By Captain Andrew Derr of Long Island On The Fly
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y absolute favorite season is soon upon us. Flats fishing for stripers on Long Island during May and June is really the culmination of all of 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 alone is enough to keep me coming back. But perhaps the coolest component of this sub-sport is the chance to cast to, fish to, and hopefully fight a truly big striped bass in very shallow water. Every body movement is seemingly magnified, from the fish’ approach to the flat, it’s 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.
Last year we found some really great large fish as well as many fish from the well documented and productive 2011 spawning class. Those fish should be getting to a nice size now (maybe 30″ or so) and I welcome their return from their southern jaunt soon. On a side note, the 2015 spawning class has been reported to be even more successful than the 2011 class, which is great news for those of us concerned with over-harvest of this susceptible species. Those fish are the future of this sport.
I remember when I moved out to the East End 10 years ago, we had some stellar April fishing in Peconic Bay and Gardiner’s Bay. So few people are on the bay at that time of year and less boat traffic and jet skis means 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 a little bit easier. And that is really what it’s all about. On a normal year, we get going in May and it is always worth the wait.
This style of fishing is extremely similar to bonefishing. The boat we use 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 pole the boat through a diverse array of flats silently using a 20′ 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 quite shallow water. It is sublime when it all comes together.
In the meantime, I will tie all of my micro sand eels and funky crustacean flies. I am still on and will probably always be on the quest for the perfect flats patterns. I will bottom paint the boat and wax her up for the season. Eight weight fly rods and reels are tuned up. 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 2 months of the coolest fishing I have found to date.
Consider getting out on the flats with me or another qualified guide for this specialized approach to fishing for one of our nations finest gamefish. It is a treat and this marvelous fishery is something I treasure deeply.
Capt. Andrew Derr – Greenport, NY