Montauk. One of my favorite words because it just sounds cool.
For those who fish the salt just hearing it, saying it or thinking about it conjures the iconic image of acres of striped bass, bluefish and false albacore waging all out surface warfare on baitfish underneath Montauk Point Light House. Getting there for the fall madness has been on my list since the first time I saw a picture of it.
Late Thursday night I got a text message from my buddy Mark Seymour at High Hook Wines saying that Bryan Goulart had an opening on Sunday and was I interested in going. Calculating costs and available resources in my mind my first thought was that I should pass it up. And I had fly orders to get out and a project due at work on Monday. But I really wanted to go. I went downstairs and hit the heavy bag for twenty minutes while Reckless Mike beat the crap out of Responsible Mike. Montauk, false albacore, one of the best guides in the business and I had an available weekend. Guess who won?
So I met Mark in New London on Saturday afternoon, jumped the ferry to Orient Point and we drove to Bryan’s house in East Hampton. We met up with Bryan after dinner, had a few beers, watched some football and talked fishing, flies and life before turning in. One of the topics covered was the proverbial “buck fever” that happens during a blitz and the “albie dance” that follows. I’m not sure I really slept. I fell back to the technique of mental imagery I used when I was a ski racer in college and ran through every albie situation I could think of. I wanted to be prepared.
We were on the water shortly after 7:00am and made the run out of Star Island to Montauk Point. I went to Italy in high school and remember the feeling of pure awe standing in the Sistine Chapel. Floating in front of the light house felt no different.
Bryan checked a few spots and finally albies started to show in small pods. We ran around playing the game of “run and gun” as is generally the case with albies. Mark took the bow and I took the stern. After about an hour of making casts to these speedsters I realized something was wrong. I could not make a long cast if my life depended on it. Bryan and I had agreed on one of my larger flies, a 4-1/2” sand eel imitation on a 3/0 hook to start with in the event that there were bass around. A big fly but my Bluewater 8/9 can throw it just fine. Forty feet this morning was a struggle. It was obvious that something was wrong with me. That’s when the inner dialogue started.
“You’re out here with one of the best guides in fly fishing and you F-ing suck. You look like an idiot. You should have stayed home, WTF dude? If Beulah hears about this they’re not going to let you fish their rods and Cheeky will ask you to fish a different reel.”
About this time, just as I had line wrapped all around me, I went tight to a fish. Line started screaming through the guides and I broke into the Albie Dance. Now I had the idiot thing going full speed both in ability and appearance. In the chaos of clearing line and getting the fish on the spool, my line wrapped around the reel frame and I couldn’t clear it. I’m still not sure what happened but there was no way I was going to lose my first Montauk albie. So I struggled with it and didn’t horse the fish. Slowly I was getting backing and line back. Bryan came over and asked me if I was alright. I mumbled some gibberish about my line and Bryan looked at the mess on my reel and started laughing.
“Oh, I feel better now, I thought you have a disability or something and needed help but you just suck!”
We all had a laugh at that and the stress was relieved once I got that fish in and released despite myself.
Then I got about clearing the mess on my reel and re-rigging my rod. It was at this time that I realized in my haste to pack Saturday morning I had mistakenly grabbed my Bluewater 7/8. That explained a lot. Yes, I was still an idiot but after changing to a smaller fly I was back in the game and feeling a lot better about my casting.
We chased albies all morning to slack tide. Each time one of us would hook up, all three of us hoped for a double just to revel in the chaos and mayhem that such things generate.
The double almost happened a few times but we couldn’t get it together. After slack tide the attitude of the fish seemed to change. They were still there and feeding but spread out and very selective. We tried several different flies but could not get an eat. But we stayed at it for a few more hours before calling it a day. Mark and I were exhausted on the run back to Star Island. We had a great day with a great guide and left it all, as they say, on the field.
I’ve fished with a lot of guides. Some are really good, some are just good and others…not so much. I know when a guide takes the time to explain how he (or she) fishes the boat, what he’s planning and what he wants the angler to do in a “what if” situation, he’s on his game. More importantly when the guide asks me what I’m looking to get out of the trip and then makes efforts to make that happen while working around my ability to cast and skill level, then I know he is a great guide. Bryan and I had that conversation and I told him I obviously wanted to get tight to some albies but I also wanted to experience the stress of making a shot as many times as possible to overcome the “buck fever” phenomenon. As it is in life, the best way to get better at anything is repetition. I don’t get a chance to fish for albies a lot so I viewed this day as a training session. Bryan made that happen and I came away from the day a better fly fisherman.
If you want to experience the glory that is Montauk, check out Capt. Bryan Goulart and Point to Point Charters at http://www.nysaltfly.com/home.htm . He books up in advance but you might get lucky with a cancellation.
From the ferry, Long Island Sound
15 September 2013