I arrived in New York City three days ago. I can see the Manhattan skyline from the window of my apartment in Red Hook. Two blocks from the water, with a perfect view of NY harbor towards the southeast. My room smell like fish. More accurately, it reeks. In a bad way.
I’m here for work, and I’ll be here for three months. I’m itching to catch my first striped bass, prized fly rod trophy for most East coast salty fly rodders. I’ve tried before without success. This time round I have time (and timing) on my side. More importantly, I also have Brent Flack-Davison on my side. Essential, local knowledge is key. It’s spring and the fish are moving…
Thanks to jet lag, I’m awake long before Brent picks me up at six am. Soon, we’re crossing the Verrazano Bridge from the borough of Brooklyn over to Staten Island. Brent is like a bloodhound and he’s caught scent of some immanent early season action. The weather is seriously throwing us a curveball though. The forecast predicted warm and balmy. We got handed cold and windy instead.
Brent takes me to an estuary where bluefish are believed to be stacking up. They’re warming up in back bays and rivers and will spread out onto the beaches as soon as it starts warming up a bit more. Apparently they’re lean and ravenous this time of the year. We’re fishing New Jersey today, and as the fish move up from the south and they’ll arrive here sooner than NY and Long Island. In the parking lot we have a discussion about waders, jay or nay. Thank fuck we decided to put them on, we would have both frozen to death. Honestly. Think rowing against the icy wind and current with spray covering you and wind chill factor that will make a polar bear shit icicles.
We’re on the water sooner than I was prepared for. “Get your shit ready” Subtle hint from Brent that he’s amped AF. The current carries us underneath the bridge and into the zone. While I’m trying to manage stripping off flyline, Brent shoots off a hookless plug. He starts winding and as soon as the thing hits the surface, chaos erupts behind it. Bluefish in big packs trying to terminate the thing. Naturally I’m shaking so much with buck fever and excitement that I screw up he first couple of casts. But after the first fish boated we settle into the rhythm and for he next few hours absolute insane action as we get chases and smashes from lean, hungry, early season bluefish. Big blues!
I honestly don’t know how to describe the amount of fish to my buddies at home. Everything on topwaters. In the Western Cape, we’ll consider it a great session if we get, say, three kob or ten leeries in a session. On Sunday, if we didn’t get chases for five or so casts, we’d be like “where did the fish disappear to man?”
The highlight of the day was me trying to photograph Brent’s fish with my fly dangling next to the kayak, when my rod almost get pulled of the side as a bluefish grabbed the static popper. Picture this; me with a flyrod clenched between my teeth as a big blue is peeling line off the reel, while I’m taking pics of Brent’s ‘gator blue’.
Back home I tried to scrub the bluefish snot off my waders. Soap and hot water should do the trick I hoped, but alas, it didn’t. Hence the whiff of fish whenever I get in close proximity of my waders. But it’s a good stench, filled with promise. If day three is the start of my three months here, I say bring it on!