Stripers in the Big Apple

Montauk is three hours drive east of New York City, a playground for well-off city folk, and more importantly, famous for its highly prized striped bass.

This year’s bass run came late with the action remaining at Montauk throughout last week. As the northern hemisphere’s winter approaches these next couple of weeks will see fishing attention switched back to New York City before the winter chill demands a seasonal hiatus.

I took time out from a New York holiday to fish with local fly guide Capt. Brendan McCarthy. Brendan splits his time between Montauk and the city. This classic American fishing town boasts dozens of guided fly fishing boats during season.
When bass are blitzing around Montauk’s historic lighthouse, fly and lure fishos take aim from boats, while nearby pebbly beaches are crowded with fanatical lure casters. There’s little space to move on, or off, the water.

The rich currents around Montauk’s lighthouse attract large schools of bait, which are scoffed by migrating striped bass, albacore and bluefish. Bluefish are very similar to our tailor, only much bigger. It was hilarious hearing Brendan call, “It’s a tailor”, in an accent lost somewhere between Croc Dundee and Steve Irwin.

The morning was tough. The bass were deep after three days of heavy wind and high seas played havoc with the baitfish. Ideally, bass would drive balls of anchovies to the surface in a spectacular feeding frenzy.

With little to show before lunch, a change of tactic was called. Using 10-weight fly outfits and fast sinking lines, the lifelike bait imitations were slowly dragged deep below flocks of feeding birds. It wasn’t long before the first bass came onboard. The action heated up in the afternoon as schools of bass finally blitzed on top. The golden slabs rolled below feeding on the brown clouds of anchovies. I caught about five bass to 15lb and some nice bluefish before taking the bus back to New York City.

The city has a growing band of serious fly fishos. There’s even a well-stocked fly shop, Urban Angler, on Fifth Avenue, a shopping strip better known for designer brands and grand old department stores. The urban waterways, according to Brendan, are teeming with fish alongside New York’s skyline.

Most of Brendan’s clients work high-pressure jobs in Manhattan. Whether it’s New York or back home in Sydney, taking to the water is the ultimate way to recharge and escape daily city grind.

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