It was not one of those fabled days on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
The breeze feathered the tops of ocean rollers crashing onto sand. The sun rose golden on a perfect horizon of sea.
The surf fishermen stood in knee-deep wash waiting for the slashing pull that signifies big fish, the way legend says it comes every November in this sandy land of marauding marine giants.
But the slashing pull never came.
So goes another oversold fishing adventure.
If you call the surf-fishing shops on the Outer Banks, prosperity is always under way or imminent. After two days without a bite, I turned to the person nearest me in a mile-long string of unsuccessful beach fishermen and said:
"I can't understand it. I called the tackle shop and they said it should be great."
"Yep," he said, "that's a little like asking the wolf if it's okay to set the sheep out."
The woman at the rental car concession in Norfolk said her boyfriend was a surfer, and it puzzled her that, "Whenever we'd call, they'd say the surf was up, but a lot of times when we got there it was flat calm.
"Well," she reckoned, "I guess they have to make a living, too."
The Outer Banks in November is a swell place. Ducks and geese cram the Pea Island wildlife refuge, the air is sweet and salty, the sun can sparkle like June and, on the right day, the ocean is even warm enough for a quick, bracing dip.
But I, for one, will never go there again expecting to catch a giant Thanksgiving fish, no matter what anyone says.
Fishermen are gullible souls. They thrive on optimism and sometimes it costs them.
A few times every November, some bluefish in the 10- to 15-pound range crash the beach on the Outer Banks in pursuit of small bait. The angler lucky enough to be there, if he can steady his hand to cast a lure, has the opportunity at that time to experience "the blitz," during which he catches big fish on every cast over a frenzied span of time.
Hauling a mess of big fish out of a crashing surf being a major thrill, those who experience it do not keep it a secret. All the major outdoor magazines have tales this time of year about the storied Outer Banks blitz, and anyone you see on the beach has a saga of his own.
"Sure, I was there," says the fellow from Richmond. "Man had the back of a pickup loaded level with blues. He couldn't get off the beach for the trailer hitch draggin'."
What he won't tell you is that it was in 1974 and he got there three hours after it happened, just in time to hear the pickup man tell the story for the 33rd time.
And if you run into the pickup man, he's still telling it.
But fishermen, optimists, don't ask disparaging questions. They grab their tackle and run.
Which is how I came to be staring out at a surging November sea at the end of two days of Outer Banks surf fishing during which not one small fish took one small bite out of any of my juicy offerings.
Bruce Vaughan, my companion, had come from Bedfordshire, England, to partake in the purported bluefish blitz. Four-wheel-drive buggies from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York and New Jersey lined the Point at Cape Hatteras. From all accounts, nobody had caught anything of consequence for a full eight days, including five days of storm. And this in the prime of high season.
The problem is this: the surf-fishing stretches of Hatteras run 100 miles, from above Kitty Hawk south to Hatteras Village. At any time on any decent day, the blues could rampage into a slough anywhere along that stretch. With as many people fishing as there are in November, somebody will probably intercept them while the masses stand by elsewhere, waiting.
The lucky anglers then pass along their tales and the myth is perpetuated.
The futility factor of fishing where there are no fish is immense because there is nothing to do to improve one's chances. You can't fish any harder, change tactics, change baits. All you can do is wait for the blues to arrive, if ever.
"Say," said Vaughan halfway through our second fishless day, "I don't suppose there's a pond around where we might catch a carp, is there?"