Beach Camp

Toro or jack crevalle

by Scott Sadil

They’re not for everyone.

In an era of decked-out Sprinter vans, instant satellite communications, thousand-dollar-a-day luxury lodges, and more ways than once imaginable to indulge oneself in the modern angling experience, the idea of pitching tents on a sandy windswept beach on the off chance of encountering wild fish in the surf doesn’t necessarily invite a long line of eager participants.

I’m often out there alone.

It’s hard to say what keeps so many others away.  I don’t buy the notion that folks today don’t want to sleep on the ground—or as one friend once told me, “You lie down in one of those little tents long enough, one day you’ll wake and you won’t be able to get up.”

Beach camp

Nor can it be something as simple as the sand that finds its way into every fiber of your bedding and clothes, every moving part of your gear, every cooking and eating utensil and every bite of your food.

“That’s not dirt,” I like to say.  “It’s sand.”

Sadly, I suspect that some of the distaste for beach camps shared by the current corps of angling adventurers has to do with the absolute uselessness one often discovers for cell phones, computers, or most every other means of modern communication.  How can you do without?  

In a remote camp recently with my old friend and fishing partner, Peter Syka, we were visited by two officers from the naval base on the island, who arrived to tell us our site was off limits.  We had no idea.  When we explained that we couldn’t leave until our pangeros arrived as planned the following morning, Capitan Torres suggested we contact our guys by phone or radio—or whatever other means we had with us in case of an emergency.  

Peter Syka

I felt a slight but sudden twinge of panic.  Really, what in the hell are a couple of old farts all but 70 years old doing camped on a desert island without some way to reach out for help?  I hadn’t ever thought of it in quite that way.

Then again, we’d never allowed a lack of means of communication home, or to anywhere else, stop us before.

Beach camp visitor

Still, I don’t know, maybe it’s time to rethink this.  In a fresh camp we fashioned the next day after our scheduled panga ride, we sat after fishing and a dinner of reheated burritos, brought from port, in the luxury of two beach chairs overlooking the water, our shadows stretched across the sand from the almost full moon rising behind us.  Peter was especially garrulous; an initiation into roosterfish along an empty stretch of beach will loosen any angler’s tongue, even in a camp without so much as a hip flask of tequila.  

The discussion turned, as it often does with old folks, to the past—how we met in college 50 years ago and what we were doing then.  Peter mentioned my less-than-rigorous interdisciplinary major, my stint as a sports columnist for the university newspaper, the six months I took off during my sophomore year to drive the coast to Costa Rica, surfing all the way.  Lot’s happened since then, he concluded, both of us deep into reflections, I presumed, into private thoughts about our own separate and very different lives.

Suddenly, we both started laughing.

“And look how far you’ve come,” Peter said, the moonlight and faint stars and murmur of breaking waves colluding to make the point perfectly clear.

Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil still takes an undue amount of pride in the number of days he sleeps on the ground each year.