Catching is what it is all about

By Joel B. Filner

Catching is what it is all about. Not fishing. Right? The purpose of this essay is to illustrate what we, as experienced fisherman, all expect from a day out on a boat. Big fish in constant action for reasonable numbers throughout the day. Or half day. Most of my fishing is from shore as I do not have permission to buy a boat and my jeep was a good compromise through my three sons’ college years. The winning of a charter in the CCA raffle was a real treat to my fishing season.

The trip with Tom Cornicelli of Back Bay Charters was scheduled to fit his time and the fish tides in Moritches Bay. We met Saturday morning at first light as that coincided with the incoming tide and slack period expected about 7:30 AM. The boat, a new 22ft Parker was laid out simply and efficiently for fly casting from either bow or stern, with a high freeboard that will really be comfortable (and dry) out at Montauk in the fall.

I like to use my own equipment when fishing but felt comfortable using Tom’s Scott rods, Tibor reels and the Teeny 350 for fishing in the deeper holes in the bay. This was my second venture into Moritches Bay this summer as I waded at outgoing tide by the Coast Guard Station one Sunday morning in the beginning of June. That trip was a bust as we didn’t even get a hit on fish working under birds for 4 hours.

Tom took the boat out in to the outside channel off the Coast Guard Station looking for any sign of action. The wind was up to 15 – 18 knots and steady out of the west/ southwest testing my skills as a backcaster, wind caster and pin cushion with the intermediate lines. I started with a medium fly with flash and big red eyes tied by Tom with olive over white. No fish. We then went to a “hole” on the inside of the inlet to the east, switching to the Teeney and a fly that was flash all the way with eyes on the sides and no weight. We made 4 drifts and then moved on to where we saw birds working and switched flies once again to a “wool” fly that looked like a cross between a sand eel on steroids and muddler minnow in olive and white. Our first hits and fish. This is after almost two hours of searching, drifting, and changing flies. Tom is very particular as to how the fly looks and acts in the water and prefers flies that look right and have the right action in the water. Hard body flies are not his preference and larger sizes for larger fish. He will change a fly if, after tying it on, it doesn’t act or look right in the water.

We now move to the inside of the inlet on the west shore fishing the tidal drifts and small channels. Again with the Teeney and a squid pattern enticing one more small bass. Back to the Coast Guard Station and a drift with the wool fly and a blue fish and another one and then no fly. We move again to the rip with fish in theory feeding as the bait goes by, stripping in long fast strips that don’t seem to work.

Lunch time at 1030 AM and a first for me … lunch supplied by the guide. The saga goes on for three more hours moving, watching, casting, and drifting, always with the boat in position to allow my casting and drifting to be where we think the fish are sitting. The boats around are not have much more success in catching but they are not getting a terrain lesson or a technique lesson at the same time.

The day ended with five fish and a lot of casting and respect for the effort put forth for a donated trip in a good cause. I learned that there is nothing like experience to gain as much knowledge of the bay as Tom evidenced in the trip. I also learned that a boat is useful but not the guarantee of success that I assumed was there. And I think that a boat is a constant learning tool and it would take me years to learn the water and the nooks and crannies of the bays that Tom handles with ease and confidence even in the tough spots.

I also learned more about the fish and the flies and water in that day with the lack of activity than if we were in a blitz for two hours.

Thanks again CCA and Tom Cornicelli.

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