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Hello and welcome back to the blog! I can’t believe that Labor Day is already behind us and Halloween candy is already clogging the shelves at the grocery store. This year has been a weird one, with COVID, lockdowns, and restrictions every time you turn around. In some aspects, t’s felt like it has been dragging by, while in others I still feel like it should only be May or June. Summer hasn’t really felt like summer without some of my usual activities, but we did manage to get away for the weekend just before my birthday and hit up Montauk State Park for a little fishing and camping adventure.
I used to go to Montauk every summer with my grandparents from age seven until I turned 16, and I always loved the park! I almost always stayed in their camper, but this time we packed up our tent and bikes and chose a basic spot to set up camp in. When the parks first opened back up, you had to make reservations, but I think there were a few spots available for first come, first serve when we were leaving on Sunday. If you’re trying for a weekend trip, I highly recommend making a reservation in advance!
We left the house Friday morning, and after stopping for lunch, we made it to the park around one in the afternoon. We had a friend already there and met up with him while we waited to check into our campsite. We grabbed our trout tags at the lodge, and then fished for a bit with our ultralight setups. I got maybe 20 minutes of fishing in, and then my reel started to jam up on me. It almost felt like there was sand or something grinding away in there, but I don’t know where it would have come from. I need to take it apart and see what the issue was. We headed back to the lodge, and I was able to buy a new reel. We decided to cruise around and check out our campsite and see if we could check in a little earlier than the usual 3 p.m. check in time.
We checked in and got our camp all set up. We used our tent that we camp with when we go kayak camping, which is nice, but for this type of camping, I’d almost like a tent that was a little roomier and that you could almost stand up in. So that may be a future investment. We also got these little outdoor rugs from Amazon to put outside each of our tent doors to have a place to put our shoes and such, without worrying about tracking dirt or debris into the tent. We put my EZ Up canopy over the picnic table and added these fun little battery-powered LED lights around the edge, and then also used our inflatable solar-powered lantern (that also doubles as a charger!) as like the main light. It has a strap with snaps that allow it to be hung from a support, so we hung it in the middle of the canopy and also used it in the tent, hanging it from a loop at the peak of the tent roof.
After getting camp set up, we headed out to fish a little more prior to the evening buzzer. We started out with our ultralights again, but both of us soon wound up with a tangled mess of line, so we decided to break out the fly rods instead. So we suited up in our waders (I’ll make another post highlighting my fishing gear!) and assembled our rods and headed out to the fly only portion of the river. After spending a few minutes getting tangled in everything under the sun, I finally got some good casts out there, but had no hits. I figured part of my issue was that I was tying flies onto my leader, and hadn’t put any tippet on yet. Since my leader is tapered, I was getting toward the thicker end of it, and trout can be fairly persnickety about your line set up. Since I was also dying from hunger, we decided to call it a night on fishing and head back to camp for dinner.
Since we had space and nearly unlimited weight capacity, we opted to bring our 22-inch tabletop Blackstone griddle. We have a larger Blackstone at home which I cook on quite a bit, so this felt like the proper choice for camping. I made tacos, smash burgers, omelets, and chicken sliders on it over the course of our weekend. My handy little packable sink and our modified washing station made clean up super easy. Our big jug of water for washing up lasted us all weekend.
We got up around six in the morning to head out fishing Saturday morning. The starting buzzer goes off at 7 during the summer months, so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to buy our tag, get to our chosen area, and get set up prior to the buzzer going off. Trout typically feed best in the morning and evening hours, so you want to be casting out as soon as the buzzer goes off. We were by ourselves for a little bit of time, and then a larger group of guys rolled in, so we chose to move upstream a bit and that’s where I landed my first ever rainbow trout (first fish actually) on my fly rod! I was ridiculously excited about it, almost as excited as when I shot my first deer. Unfortunately, before we could get a picture with my fish, I dropped it back in the water when it wiggled out of my hands. Whoops! Matt caught his first fish shortly after that, as well. After another 30 or so minutes, we decided to head back to camp and make breakfast. We fished the river a bit behind our camp after lunch before heading back to the spot we were at the previous evening. We both fished a bit more and I managed to catch two more trout that evening and successfully got pictures of them before letting them go back into the water. Then we headed back for dinner via headlamp before hanging around our little fire for a while.
The next morning we headed out to fish near where we were the previous morning and we both caught fish about 10 or so minutes after the buzzer went off. No pictures this time, but we had so much fun fishing. After we fished for a while, we decided to head back to camp for breakfast and to pack up, before taking a little tour of the park and fish a little more before leaving. We took a little trail to see the spring where the Current River (that runs through Montauk) originates and walked through one of the hatchery pool areas. The mill was closed, and I don’t know if you can see the inside of it anymore, but it used to be open to the public and you could see the inside and they had a room set up like an old-time post office, which was cool.
About Montauk State Park
Montauk State Park officially became a park in 1926. Coming in at just under 3000 acres, it houses the headwaters of the Current River. There are four camping loops, which hold a total of 149 campsites. Three loops have electrical hook-ups, while one loop remains as a basic/primitive campsite area. There are several cabin options, as well as hotel rooms attached to the lodge. The lodge is home to the diner, general store, and supplies. This is also where you purchase your daily trout tag, which is $4 (trout tags are cash-only, while the lodge accepts card payment for everything else).
There are two hatchery areas within the park, and each night they stock fish based off of tag sales. Most trout within the water are rainbow, but there are also brown trout out there as well.
The campground has two shower houses with restrooms, and they also have a small laundry facility in one of the shower houses. They give you a recycle bag to put your plastic bottles and aluminum cans into, which they collect at the end of your stay. Generally, there are park programs put on there by the naturalist, so make sure to check out the schedule near the amphitheater to see if there is a program that interests you.
There is very minimal cellphone service in the park. I have Verizon and had zero services in the park and the immediate surrounding area. Matt has Sprint and had ok service in the park. There is wifi available at the lodge.
The park is well maintained and has quiet hours after 10 p.m. There are also several handicap accessible camping spots and cabins, as well as many different handicap accessible areas through the park for fishing and other activities. Some places have not yet been modified for handicap use.
All in all, it was a great camping weekend! I couldn’t have had a better time just hanging out and relaxing. I didn’t even take that many pictures (most of these are courtesy of Matt!) because I hardly thought about my phone since it had no service. We are planning another camping trip out there a little later this month, fingers crossed for good weather. I’ll be sure to take along my camera and hopefully catch some video footage and more pictures for you while I’m there this time!