July 28, 2021 – Long Island Sound
Jas and I scheduled a morning with Dave Flanagan for today. As Otto The Poodle was struggling, I thought of cancelling but then Dave is the kind of guy who would understand if we cancelled at the last minute so I let it ride. We confirmed on Monday the 26th.
Otto left this life on Tuesday. I went to cancel but Sue insisted we go. It is so very sad but getting out on the water is a healing act, so I agreed.
He met us at the dock early. His Jones Brothers open boat is solid and the trolling motor with its ability to “anchor” made positioning easy. When on my boat positioning was a constant chore that needed to be attended to while trying to cast a line. We worked the inside on the last of the outgoing.
Jason and Dave know each other from town, and Jas is a competent fisherman, so the trip was immediately comfortable for all of us. Besides, Dave is the kind of guy who is comfortable with anyone. I was working the rust out using my fly rod with a sinking line and a Clouser. Dave had other rods set up so I could switch to a popping fly and then an anchovy. Just another reason I enjoy taking a guide, even on local waters.
Outside the water was white capped and a north wind made things look uncomfortable. We worked the mouth of the harbor for a while with Jas and Dave getting hits as my fly went unmolested. Just being on the water is enough. I am okay with that. One schoolie striper on board – sign of a good day to come.
The tide reverses rapidly here with little placid low water. The turn is almost immediate. As it did the wind began to ease and we took a run to the inshore rocks. I switched to a spinner and plug for distance as we drifted in closer than I ever dared with the Grady.
With rocks you can pick a target and I notice Jason reaching them while I am short. He is getting better than the old man, as it should be. The caps laid down and we ran for the target water.
It looked unremarkable to the eye. On the screen there were fish hanging at about 60 feet. “Are they going to come up all that way for a popper?” Dave said “Just wait and see.” Jason worked a sporting spinner with a blue popper, single tailing hook and a treble at the mid-point. 40 pound fluoro for a leader. I have known blues that could slash through it and asked about graphite leader. Dave had confidence that the 40 would hold and if a bass comes along, we want fluoro on the line, not graphite. “Bass too?” “It’s happened” he says. I tell him I brought along some lures in case we lose some of his. He smiles and indicates not to worry.
As Jason works the stern I go to the bow and strip floating line off the 9 weight. Dave ties on a modified Deceiver with deer hair spun on the body to give it some pop. He then tosses a huge blond pencil popper with no hooks and proceeds to make it dance. He tells me to ready my line and as soon as we see a splash put the fly in front of the popper and strip like crazy. Before we had a chance Jason was into a fish and then another.
Back to the fly rod, my first few casts were pathetically short and inaccurate. It has been a while. Also I am not going up on the foredeck which is where I should be but those days (in this active water) have passed. No excuses. “Get it out there” I tell myself.
Stepping on line, slapping the back cast, not checking high enough, I did it all but got it out there. He says “Try to hit the popper, put it in its path, no need for hero casts.” Thanks Dave. Kind. Some fish hit way out of range but many well within it. I toss a few too far to the right but eventually get close enough that Dave can steer his popper, and the following fish, in my direction and I start to strip. “Faster” he says, “Faster.” Bang. Fish on.
Jason has another, and another. We are drifting and the fish are everywhere, most of them still showing very deep. We watch them come and follow and hit – it is thrilling. Dave tells of big bass being mixed in and pulling up alongside a hooked blue and him racing to get a second line in the water. Wow.
These are the things you don’t get to see with wire line and Mojo’s on the bottom. Top water is the best.
I guess I had 5 good runners on the fly and have to rest. Jas keeps getting hit until he has to take a break. It was amazing. No birds, no visible bait to be seen in the rough water. Just a guide who knows what he is doing.
We talked and reminisced. I have known Dave since he was a kid sitting in his Dad’s tackle shop. He learned to fly fish for trout from a mutual friend, Lee Hartman of Delaware River and Russian salmon fishing fame. He has helped me out with my mooring and always shares fish sighting with me when we run into each other at the bagel shop, and I with him.
“Albies are in.”
“Where did you see them?”
“Off the east parking lot.”
We motor back as we have drifted a distance. I pick up the rod and pull off line. Toss a 30 footer into the water as he flung his popper. I can pick up the 30 and haul maybe another 30 (on good days). Nothing on the first. I reset as did he. Nothing again. Third time was the charm. They hit it about 30 feet off the gunnel, two or three at once. I make the cast and strip. The Blue that won decides to run.
I mean they all run, right? But this guy really ran. I am soon into the backing and had line tight and out of the water for 50 yards. He finally slowed and then reversed as I cranked like mad to keep the line tight. He sulked a bit and I tapped the rod a few times hoping for a jump. I pump and wind down to regain the backing. Reminded me of tarpon off Islamorada.
Once the fly line is on the reel he takes a few more short runs. I tapped again but no jump. After a bit he came along side. Jason had one that weighed 10 pounds on the Boga Grip and he had a few that were larger than that one. This one was my biggest but just shy of the pool winner.
What a day and, as is always the case, my heart lifted a bit. I have salt water spray on my face and my hands hurt from the fights. I have a smile on my face, as does Jas who loved Otto as I did.
Thanks Dave for a great day.
Check Dave Flanagan out at: : www.Northislandfly.com (631) 935 5719.
I highly recommend him for fishers of all skill levels, both spin and fly, non-boaters and those who want to expand their boat fishing skills – he has also been known to bottom fish.