Surfcasters have space now. Space to cast, to walk, even to park.
Mornings have been airbrushed with woodstove smoke, still sweet for its newness. Spots have become secret again as we rediscover what we knew was there all along. Surfcasters know nothing is lost just because calendars display perfect foliage or trickling brooks under covered red bridges. Fall surfcasting can be some of the best.
Nothing is lost when seasons and temperatures adjust. Fish are still hungry and we are the same.
Fall surfcasters know fish hold not just where there is parking but more often, thankfully, at the end of long paths.
In Narragansett, Whale Rock Trail slinks off the old Baker Road with a small announcement clinging to bushes before everything becomes private and stapled with signs. The Nature Conservancy preserved 65 acres of brush, vines and damp earth here, all of which leads to the sea but there is much to see before any first casts. Summer traffic patterns turned spindly grasses brown but this season, it is leaves and thin, dried branches that brown the floor.
You approach the path after walking a field’s edge thatched with dying grasses. You step past white and tan mushrooms evicting soft ground upward, building shade for their spores.
This is Nature’s house; we are merely visitors
Some slide around rotting stumps like thick white paint seeping from a can.
Above everything, Nature has begun laying down her new Fall carpet.
The path takes hours that first pass, or so it seems. After a smattering of smashed grapes on dirt, much of the way is raised wood timbers. Click-clack, click-clack is the sound of fishermen’s cleats. Each step signals your arrival, each brings you closer to saltwater.
Whitewood asters light up edges throughout.
The very same grapes which consumed the summer recede now; dark brown vines exposed for their creep with long twists meant to overtake high maple canopies. In earliest September, their sour greens began to sweeten with sun and salt air, their smells gifting walkers visions of jams and jellies. Under a shroud of autumn colors, it’s worth a pause, to breathe in deeply, to experience the quiet of crickets. Surfcasters march like knights, long surf rods positioned forward, preventing damage from the battle with bending junipers or crooked maples. Dozens of perpendicular paths are shrouded in a web of green vines, arteries for rainwater and nocturnal animals.
It was a busy, loud summer.
Here and there are views of splendid stacked stones where deer have built doors where man wanted walls.
Robert Frost gave us, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know, what I was walling in or walling out.”
Click clack, click clack.
A few hundred feet in, thick patches of Dogbane Apocynum hold tightly their green berries while below, several still single red beads hang, unclaimed by starlings or jays.
Another hundred steps deeper, past dark vines to trip up the aimless, is a leaning white birch signaling a return to wood boards. Cinnamon ferns lean in, silently brushing against waders.
“The Kingdom is divinely planned, man cannot remake it,” Lao Tzu
Fishermen working the second shift know this path is light then dark then light again, depending on depth and distance. Again, the wood path ends. 39 steps on land again. One final step reveals a warm spot for small snakes to rest unconcerned for the alert of click and clack until the last moment. Click clack, click clack over rock striped from cleats coming and going, fresh tracks of off-season traffic.
There are dozens of bends and twists.
One small green and white sign marks start, one finish yet middle ground is not so fixed. Always behind the flutter of some bird unseen, middle ground shifts with winds, existing temporarily where the hum of distant vehicles blends with, then finally, thankfully, is overtaken by waves and rocks rolling. For a few steps, they are similar but sirens fade and a different call is heard. One, two, maybe three hundred steps remain.
Wise fishermen accept the mile with equal regard for the journey, not simply the delivery. Emerging at last, metal fencing greets adjusting eyes.
There are ditches and piping, trapped waters and the mechanics of security and prevention.
No Trespassing signs hang opposite patches of poison ivy delivering similar messages. This stretch doesn’t refresh imaginations like the prior one. The planked floor is dry, less worn, cleaned by easterly rains.
Click clack, click clack.
To the right are bland buildings, sensible vinyl siding and more warnings. Later, headlamps may reveal deer returning gazes from inside the fence, safe behind the signs.
Just before a final building, rundown and spotted with plywood windows, regular tides deliver flotsam and dying seaweed. For fishermen, it’s almost delicious for our senses because we are close now. Jamestown, Beavertail, the basement of Whale Rock Lighthouse before us.
At twilight, every small wave surely is a fin, every small splash a tail. Striped bass hunt all through these rocks, which affords us peace, adventure, and a place to rest after such a walk. Surfcasters know this is Fall heaven.
Returning in darkness, your single beam of light adds mystery to a winding wood path, reminding you to look up for any last throes of natural light.
Click clack, click clack.
It’s a quicker pace in a wood alive with frogs, crickets and nesting birds unhappy for your disturbance. It’s three big steps up, into the dimness of that meadow mowed high for maintenance and cover, where it’s worth another pause to hear a breeze bending tiger grasses two moments before chokecherries and thin oaks rustle around you.
In warm months, fireflies flashed courtship codes here, seen by only a lucky few.
Nothing is lost when seasons and temperatures change and much is regained on a long path, in the dark, with the click-clack of a fisherman’s boot, a beach full of stones and a sea full of fish.
We are all hungry in the fall.