Saltwater Flyfishing for Blues
- A First Time Experience
By: Peter Kane
Names like Willowemoc, Beaverkill,
Chichester and Rondout all bring to mind those early summer evenings
when flies are hatching and every cast of a Light Hendrickson
brings a rise to the surface. Red wing blackbirds singing in the
background and the babbling of water over protruding rocks all
set the stage for one of my typical trout fishing ventures. I
am fortunate enough to live near all of these streams and getting
out for a few hours is not difficult to do. On the other hand
when it comes time to run a charter on Long Island Sound it requires
a two hour ride to Clinton, Connecticut and at least an hour of
preparation in anticipation of meeting my customers. I enjoy both
events immensely, they just differ in most aspects of fishing.
Until this past September when my customer came on board with
his fly rod and assorted flies.
Most of my charters on the Sound
focus on fishing for blues. September is one of the better times
to catch them up on the surface in the typical feeding frenzy
they are famous for and it is also a time of the year when they
tend to run larger. Techniques will vary depending upon the customer
and their knowledge of fishing. For the neophyte, I may troll
umbrellas on thirty pound mono. When a hook-up occurs it is not
uncommon to get doubles or even triples and they love it! The
fury and excitement of someone blue fishing for the first time
is the antithesis of wading the Beaverkill on that summer evening.
With a more experienced angler on board I often break out the
light spinning tackle and toss surface plugs into the melee of
chomping and splashing. This requires the ability to cast and
work the fish a bit more as the line on the spinning reels is
much lighter - you can't "crank them in" the way you could with
the heavier gear. But I had never considered fly casting for them.
Most likely because it requires a fair degree of skill to work
a fish on a fly rod and I could just see my investment in fly
fishing tackle taking a trip to the briny deep or being broken
by an inexperienced fisherman.
On this particular Saturday morning last September
we approached one of my favorite areas known as the "horseshoe"
or west rip about six mile out in the Sound. On an incoming this
area produces a horseshoe shaped rip about a half mile in length
and it is rare that you do not have fish feeding there; both stripers
and blues. This day was typical as numerous birds were working
the surface in two or three different areas. There was a moderate
west wind resulting in a chop of two feet or so with waves in
the rip running three to four. Initially we trolled through the
rip from west to east and as we passed through it I would stem
the current so our lures would stay put with their action being
produced by the water rushing over the ridge below.
Hook ups were constant and within an hour or so
we had caught and released up to two dozen blues all of considerable
size. It was time to try the fly rod. The technique was basically
the same as far as the boat and I were concerned. I would stem
the current just "upstream" of the rip and my customer would cast
into the waters before the rip and let the fly work back into
it. He was using a large bright blue streamer and it attracted
fish on every cast. That was the easy part. Fighting an eight
to ten pound bluefish on a fly rod took considerable skill and
On occasion I would let the boat drift back into
the rougher water by backing off on the throttles and then move
forward again while the fly was cast and worked almost the same
way you would work a parachute jig on wire. In this case however,
you do not use the rod. Instead you work the line in your free
hand and raise the rod to set the hook.
Now, I do not often do this but the
fellow I had on board was an experienced boater and when he suggested
that I try it I was more than happy to let him take the helm. I
lost fish on the first two casts but finally got the idea. You really
have to let the fish do what he wants and then take advantage when
he moves towards you or is tired enough to allow you to take line.
Much like fishing with any other type of rod except much more intense
and requiring more skill.
When fishing for blues it is also very
important to use a leader that will tolerate their teeth! We used
a flexible black wire and a tiny crimp when joining it to the fly
and snap swivel. The rod and reel were designed for saltwater use
and I honestly do not remember the make or size.
The experience impressed me so much that last
evening I started perusing the catalogs for saltwater fly fishing
equipment with the intent to purchase two setups with some assorted
flies and surface poppers. Advertising fly fishing as one of my
methods of catching fish can only add to the repertoire of the
business and who knows, perhaps with a more practice I can even
offer instruction as well!