It was a fool’s errand, I knew, but I went to Montauk Point over the weekend to fly-fish for stripers — from the beach.
I didn’t catch a thing in the few hours I was there. Then again, neither did the other four fly-fishermen I saw on the beach, nor the 200 or so surfcasters tossing plugs, so I didn’t feel so bad.
I did see several fly-rodders hook up with fish while fishing from boats a couple hundred yards offshore.
“If they’re not gettin’ ’em, nobody’s gettin’ ’em,” a surfcaster groused good-naturedly from the window of his SUV, his bumper plastered with all the stickers you need to drive on Long Island beaches for fishing.
Montauk in the fall is an interesting scene. The stony beaches where no one ever sunbathes in summer become a city in October — a city of men with four-wheel-drive vehicles who fish right through the night and sometimes stay for days.
They fish during the day, too, and so do the fly boys in the boats — $30,000 center-consoles with deep hulls and powerful motors, chasing blitzes of false albacore, bluefish and striped bass.
Somewhere, a few gulls will materialize over the waves, some frantic splashing will be evident on the surface, and all at once, six or eight bobbing boats will turn, get up on plane and speed to the blitz a quarter-mile away.
Sometimes, by the time they get there, the blitz is over (sometimes, put down by the boats themselves). But often enough, a few lucky fly-fishers will hook up with some of the strongest, fastest fish they’ll ever fight.
Meanwhile, the guys on the shore keep throwing their plugs, and the few fly-fishers cast as far as they can, hoping a blitz will break out close to the beach, as they sometimes do, or a lone bass prowling the shallows will be in the mood to bite.
That actually happens often enough to make it worthwhile to keep trying, even after you get skunked. It’s never happened to me at Montauk, but it has at other Long Island beaches, and it’s great fly-fishing.
It helps to be familiar with local features like inlets or sandbars, and the tides and times of day when bass tend to be around them. But mostly, to be successful from the beach, you have to put in your time.
“Fish have fins,” I’ve heard Long Island beach anglers say, meaning there might be fish within casting range or there might not. Just because there were bass here last night doesn’t mean they’ll be here again tonight.
But with persistence and luck, you eventually will hook up, and when you do, it’s so much fun that there’s another saying: “One from the beach is better than 10 from a boat.”
That may be overstating the case a bit. I’ve fished blitzes from boats a little bit, too, and it’ a lot of fun. But my heart is with the guys on the beach, whether they’re throwing plugs or flies.
FARMINGTON TALK AT T.U.
Marla Blair, the well-known guide on the Farmington and Housatonic rivers in Connecticut and the Deerfield River in Massachusetts, will give a talk at the monthly meeting of the Clearwater chapter of Trout Unlimited at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15. The meeting is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Albany Ramada Plaza Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. The meeting will be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by a fly-tying demonstration.
The chapter is also looking for volunteers to help with its annual streamside clean-up on the Battenkill River in Cambridge, starting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20. For more information, visit www.clearwatertu.org.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at email@example.com.