Tourney Time – Day 1
Inexplicably up before my alarm the following morning, Jake and I were on the road shortly after 4AM. Mugs of coffee to sustain us, we headed for a rock jetty we had scouted two days prior.
While the fish we had found there were not particularly large, they were plentiful. And, as we arrived shortly before sunrise, I jokingly declared that I’d have striper checked off within fifteen minutes. Recording our Team Knot Failure “Selfie” for 50 pts, we quickly turned our attention to casting.
When I felt a thump on my Andino Deceiver a few minutes later, those words had proven prophetic. Hoisting the small striper up onto the Jetty, we filmed a quick release video and submitted our catch. Time-stamped 5:33 AM, the catch had come 13 minutes after sunrise.
One species and 150 points in the bank, we quickly added an additional 100 pts as Jake recruited a surf caster down the jetty to help us complete the “Teach a Stranger to Fly Cast” challenge.
No easy task given Jake’s rod was a 10wt equipped with intermediate line, the surf caster acquitted himself nicely. And, by 5:40 AM, he had his casting stroke down, and we had tallied 300 total pts.
Striper in the rear view, we were on to the wooded streams of southern Rhode Island. Brook, Brown and Rainbow Trout were next on our list, and this particular watershed held the highest odds of checking all three boxes. 50 points each, they would only combine to equal the striper. However, every point counts in a multi-day tournament.
Turning our attention first to browns, we worked a stretch of slow water to no avail before quickly searching for rainbows down stream. While our only fish (a small rainbow) threw the hook, all was not lost as a brief video I recorded of a stream side beaver fulfilled the #MomentofChill challenge. Another 100 points tallied, we now stood at 400 as we redirected our efforts to a stretch of water that had produced both brook and rainbow trout the spring prior.
Brook Trout and Bonuses
Less than two hours removed from sunrise, we were feeling good as we pulled up to our brook trout spot. Smaller water than our previous stop, we worked our way quickly from pool to pool. With no hatch in sight, woolly buggers became our search pattern of choice with Jake’s small, white bugger fooling our first brookie of the morning.
When his rod bent again just five minutes later, it was not the rainbow trout we desired, but a more valuable fish: a chain pickerel! While not as impressive as the larger members of its genus, Esox niger counted just the same. And, with a brief video recorded, another 100 points was added to our total.
Another hour and no rainbow documented, we elected to move on. Warmwater was to follow, but a quick visit to Fin & Feather Outfitters would serve to check off the “Local Shop Stop” challenge along the way.
Though we had struck out on Rainbow and Brown Trout, we had still accrued 650 points and three species. Not bad considering less than five hours had elapsed since sunrise.
On a Roll
30 minutes removed from our visit to Fin & Feather, we arrived at a location where crappie had been abundant the year prior. Still rigged with woolly buggers, I struck first this time. Requiring only one cast, the small black crappie added an additional 50 points to our score.
Not to be outdone, Jake secured our first Sunfish of the tournament less than 90 seconds later. Our species count already at five, we were sitting at 750 points with nearly 10 hours of daylight remaining.
When Jake finally seduced a stubborn largemouth into striking 20 minutes later, we were truly on a roll. Not only had we tallied six species and 800 points by 11 AM, we had successfully landed the one fish (largemouth) that had kept us from the medal stand in 2021.
You never know what you might catch
Redirecting our attention to an urban stream that had produced a surprise stocker rainbow the year prior, we allotted roughly two hours to targeting both the aforementioned rainbow trout and white catfish. The latter of which Jake had observed in abundance on a prior electroshock survey.
As had been the case most of the morning, it was Jake who again shined at this location. Armed with a White & Pink hothead woolly bugger, he proceeded to draw the attention of a number of unexpected species. First landing not one, but two, Yellow Perch. Then, eliciting a follow from a 30″ common carp that tracked his fly for a solid 50 ft before turning at his rod tip.
Perch now checked off our list, we agreed to break for lunch around 1 PM. Seven species and 850 points down, we were feeling confident.
Carp still on the docket, lunch would be quick as we hoped to check off the 200 point species before turning our attention to larger striper as sunset approached.
A whole lot of nothing
Arriving at our final freshwater location just after 2pm, we proceeded to scour the shallow, clouded water for signs of life. Carp had been prevalent and feeding here the day prior, but seemed more disperse on this particular afternoon.
Worse still, they seemed inactive with only a few showing the tell tale signs of feeding fish. Unseasonably hot with temperatures approaching 90, a bait fisherman suggested the weather may have shut them down for the afternoon.
Two and half hours in, we admitted defeat. Still, before leaving, we turned our attention to two of three remaining challenges left to be fulfilled.
Each valued at 100 points, the “Bow & Arrow cast” and “Sight Fishing” challenges could be completed in tandem. So scouting the shallows, we set our sights on a school of bluegill staged in the shadows of some low hanging branches.
Completing both challenges on the third attempt, we uploaded the video and made our move back towards the coast. Now at 1050 pts and seven species, we were intent on completing the final challenge (SA Tippet Test/Longest Fish) before the sun set.
Reviewing the winds and tides one last time, Jake settled on a striper spot we had visited late Thursday afternoon. It had produced only smaller fish at the time, but Jake felt confident conditions had the potential to produce the type of fish we were now looking for.
Once again making our way to the mouth of the small tidal river, we began casting. When both of us hooked up within our first five casts, it appeared Jake had made the right call.
While neither fish was substantial, Jake’s did break the 20″ mark and was deemed worthy of the tape measure. At just over 22″, it would add an additional 220 points to our score.
Coupled with the 100 points for completing the challenge, we had quickly accrued an additional 320 points. 1370 points to our name, we were in good shape as dusk approached.
A quick detour to check out a nearby trout pond, and we’d be on the road to Syracuse.