Marvelous at Monomoy Story
Fred LeBrun is a writer from the Albany Times Union newspaper. Below, you may enjoy reading his take on a day on the flats with me.
Marvelous at Monomoy
When the striper hit my little sand eel imitation about 15 yards out, right at the edge of the channel, it felt like I'd gotten stuck on a log.
( See Photo )
Except there are no logs on the vast and sandy bottoms. Then this particular log decided to head for Nantucket with a burst of energy and speed that caught me off guard. You could hear that surging power of a big fish intent on leaving this planet in the sing-song of the heavy Orvis disc drag reel paying out line. I was into the backing before I could begin to think about turning the fish, and then only a little before he was off and churning again across the channel. It was a long and hard-fought five minutes before the guide, Randy Jones, finally slipped the fly out of its mouth, held it up for a few photos and released this fresh ocean fish covered with sea lice.
( See Photo )
Of the dozen or so fish we caught all day either blind casting into currents and rips as the tide rose around us, or sight fishing for cruisers, we caught only one barely legal fish, and even that one was released. Yet speaking on the ride back to the main land to a half dozen other fly-fishers who waded the expanses of Monomoy that day, nobody was griping about the fact they'd only caught schoolies. The talk instead was about how strong a 28-inch fish caught in the ocean is compared to any freshwater species, and everybody had stories to tell. Smiles all around.
We were fishing these legendary flats just off shore for a chance at the tens of thousands of stripers that cruise through during the changing tides looking for baitfish. Fishing in its purest sense, since this is the ocean and so you never know. It will probably be small and probably a striper, but then again ...
I hooked a decent sized but unexpected bluefish that danced across the water before slicing through the
10-pound test leader and disappearing into the channel. Others caught weakfish. No, nobody saw sharks.
All part of an experience that I have to say measures up to all the over hyped information I'd heard about relating to these flats, which made me suspicious beforehand. Monomoy has been elevated to practically mythical status in books and fishing magazines in recent years, but it turns out it's just a great place to fish, reasonably easy to get to and affordable.
It truly is a sensory overload out there with the surging Atlantic beyond the island, and the cape a far distance in front, as close to pure joy for fly-fishers as I've experienced, short of a green drake hatch on the
Delaware or Atlantics on a frenzy on the Miramichi.
Behind us, along the low, sandy dunes of the actual Monomoy Island federal wildlife refuge, various species of gulls by the thousands were either hatching young by the score or creating a new generation of fans for Shea Stadium. Other bird life was thick in every direction. I found myself turning around from time to time, mesmerized by the teeming life on the island, forgetting what I was there for.
The fishing itself is so unlike trout or bass fishing as to inspire a sort of child-like wonder as it reveals itself.
First off, it is physically demanding, even brutal on some days and potentially dangerous. This has its appeal, although you have to remember you could die if you do this wrong, which is rarely a consideration for landlubbers, even those casting for muskies in the fog.
( See Photo )
Randy and I caught the daily shuttle, and we knew we would be out of touch with all but a handful of those companions who were on the boat with us. On Monomoy, there are no houses. We are far from the mainland and we wouldn't be picked up before 4:30, regardless of the tidal situation or the weather. We literally slipped off the side of the shuttle into three feet of water and the boat roared away and there we were, fending for ourselves.
If ever there was a situation demanding a good guide, this is it, and Randy's up to it and more. You need a
good guide for two reasons, one important and one critical. This is not a place for wide-eyed innocence.
You want to be there with someone experienced with the tricky tides, the violent weather that can and does
erupt without warning. Plus, you simply will not know where to fish otherwise in this confusion of shallow
gin-clear waters, full of cross currents and hidden bars.
( See Photo )
Oh sure, finding the dark channel of deep water isn't that hard. Look for the boats going through. At low tide, when we arrived, the channel was a mere quarter of a mile across an undulating dry beach that looked like a topographical map, with all sorts of elevations and depressions.
Except, as the tide comes up, it doesn't come from one place. It rushes in at you from all directions and before you know it, the expanse between you and those bluffs is under water, and more so every minute. Every year, an inexperienced fisherman or two don't make it back because of the strong currents created by tidal action, height of tide or fog. Wading a couple of miles through waist deep water with currents I can tell you is exhausting, even without the imperative of a tide rushing in.
As for the fishing, well, that's more familiar but has its special demands. Worldwide, there always seems to be a strong wind in your face just when you have to cast a little beyond your best distance. Bearing in mind, we're using stiff Orvis 9 wt. rods loaded with sinking lines and pushing weighted clousers. Your arm will be three feet longer by the end of the day. Randy favors thinly-tied, surprisingly small sand eel imitations in olive and white with a little sparkle and chartreuse added.
"It's just like freshwater fishing,'' says the perpetually easygoing Randy, who should know since he guides on Lake Ontario's Salmon River from September to April. Randy lives in Pulaski, and rents a cottage on the Cape for his guiding service, from May to September. He's been at this for 22 years, and there isn't a grain of Monomoy he hasn't trod on before.
He has an aw-shucks manner reminiscent of the country singer Jimmy Dean. Randy, 40, is from Davenport, Iowa, which probably explains it. "Match the hatch, look around for what the likely bait will be these fish are here to feed on, and match it.'' Sand eels in the region are small and distinctly olive, and they are the favored ones.
We caught all of our fish casting blind into darker waters and jerking back rather quickly the fly a foot and half at a time, after letting the fly drop a good 10 seconds. Fish along the bottom, he insists, because that's where the bait fish are.
Randy waded around all day carrying his signature three-step aluminum ladder which he periodically used to scan for cruising fish. Although the sun wasn't bright enough on our adventure to allow enough time between his calling out a candidate -- "over there, 20 feet and leaving us "-- and my reacting with a fumbling cast.
Yeah, that's it, it was the sun's fault.
( See Photo )
Fred LeBrun is a writer from the Albany Times Union newspaper.
May all your doorknobs smell of grossly over sized striped bass!
To see Photo’s - http://www.yankeeangler.com - Fishing Reports . A high speed connection is a must.
Wonderful story! Its how I felt, a little anxious but excited about the element of danger and awestruck by the austere beauty and simplicity of it all.
Adam and Dad Roger hold a 20 lb. - 38 inch'a, held as a team would hold a championship trophy!
Last edited by RandyJones; 07-14-2002 at 06:27 AM.
story and clave
Dave....what a great discription of an unforgettable time. That's why I go out there. On a side note, are you going to the Clave and if so are you bringing/doing the Tuna again? It was fantastic last year. I don't know yet what I am bringing but you will be impossible to beat. Tom
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|Part 2. Marvelous at Monomoy||RandyJones||Stripers and Coastal Gamefish||0||07-01-2001 08:30 AM|