Stories and photography by Robert “I Catch Albies on My First Backcast” Green
In the weeks leading up to my annual pilgrimage, the whispers got louder and louder until finally they were impossible to ignore. Impressive amounts of bait onshore. More peanut bunker than had been seen in years. False Albacore around early and then often.
By the time I arrived there was a disturbance in the forecast with just a few days of clean weather to work with beforehand. Reports said the visitors were distributed equitably across the island this year and I planned to be equally so in choosing destinations to pursue them. Nonetheless, out of tradition and experience, the first stop would be a familiar up island beach I’ve frequented heavily in years past. I worked the bowl and found weeds but back on the jetty I was already casting to breaking fish in clean water even if I only found short takes that first morning.
Rumors of anomalously limited activity at a usually popular spot over on Chappaquiddick were confirmed. And though I found considerable breaking fish on a lesser attended outlet the next morning and again that afternoon, they seemed to be all but pinned to the far side and just out of my reach.
A trip back up island the next day got the skunk off and by the time the blow, Jose, started in earnest on Thursday, I suspected the big jetty on the West side would be one of the only spots on the island accessible to a dedicated fly rodder. In reality, I was one of the few of any fishing discipline with the prerequisite optimism for the conditions that day. There was a roll cast which at 40 knots would lay out quite nicely downwind and there were enough fish to cast to. I was able to persuade the first taker to come ashore back on the beach, a welcome gesture that helped persuade me to let the fish swim, as taking her around the tip into the channel would have been a dicey proposition under the circumstances.
Exactly one cast later, having been unable to persuade myself to replace the wind knotted tippet in that gale, the next fish swam free without my approval.
The next day was even windier and required absolute concentration. But the water was clean and the fish were plentiful and the roll cast was operational even if the tip of jetty was now all but impassable. Despite a bounty of opportunities and a singularly intense experience at the boundaries of fly fishing, other pressing responsibilities took precedence before I could bring another to shore.
By Saturday the winds had diminished noticeably and I would stay silent when a newcomer would arrive and comment on their hazard. Still, despite a rising crowd and a third day of steady blow, this would prove the best of the week. I landed fish on the beach and on the jetty. Familiar faces from years past appeared and I had the pleasure of watching Brice Contessa apply his craft, needling a fish to the point with style. I broke a hook in an albie’s mouth and came near to losing another after it buried itself in the outflow, bending open a Tiemco #2 not quite to freedom.
By the last day the wind had failed completely and to avoid what I believed would have been growing crowds, I drove to a quiet beach on the other end of the island. The thick fog banks that had cancelled a planned boat ride that morning made for good sunrise shots and yet more fish breaking on silversides made for good chances.
For more about the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, check out the website: http://www.mvderby.com/
And remember — there is a catch & release division!