Salty Saturdays - Playin' the slots on Long Island

By Bill Mitchell 12/12/2015
 

New York, the City that never sleeps, the Big Apple, even New Amsterdam once upon a time before the Dutch traded it to the English in exchange for the Spice Islands. Whatever you call this place you must go there at least once in your life. Culture, architecture, history food, beer – it has it all. What people don’t know is that the place has an incredible fly fishery right on its doorstep. I catch an early morning cab to a marina down on Long Island. I meet Capt. John McMurray and we head out on his Maritime Skiff, rigging for topwater as we go. I fished Capt. McMurray some years back and had a great time.

I picked John those years back because of his reputation as a fishery conservationist. I had followed his columns in America’s fly fishing magazines. Fishing with him gave me the chance to discuss the Atlantic fisheries, especially the striped bass (Morone saxatilis). These magnificent fish follow a series of migration paths along the Atlantic seaboard, bringing them within reach of fly fishers at many points along their run.  In my time since fishing stripers the first time around I had loved David Dibenedetto’s book “On the Run” following his own journey from Maine to North Carolina.

I had drooled over the eye candy coffee table book “The Blitz – Flyfishing the Atlantic Migration” which featured a section on John and the Jamaica Bay fishery. It had been a few years since I’d fished the stripers and the anticipation was high. We began throwing small chartreuse poppers against the marsh banks adjoining JFK airport. Only a few casts in the popper was whacked hard and I was onto my first linesider of the morning.

The session lasted three incredible hours until the sun got up proper and the fish moved off the shallow banks. We had almost a bite a cast at one point and we mixed in a bunch of feisty bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) for good measure. I hadn’t laughed so much in a longtime when fishing. Just the unbridled fun of seeing striper after striper whack that popper. Talk about good for the soul. No monsters but lots of fish in the 24-26inch range – “slots”. My hands were aching and my shoulders sore from double hauling a popper on a 9 weight all morning. I dozed on the train ride back on the Long Island rail road back to the hustle and bustle of Penn Station.