Sunday, May 17, 2009

Surfing & Fishing the VA/NC line

Turn off the lip with just a little spray, Virginia Beach at dawn

Even with 56 degree water on a weekday, 2-4' clean surf brings out a circus at Virginia Beach's 1st Street Jetty
Work took me back to my land of endless summers, Virginia Beach. Far from a perfect beach location, Virginia Beach aka "the 757" is a place notoriously unfriendly to the eco-traveller, and even the travelling sportsman. Police routinely harass surfers, kayakers are often buzzed by Donzi jet boats, and dueling gangs of suburban yuppies, rednecks, and military guys drink too much and get on the water with frightening regularity, just to cause conflicts with each other. Many of the waters are heavily polluted from years of industrial (chemical) production, electricity production, and shipbuilding - fish consumption advisories are in place for at least some species in almost all rivers. Deer hunting is challenging, as few landowners or hunters practice Quality Deer Management, and the bird hunting is more challenging, since non-hunting landowners can, and do, license "dummy blinds" on their shorelines to prevent other hunters from using that section of marsh or river.
So why go back? The "tidewater" area is still a wonderful place to me because it holds the challenge of finding opportunities to recreate. The resources are still present to have a great time, if you have the right attitude.....and a back-up plan. Why else? Just like your hometown, there's no escaping the fact that these roads, marshes, beaches, and neighborhoods hold my personal history closely. The first wave I ever caught on a bodyboard (Sandbridge Beach). The first fish I remember catching (Harwoods Mill Reservoir) (a yellow perch), the first time I piloted a boat entirely under sail (Poquoson River Mouth), and the first time I danced in a meadow with a girl (Yorktown National Historical Park). So..home is home...and to be elaborated upon further in a future post...

Two riders split a thigh-high mushburger...typical east coast windswell

So..back to my original story. A 3-day trip sent me back home (well, close) with a full plate of work tasks, but a flexible schedule. Arrived at Nutty's house (not linking him until he updates his page!) around 8pm on thursday and settled in. A very shifty wind forecast had me leave my saltwater fishing gear at home, and instead bring a surfboard, wetsuits, and my ultralight freshwater gear with me. Checked the forecast for friday morning: SW 10 at 6am, switching to NE 10-20 by 10am. Possibilities? I went to bed and set my alarm for about an hour before sunrise. Woke up, checked the wind forecast....SSW 6kt! Jumped in the truck and hit the oceanfront.


Buoy had showed 4.9' SE @ 7 seconds but the surf was clean and consistent 2-3' with 4' sets about every 20 minutes. Buoy also showed 67 degree water, so I suited up in a long-sleeve / short bottom 2mm suit. Hit the water and wished I had thought about that a little longer - water on the outside was clearly in the mid-60s, but the shallows were much colder, between 53 and 56, I'd guess. Had a dry paddle out, and a nice first wave, so only got wet (and flushed) on the return paddle to the lineup. As anyone could have predicted, there were consistently 15-20 guys in the water from 1st street to 6th street, but everyone was in good spirits.


Had a good mix of waves, despite my rusty style (hadn't been to the gym in a month, or surfed "real waves" in 2 years). Take-offs were steep by southeastern US standards, but "playful" by Northeast or west coast standards. Lots of guys were wiping out on takeoff but, after 12 years of surfing Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, I'm proud to say I didn't miss a single take-off. Had it been a little warmer, or had I been surfing with friends, I probably would have thought a little more about my style, making sweeping turns off the lip and other moves that were definitely possible with these little lines, but I was rusty, cold....and just having fun. Around 730am, the wind switched hard, sending the lineup into a tailspin - what had been a consistent south longshore current turned into a series of gyres that were sending some surfers north, and other surfers south. After battling the current for about 15 minutes, I called it quits. Best surf in 2 years and it wasn't even 8am! I cleaned myself off and headed out for my day's work.

Dismal Swamp Canal, present day
After work, Nutty and I decided to hit an area up for fishing that we had not tried before - the Dismal Swamp Canal that "flows" north to south across the NC/VA border. The Canal, and the Swamp, will be the feature of a few upcoming posts, so if you're curious for now, here's a great resource. Depending on your opinion, it is either a pristine or a God-Forsaken place, holding one of Virginia's two (TWO) natural lakes, covering 110,000 acres of swamp, and potential created by a meteor impact. Anyhow....Weather was tough: 85 degrees, 100% humidity, and thunderstorms in the area. Of course, we forgot the camera also. Supposedly, there is small craft access to said Canal, and we wanted to scope that out, more than we intended to actually catch fish. In Virginia, the Canal is newly accessible via the Canal Trail, which is actually the abandoned alignment of US Route 17.
Nutty and I tried a whole slew of artificial lures in the black, acidic water, including a ton of half-hearted nibbles on white 1" mister twister grubs, finally getting lucky with a 1/16oz white rooster tail vibric (silver) spinner. The unlucky quarry? Black crappie. We started catching them with a vengeance...had ourselves a nice little time, and released them all when we were done (fish consumption warning). Felt great to work a full day's work, go surfing, AND catch fish in the same day. Had an excellent Mexican dinner with Nutty and his wife, and was thrilled to be fast asleep by 11pm. Sometimes happiness really IS that simple.
Eastern half of the Great Dismal Swamp, showing the VA/NC border


wishbone said...

Glad you had a great time!

tugboatdude said...

the swamp rules!I'm glad you told me about the new canal trail.I think nutty and I will have to take the canoe and try that out in June.Oh I almost forgot,never doubt the rooster tail my friend,it always comes through in the clutch

{nUtTyPrOfFeSsOr} said...

aw snap! That place was so snarf marshy and swampy, even the mosquitos were wet! (unfortunately with my blood sample)

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

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