I had read email list reports of flyfishing the New Jersey
salt and was always intrigued by them. Flyfishing is
something I took up of my own accord, and my fishing
roots are grounded in the jetties, harbors and beaches
of Southern California. My earliest fishing memories
are catching queenfish and perch of the Oceanside
jetty in the early gray of morning. My fishing practices
grew as I did, learning to use conventional casting gear,
developing a preference for fishing artificials, gaining
an appetite for ultra-light fishing. Flyfishing has been
the latest step in that progression, and I was headed
towards a culmination of past and present, fishing the
salt water I had started on, using the tools of my newest
skill. I couldn't wait.
The day started early. Or maybe it just ended late, as
procrastination tying kept me up until 10 p.m., only to
rouse myself 4 minutes before the 2 a.m. alarm blared a
wake-up call to the whole house. I loaded up the last
of the gear, and climbed into the pickup. I was off to
Philly to meet up with Jerry, and then head down to the
shore. After some adventures in poor direction reading
(my fault) and Philly street parking, we were off and
We hit the expressway, headed East, and the strains of
"Asleep at the Wheel" slid out of the sound system. After
a half-hour or so of driving, something struck my senses.
A tang in the air. A sharp combination of scents that
I hadn't smelled in almost three years - the ocean.
We headed off the expressway, south to Corson's Inlet State
Park. We pulled into the parking area, with a couple of
other cars filling alternating parking slots. One gentleman
stood at his car, slipping out of his waders after an early
morning's exploration. We chatted with him briefly,
getting the impression that the bait was scarce, the
fish scarcer. There was talk of a nice weakfish taken
from the bridge earlier in the morning, but that was all.
We thanked him for the info, he wished us good luck, and
we headed into the dunes of the beach.
We wound our way down the path to the water's edge,
flashlights piercing the lingering darkness. As we
moved further away from the parking lot towards the
mouth of the inlet, we began to see more and more small
fish, milling in the beam of our lights. Our hiking
along the edge would be interrupted by a splash and
roll in the darkness. Trying to target by sound, we'd
ply the water (and the brush behind us) with our flies,
to no positive results.
Jerry was dismayed to see a large dredging operation in
place in the inlet, several tugs and at least two large
barges sat in the water, waiting the coming of the morning
light. The sunrise began to filter through the air as we
fished the outflowing surge of water on the inside tip of
the inlet's northern point. I had never fished anything
larger than a 6wt before then, and had never thrown a
shooting head system. Both interesting experiences.
The rod that Jerry had loaned me was light and handled
nicely, even in my clumsy hands. The shooting head
amplified my lack of casting skill, as several casts
collapsed in mid-air as I mistakenly let the running
line drift out into the cast. I finally managed enough
control to make reasonable casts, but the fish weren't
We worked out to the middle of the point, and saw appreciable
numbers of silversides working in the outgoing tide.
Around 7:30 am, random snapper blues began working
the silversides, but they were few and far between.
We made an executive decision to cut our losses and
head down the coast to Wildwood. We trekked back
into the parking area, seeing a few schools of finger
mullet on the way back.
We pulled into the parking lot at Hereford's Inlet about
a half-hour later and headed down to the shore. We took
a quick look at the 'pond' abutting the parking lot, but
didn't see anything of interest. We crossed over the
outflow cut from the tidal waters trapped above us and
walked down to the water's edge. After 30 minutes or
so of "same ol', same ol,'" the silversides began to
break and shower from the water, in larger numbers
and more frequently than they were back at Corson's.
Jerry struck first, picking up a 7-8 pound snapper blue
while retrieving the back end of the swinging tide.
I watched in frustration, as small pods of 3-6 blues
would come running in towards my bait, only to pull
away, or take a smack at it and shoot off again.
I finally flipped the fly into the midst of a school
of silversides, just as the blues broke into it. I
lifted the rod quickly, and an 8 pound blue smacked
the fly. He made a quick, strong run into the deeper
water, and then thrashed and splashed in the shallow
water near me, as several of his associates milled
around, looking for a free hand out.
I "attempted" to wrap my hand around the fish and unhook
it, only to find that blues carry a reserve of energy
specifically for avoiding peoples hands. No matter how
tiredly they lay in the water, the presence of a hand
sends them into a flipping, flopping fury of slimy sides
and pointed dorsal spikes. I finally latched my forceps
onto the hook bend, turned the fish upside down, and
flipped him back into the water.
I put a couple more fish to tally, one matching the first
fish caught, the other an aggressive 5-6 pound fish with
an attitude. I missed numerous strikes, and even my #4
fly dwarfed the small silversides crowded in the shallows.
The fly of the day, for me, was a light #4 2XL streamer
hook, with a tail of white marabou and pearl Flash-a-bou,
a tapered body of wrapped pearl mylar "Canvas Needlepoint
Thread," with a small pair of silver dumbbell eyes. The
body material is thin and ribbony, almost like a small
mylar tube body that has been pressed flat. I think
I would have had more luck with a #6 or even #8 fly.
I had a hard time reconciling blues with any fish that
I had ever had experience with on the west coast, and
the closest match that came to mind was Sierra Mackerel.
The blues have the slimy, slender body that mackerel
have, and the teeth to go along with an eager set of
jaws. I did notice that the silversides tolerated my
fly, and remained fairly non-reactive to it. Until
there was a bluefish or two in hot pursuit, that is.
I had several retrieves where the silversides would
suddenly start dancing away from where my fly should
be, and I knew that the wolves were on the scent.
Time came to head back, as the bite died on the flattening
of the tide. We loaded up our gear and headed out to the
Garden State Expressway, a lunch of soda and "South Philly"
subs to tame the hunger of several hours of fishing. As
the miles slipped past beneath the tires of the car, the
lack of sleep and weight of the food in my stomach pushed
me into unconsciousness. A return to the waters that
started and shaped my fishing life, and a look at them
in a way that I had never had before. The thrill of new
memories danced in my unconscious mind, the flash of the
fish, the feel of sand beneath the feet, and the joy of
being out fishing with a good friend. I may not get a
chance to do it often, but I already want to go out and
chase the dawn into the sky again. ~ Jason