The renaissance of saltwater flyfishing in the Northeast can be attributed in large part to the striped bass. Stripers have a large following because of their ubiquitous nature. Depending on the time of year and forage being pursued, these fish can be caught in salt ponds, estuaries, marshes, flats, points, bays, breachways, ledges, rips….the possibilities can sometimes be too numerous to perceive. Although holdover stripers can be caught in certain river systems throughout the winter, decent flyfishing for them can begin in early April. By May the major coastal rivers are very active with striper activity, and migratory fish begin to arrive to compete with residents for forage. Late spring and early summer are prime time for sight fishing the flats, one of Capt Mark’s favorites. As the season wears on and weather patterns and available forage change, stripers are also caught from rips and ledges. The famous fall striper run provides perhaps the best action of the season with fish blitzing bait, sometimes acres at a time….it doesn’t get much better. The fish either migrate or take up residence to winter over in major coastal rivers by mid December, so in terms of availability striped bass offer the longest flyfishing season.
Bluefish….love them or hate them, they are a nearly perfect gamefish for the fly rod. They fight tremendously hard for their size, take flies willingly, and are widely distributed in the Northeast. Blues typically are around in good numbers by the middle to end of May, and the largest fish are always the last to leave in the fall, sometimes as late as Thanksgiving. It can be pretty easy to know when blues are around, as they can make quite a commotion when feeding. Lighter gear is sufficient for the smaller fish, but hooking and landing twelve pound gator blues in rips requires ten to twelve weight rods. If you plan to target bluefish and tie your own flies, bring plenty of them in anticipation of lots of action. Bluefish will test the stamina of both your tackle and your arms.
False albacore invade Long Island and Block Island Sounds as early as late August, and are usually around in good fishable numbers by the second week of September. Albies love rips, and much of the fishing is done is areas of strong tidal pull like Montauk Point, Fishers Island, and Watch Hill. The small sizes of their prey make flyfishing an excellent option for matching the bait. False albacore are renowned for their visual acuity and speed, and their fall blitzes can be monumental. Hooking one of these small torpedoes on a fly is an experience that you don’t soon forget. Depending on weather conditions, false albacore usually begin their migration out of the area by early November, thus providing area anglers with only about a two month window to target them….but those two months can be tremendous.
In addition to the three main species listed above, the fishing grounds can also yield american shad, hickory shad, and atlantic bonito. Some years certain palegic species move surprisingly close and even into Long Island and Block Island Sounds, most notably various small tunas, spanish mackeral, and mahi mahi.