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Thom Glace, the award winning watercolorist’s commissioned striper is one of the best illustrations of Morone saxatilis. Visit his website here . . .

Capt. Andrew Derr is one of the most important light tackle fishing guides in Eastern Long Island, New York (Greenport and Montauk). Andrew’s contributions to protecting that environment are well known. He has also written extensively for this publication since 2002, spending several years managing us as editor-in-chief. During his guiding years in Key Largo, he co-authored the popular book Fly Fishing the Florida Keys. Derr has traveled extensively, several hosting fellow anglers, one such trip being to Seychelles’ Astove Island—the feature of this story, reposted with permission. Image Fooled by a fly. Long Island, New York. A North Fork flats striper cooperated recently. Capt. Andrew Derr image.

Sight fishing the flats, the best fly fishing there is

By Captain Andrew Derr /  Long Island On The Fly

My absolute favorite season is soon upon us. Flats fishing for stripers on Long Island during May and June is the culmination of all my favorite components of this sport. The fact that this season comes after a somewhat dogged winter makes it even sweeter, but the true pleasure is derived from seeing these beautiful creatures in 2-feet of often gin-clear saltwater. It is pure sight fishing for striped bass, which is enough to keep me coming back. But the coolest component of this sub-sport is the chance to cast to, fish to, and fight a truly big striped bass in very shallow water. Every body movement is seemingly magnified, from the fish’s approach to the flat, its approach to the fly, the take, the head shake, and the run. It’s all better in clear and shallow water. And when you are not casting to a fish, you are scanning and searching for them with one of the most beautiful backdrops imaginable. All of this is 2 hours from JFK Airport.

A gorgeous flats specimen. Photo: B. McCarthy

Last year, we found some large fish and many fish from the well-documented and productive 2011 spawning class. Those fish should be getting to a nice size now (maybe 30-inches or so), and I welcome their return from their southern jaunt soon. On a side note, last years spawning class – reported to be even more successful than the prior class, which is great news for those of us concerned with overharvesting this susceptible species. Those fish are the future of this sport.

A hog – Photo: A. Derr

When I moved out to the East End 17 years ago, we had some stellar April fishing in Peconic Bay and Gardiner’s Bay. So few people were on the bay at that time of year, and less boat traffic and jet skis meant more relaxed flats-dwelling bass. Early fish tend to be hungry from the trip North and, in turn, tend to have their guard down a touch. All of that makes tricking a large fish in shallow water easier. And that is really what it’s all about. We get going in May in an average year, which is always worth the wait.

This beauty was caught and released in extremely shallow water. Photo: A. Derr

This style of fishing is extremely similar to bonefishing. The type of boat used is designed for bonefishing on the flats of Florida and the Bahamas. When we approach the flat, we kill the motor, then raise it out of the water. We then silently pole the boat through various flats using a 20-foot push pole. In a successful scenario, we would sight the fish, position the boat, make our cast, fish the fly or lure, and then set the hook on the fish in shallow water. It is sublime when it all comes together.

Skinny water is where it’s at. Photo: A. Derr

In the meantime, I will tie all my micro sand eels and funky crustacean flies – always searching for perfection

I will bottom-paint the boat and wax her up for the season. Eight-weight fly rods and reels are tuned up, and lightweight spinning rods are good to go. Anxious anticipation is high this time of year. Soon, it will be blissed-out peaceful mornings on the flats of Long Island for two months of the coolest fishing I have found to date.

Tight to the beach… Photo: A. Derr

Consider getting out on the flats with me or another qualified guide for this specialized approach to fishing for one of our nation’s finest gamefish. It is a treat, and this marvelous fishery is something I treasure deeply.


Capt. Andrew Derr – Greenport, NY 


Tying a simple Sand Eel


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