Fenwick Island Beach runs true – from the Maryland state line until it crashes into the hulking high rise condominiums that mark South Bethany. Bordering part dusty beach town, part preserved state park, it’s a pristine stretch of shoreline that varies little in the way of indentations, points, out-croppings or distinguishable changes in terrain.
The relatively featureless nature of the shoreline presents a challenge. It is not entirely clear where one should fish. The only thing to be sure of is that this is not the place to stand still and fish. Either by 4×4 or on foot, I keep moving here – looking for schools of fish, working birds, signs of life. There are few obvious answers. The truck allows me to creep the shoreline looking for rips and eddies. Anything that indicates structure. I learned, when I began marking good rips with a GPS, that they can move from day to day. I knew the ever-changing nature of the beach, but had apparently underestimated it’s speed.
On the more popular beaches, north of here, you could find a rocky outcropping, an old wooden jetty or an outfall pipe – structure that screams to be fished. The rips are more pronounced, and the nature of the receding waves reveal the secrets of what lies beneath the surf. On these less-structured beaches, a slight diversion in a returning wave tells me much about what’s down there. Where the water goes, so does the food. That water recedes to a single point – the low lying area, or the hole in the sand bar or shore. The crabs, shrimp and baitfish all get flushed in there like sesame seeds up a straw. This can be seen from far away on other beaches, but here, you usually have to be on-top of it to see the diversion; the wave that rolls in straight and rolls out to one side or the other. The taddle-tale.
On an incoming tide, preferably the flood stage, that little rip becomes a potential feeding chute for hungry predators. Where the wave breaks – right on the beach – that’s where the ledge drops of from ankle-deep to knees-wet – the first three feet of trough littered with pebbles and shells. It creates a perfect high tide channel for traveling flounder and feeding trout, croaker, blues or bass. Between my food chute, and my flat-fish superhighway, I’ve established only one thing. There is an outside possibility I’ll find a fish here.
Summer is rough fishing. Things slow down, and there is no comparison between the dog days and the spring or fall. Catching fish is hard work when the temperatures are up. Ignoring those realities, I cast into the subtle rips. I use different retrieves from different angles. Stripping fast, down and across. Reverse current. The occasional dead drift to mimic bait being washed into the chute. Most times, you come up empty. You move on, down the beach, reading carefully, looking for the next scenario to navigate. You cast less than you watch.
Summer is over here, and we are awaiting striped bass and bluefish runs into October, when the surf fishing becomes a little better, but remains a staunch challenge for a fly angler. We look forward to hooking up with a fish that will erase all the fruitless casts of summer. Yeah, summer can be tough. But sometimes, the right cast, at the right time, on the right featureless shoreline gets the job done, and in the hot months, not matter how big or small the catch, it feels like shooting the whiskers off a cat at 150 yards.