Over the last 10 years I have slowly but steadily transitioned to less fly fishing and more (spin) surfcasting. The reason for this has been the quest for bigger and bigger fish (striped bass). Where I fish, the options from shore are back bay stuff, open sand beaches, inlets, and Montauk. And when I say Montauk, I mean mainly the rocky south side to Ditch Plains or The North side to Shag. My roots, are in the open sand beaches. That is where I learned to fish the surf. I started out as a kid in Nantucket, casting rangers in to the Great Point Rip for huge bluefish and then for striped bass, albies, and the occasional spanish mackerel. I have never not fished, but during high school and college, I fished way less than I do now. For the last 20 years 90% of my fishing has been on the east end of Long Island. As I matured as a fisherman (still waiting to mature as an adult ;) fly fishing became more my thing...not that I didn't always have a spin rod nearby, but fly fishing almost seemed to be more effective in the places I fished. I will never be one of those guys that just fly fishes, not that there is anything wrong with that, I just like all types of fishing. I've even been know to dead stick clams in the surf while enjoying the beach with my family. For years, my fishing season would begin the last weekend in April, at night, on fly on a back bay outflow somewhere in eastern Long Island (east of Hampton Bays). As the weather warmed, I would slowly move east. By the time June would arrive I'd be catching striped bass on the flats during the day and on the outgoing tides at night. By the time July was almost over I would begin fishing Montauk at night from the surf and mostly with a spinning rod. The allure of Montauk is the reality of bigger fish and the ability to target them in specific locations on specific tides and weather conditions. Slowly over time, it's been that allure which has changed me to only fishing Montauk, only with a spinning rod, and only at night. Don't get me wrong, you can, and I do fish Montauk with a fly rod but it's not easy, and for me not that productive. The fish I'm hitting in Montauk are often at the end of a cast with a 10' lami. Plus, fishing the open surf with a fly rod at night is very messy. So what's the problem? For the last few years, the fishing has not been what it was. Especially last year, for me, it was not a good one. To start with, I fished less, because of family obligations and marathon training and when I did get out I had lackluster results. In order for me to fish Montauk, It's a 30 minute drive, and often times a 30 minute walk to where I like to fish, so that's 2 hours of just travel time. To go through all that effort and then get skunked is not fun (on top of that I miss a night of sleep). I don't mind if I don't catch fish...I do love the hunt, but if I'm going through all that effort it would be nice. I'm not sure why, but during the winter I have developed a strong desire to go back to my roots. That being, fly fishing back bays at night and open sand beaches closer to home. I can 100% guarantee that I catch fish every night and only have to drive 5 minutes. The problem is the size. Hmmmmm....what to do? How has your fishing developed over the years?
It's probably no surprise to anyone with a pulse who fishes for stripers on the East coast but they're back and it's time to start hunting. For me this means that my life of lurking around the waters on the East end of Long Island in the dark is back and I'm happy. I can't adequately describe the feeling I get when I know that in a few hours I'll be driving from spot to spot looking for stripers. Depending on the tides, most Friday and Saturday nights, I'm up at about 1AM (the car is always loaded the night before) and about 5 minutes later I'm on the road.
This time of year my 1st spot is usually one of the back sections of Shinnecock Bay in Southampton, NY. I started fishing this area about 4 years ago and have always landed my 1st fly caught striper there, but not this year. For some reason I had a feeling the fish were going to be out of the reach of my fly rod so I took one of my light tackle Sage spinning rods (I'm not sure if they make these anymore but they are sweet when the fly won't do the trick). As always, the first thing I do when I get to the water is stop well before I get to my spot just to see if I hear any pops. If I don't (actually even if I do) I shine my light into the water to see what kind of bait I see. This usually ends with me trying to grab whatever I see. This past Friday night, I didn't see what I was hoping to see (adult bunker) but I did see what appeared to be spearing mixed with some unknown other type of small bait.
One of the benefits of fishing at night is that there are usually no other people around, but to my dismay, when I got to my spot on Friday night there were three other cars in the lot and of course, they were fishing fishing in my spot ;)... This turned out to be a good thing as it forced me to fish new water and ultimately find the fish. As always my surf bag was packed with all sorts of things but the first and only thing I tied on was a chicken scratch bomber (today I was thinking that if I could only fish one plug for the rest of my life this would be it for sure). I waded wayyyyyyyyyy out into the bay and off to my left at the end of a rounded point I could hear fish popping. Being that this was a relatively new section for me I didn't want to wade to far out into the darkness but I managed to get close enough to the splashes to hook my 1st striper of the year. And while it didn't feel as good as it would have had I landed it on fly I was still happy to be back in the game. (FYI, I'm equally happy on fly or spin, but for the past 4 years my 1st has always come on fly) I landed a few others, nothing huge (nor was I expecting them to be in this spot) but again I was happy.
During this trip it wasn't the fish I caught but the two that got away (isn't it always) My reel was spooled up with 30# PP with a 15# fluorocarbon leader. I'll never really know what they were or how big but they felt nice. They were probably big blues but in the back of my head I'm almost convinced that they were big weakfish..... :) This never gets old!