These fish are stacked up for miles along the beach!

by Betty and John Timmermann

It’s the end of October, a Thursday night, and we’re checking and double checking our fly fishing equipment for a trip to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The phone rings, and as we pick up we hear the melodious tones of our old friend Charlie Robinson booming, ” When the hell are you guys going to get out here and do some bass fishing?” When Charlie starts a conversation without “Didja hear the joke about…” something earth-shattering is happening. “Can you get out here this weekend? These fish are stacked up for miles along the beach.” After making meeting arrangements and some chitchat with Charlie, we changed gears and unpacked some equipment for the weekend.

For those new members and members who have not met Charlie, let us give you a brief description. Charlie has been a member of the Salty Flyrodders for a number of years. You may not see him at monthly meetings that often, because he is a life-long resident of Southampton and the trip into Queens can be a long adventure. If you have ever attended our conclave, or plan to, you will recognize him by his western style hat and his willingness to help in any manner possible. He will do it all, from casting instruction to hauling coolers. He is a professional guide and casting instructor with a vast knowledge of Long Island’s East End fishing.

Our plans were to meet Charlie at a Seven Eleven. After we parked our car, and transferred our equipment to Charlie’s pick-up, we’re off for a quick breakfast and our first shot at the beach. You can go to the bank that as soon as we see and hear the surf pounding, it’s bathroom time. After a quick stop (part of the service, says Charlie), we opt to pick up lunch for later consumption rather than leave the beach again.

We entered the beach somewhere in the town of Southampton and slowly drive east along the high water mark. We stop occasionally to talk to some folks fishing and then watch a lone fisherman in a flats boat working about 100 yards offshore. All very nice says Charlie, but we came here for fish so let’s get some fish! We exit the beach and head further east toward the town of East Hampton, passing the smells of people preparing Sunday dinner. Unable to put these smells to rest, we decide that as soon as we hit the beach again its time to chow down. So intent were we on eating, that it must have been the third or fourth bite of the sandwich before Charlie, looking east announced, “We have arrived.”

As Charlie had told us, these fish were stacked up for miles along the beach. As we approached the water’s edge, we were frozen in our tracks watching bass chasing bait along the breakers, no more than twenty feet away. Heeding Charlie’s advice, we started casting without entering the water. First hookups were bass in the upper twenty inch range, the majority over the 28 inch limit. Numerous bass exceeded 36 inches that day. Short casts of no more than 30 to 35 feet were sufficient. Longer casts produced bluefish between 8 and 12 pounds. Deciding not to use wire leader was costly in the fly department, but what the heck, winter was just around the corner, and what better to do but tie until the supply is replenished. We found the greatest success with a black over red blonde style fly, crease flies, and a bunker imitation. The bait was plentiful and almost every species of bait known to mankind was present. Other flies and variations were used to a much lesser degree of success. The sky seemed to go from lightly overcast to heavily overcast. And the blitz went on for four and a half hours. We were watching blues chase weakfish up onto the beach, where at one point, Charlie reached down and grabbed one with his hand, having someone on the beach tell him it wasn’t a big enough bass to keep and he’d better put it back.

In fact it wasn’t a bass at all, but a weakfish, and a keeper at that. We watched the schools of bunker being chased by the bass through the breaking surf. After completing one roll of film recording the memories of the day, the camera was set aside, along with the lunch that we never did get to finish, in favor of abusing our bodies for the sake of catching fish non-stop.

If we became bored catching bass we would jump on the tailgate of Charlie’s truck as he sped along the beach to the next school. What a great way to end the bass season, and what a tune-up for the albies.

Charlie will be the guest speaker for our June meeting. You just might want to hook up with him this upcoming season. Whether a new or experienced fisher, this shore bound angling is another aspect of our sport to be explored and enjoyed.