waves would be a
recipe for disaster. I was able to land the fish, release him and
get away from the pilings with less than 10 feet to spare. We paddled
into the main part of the harbor and then to the breakwater. The
breakwater is a large pile of boulders about ˝ mile long that rises
about 10' out of the water, making the harbor well sheltered. Among
those boulders I have found Stripers before and was hoping to again.
In short order I caught a few and felt comfortable bringing Nick here,
knowing that he would stand a good chance of catching some Stripers.
With that done, we went into the harbor and viewed the schooners and
sailboats that were there for the annual regatta. At least two of the
ships were old schooners 100' plus in length and beautiful like no
new ships can be, all wood and canvas, two masted and seaworthy.
Nick and Alice arrived Wednesday evening and over dinner and drinks
we planned to go fish the Breakwater in P-town. We arrived at dawn
and paddled to the breakwater. Nick and I both put on Clousers and
off we went. In short order we started catching fish. For the next
hour it was constant catching. We could cast to fish that had broken
the surface or if there we none to site cast to we would blind cast
or troll from one place to another. It all worked. I switched to a
Ray's fly and to a Deceiver and they worked too. When the bite slowed
down, we went to the outside of the breakwater and had success there
as well. None of the fish were keepers but they were up to the 20"
plus size and plenty of fun.
After the requisite beach visit during the day Nick and I went out
in the kayaks looking for more Bluefish action. We repeated the
success that I had previously, going out nearly 2 miles off shore.
We trolled, did the run and gun (see a school of birds, race to it
and cast into it) and trolled again. I know that run and gun is
hard in a motor boat, but in a kayak it is something for the young,
not an old man like myself. I did it anyway and loved it. Most of
this action was beyond the drop off which means a ˝ mile paddle
minimum before you get into the fish. Caution: If you want to do
this, bring along safety equipment and use the buddy system. It
is not recommended as a solo activity for anyone except the most
The next morning it was off to the breakwater again. The action
was more furious this time. In the 2 hours we fished there was
little let up. At several points the entire harbor was filed
with blitzing fish. We are talking about an area of a half square mile
or more totally filled with fish blitzing simultaneously. I admit
that I stopped fishing for a moment to watch this. It is one of
those sites to behold.
On our last night out we were not planning on fishing. We decided
to go take a walk on Herring cove beach, watch the sunset, then
go for a dinner out. We parked the car and started walking off
towards Hatches Harbor. Rods were left in the car. From here the
sun sets over the water with Race Point lighthouse in the distance.
It is a pleasant place to take a walk. As we walked along the
shore we started to see Bluefish, not one or two but hundreds.
Mixed with the Bluefish were Striped Bass as well. They were in
the surf, for hundreds and hundreds of yards. As each wave crested
and hit the beach you could see through the translucent waves the
outlines of fish lit up by the backlight of dusk. Each wave carried
tens of fish and this parade went on and on and on for as far as I
could see. Each crashing wave threw baitfish on shore, and often a
Bluefish or Striper as well. This school was 10 plus yards wide. If
you do the math you come up with…. a whole lot o' fish. Nick (being
younger than I) ran back to the car for a rod. Truth be told, we
were all giddy with delight from the sight of this amazing event.
Joan, with her eyes on the prize caught a Striper, barehanded. It
was thrown up on the beach and she picked it up for a photo opportunity
and to return it to the water. We now call her "Lureless Joan." She
also found a 6" needle plug that someone had carelessly left on the
beach. Nick came back and started casting. Somehow the knot at the
end of the line came loose and the first fish he had on took his fly.
He had forgotten to bring along the flies (or I forgot to tell him
that I had a box in the car). But ingenuity was there to save the day.
A 10 wt. rod with a 6" casting plug, I was able to flip it into the
water and in a second I had a hook up. (Is this fly fishing? LOL).
The fish was big, and put a bend in the rod. Even with the drag set
tight the fish was able to pull significant line off the reel. We
went back and forth for a while and then the fish yielded. One fish
was enough. We stopped and stood in awe at the marvel of this mass
of fish cruising along the shoreline.
On our last morning I looked out the door as I was getting my coffee
and saw Stripers blitzing just of the beach. They had arrived. I
wakened Nick and sent him out in the kayak. It was raining pretty
hard (again) but he was not to be deterred. I was happy to drink
my coffee and watch the fish crash the bait, knowing that the fall
migration had come to this part of the Cape. While I packed the car,
Nick fished. His final total of the morning, 5 more Stripers.
For me, it was enough to have seen all those fish in different
places under different circumstances. I must say, it was as much
fun introducing Nick to fishing the tip of Cape Cod as it was for
me to fish it myself. For those looking to spend a fun fall week,
let me recommend the Cape as the place to go. It is world class
fishing without a doubt. ~ Jed firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been fishing since I was a child and fly fishing for
over 35 years. I fish cold water, warm water and salt water.
I currently live with my wife in Western Massachusetts where
my new goal: To become a certified Mass Wildlife fishing
instructor. ~ jed