Editor’s Log Learning To Fly - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log Learning To Fly

Over this past weekend I drove to New Jersey to enjoy a couple days of fishing Raritan Bay with my friend Tom Kosinski. This trip seems to be quickly becoming a tradition and I really enjoy it because it gives me the opportunity to experience the fishing that is still weeks away back home. It also allows me to spend time with a friend whose company I really enjoy and whom I don’t get to see very often. This trip was extra special because I was introduced to his smiley 6-month old daughter, Madeline.

Once we located the stripers, the fishing was easy. In two days we had to put 75 stripers on the deck. We caught them on metal lips, spooks, glidebaits, soft plastics and darters. We caught them in 20 feet of water and 20 inches of water. We caught them in the dark and in daylight. The fishing was very good.

Toward the end of our second mission, we found ourselves on a shallow flat that was just covered in bass from 24 inches to 21 pounds—averaging 30 inches. These fish were fighting over our big spooks, often following them right to the boat. Tom pulled out the fly rod—he’s a very accomplished fly fisherman—and started whipping big hollow fleyes and poppers around. The quiet flies were not drawing the same kind of interest as the big, noisy plugs. Before long, I was throwing a plug without hooks and Tom was picking off the fish that followed it back to the boat. After he landed a few he turned to me and said, “Your turn!”

I am the opposite of an accomplished fly fisherman; I bought a setup a few years ago, but as much as I practiced, I couldn’t solve my tailing loop problems and finally gave up. My reply to his invitation to make a fool of myself in front of the other nearby boats went something like this, “Nahh…. maybe a little later… alright, give me that thing!”

My first few false casts were only a tick or two above flails, I’m sure Tom was cringing as I clumsily whipped his G. Loomis 10-wt around like a toddler. But there is mercy in the ether, I proved that, because after my feeble release, a striper took pity on me and swirled on the big popper fly. That was all the motivation I needed.

It took me 15 minutes to get my rusty casts to start landing where I wanted them to. And in spite of how much time I spent making fun of myself, my double-haul started to come back—again, I’m no Flip Pallot, but I was starting to make acceptable casts. There were still other things to sort out. Keeping track of the line around my feet was one challenge, it’s amazing how that stuff will find a way to hang up on every little nub. Then being ready to work the fly was another hurdle, it felt kind of like a pat-your-head-rub-your-belly thing at first, but that came along as well.

Confidence is an amazing elixir. As my casts gained conviction, my mind sharpened to the situation. I started to feel like I knew it was going to happen. Tom was working the plug back to the boat, dark water and boils in the wake and I’d hurry that popper into the area, sometimes I’d even get it right on target. I missed two epic ‘eats’ because I tried to set the hook like I would with a spinning rod. Tom guided me, “just keep stripping until you feel weight, then lift the rod.”

Tom drew another wolf pack to the boat. The popper landed and Tom removed the spook from the situation. I popped the fly violently, once, twice, and then it disappeared in the flash of a gill plate. I stripped the line and the rod bent. There was no singing drag or affidavits for tippet class world records, but this was my first fly rod striper and my first fish on a fly rod since I was a young teenager. The slot-bass came in easily, but I don’t remember many fish that brought on a greater sense of satisfaction. I have a long way to go before I can call myself a fly fisherman, but I think I’ll be putting more time in with the long wand in 2022.

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