Fishing in the shadows of the Newport Mansions
While waiting for lit up Bonito to break the surface near Price’s Neck there is usually a Striped Bass to be picked out of the wash. Wash is synonymous with white water and the occasional bout of sea sickness. Although unsettling, and sometimes sketchy, a second Angler fly fishing from the back of the boat has a tendency to dramatically increase the number of hook ups.
This really matters when the Angler on the bow is having difficulty reaching the target. It’s usually the ever so gracious sand-bagger in the back of the boat, that gave his or her friend the bow, that can casually cast the entire fly line in their sleep.
As casting chaos is embraced by everyone onboard double and chaotic triple hook ups keep everyone in the game and alert. But each angling situation is different and safety is the priority- especially in the white water off the Newport Mansions.
Determining when and where to fish is why Guides get paid the big bucks. Years of experience, focus, and vigilant boat handling are all very useful. With every wave the engine is intuitively shifted in and out of gear while methodical turns of the wheel are made to strategically position the boat. The boat is well trained and in this case appropriately named Bad Monster Dog. Although after years of suspect maintenance I’m actually not sure who trained who.
Note: Monster Dog, for short, is a combination of, Fess Parker’s trusted “Old Yeller” particularly during the rabid scene, and Humphrey Bogart’s Amazon Queen- less the bullet holes but with certainty more Hammer adjustments required.
The key is to stay close enough to the rocks for the Angler to place the fly accurately without getting into trouble. A southwest prevailing breeze on our left shoulders is perfect for the right-handed angler and safe fly fishing. Best case is one Angler at a time. No one ever liked being beaned in the back of the head by a high speed, heavily weighted, Clouser Minnow anyway.
The Guide rationale for fishing such a challenging spot is as follows. Striped Bass must experience “propeller on the brain” especially on Mondays, from the influx of weekend warriors raging around the bay in search of the big one. Like a good hangover cure of course the fish would go to the nearest turbulent rocky wash. Think of it as a fish Jacuzzi. Each in turn eating whatever baitfish, or fly, would wash down the waterfall allowing for full happy bellies and the calming, peaceful effects of nature’s original “white noise” machine. Unfettered Zen style feed zone.
After the waves wash over the rocks there is a resulting series of receding waterfalls. Each fall holds the potential for a very aggressive hit. The key is to land the fly at the right time and patiently let it drop. In a rough sea state the situation is too tricky for a second angler. Casting fly line from the rear of the boat is technically poaching and would typically be agreed upon by all parties in advance.
Fishing with a spinning rod from the back of the boat is fine as there are no issues with line control. No need for any approval- just a symphony of fly line and spinning reel monofilament ducking over and under one another with predictably frequent tangles. Fly line by its nature has a tendency to find trouble without any help at all.
Although I can appreciate a competitively eager spirit. The conditions were rough so I asked calmly for one angler to cast at time as a very confident fly caster responded with, “I’ve got this”. A moment later the very same Angler, with a dramatically less confident voice, yelled a rhythmic “Whoa, …whoa, ….WHOA!”
One look at the next inbound wave and I told him that he had three seconds to free the pulsing fly line from the now “out of gear” propeller.
Thanks to many manufacturer’s lifetime rod warranties the sound of a rod exploding under the pressure of a fish is much less painful leaving all onboard confident it was worthwhile. The sound of a rod being completely destroyed as the boat is put in reverse, even while saving all those aboard from swimming home, no, walking at best, cannot sit well with anyone. As could be expected there was very explicit language, best left to the imagination, and clearly caused by the mere shock and awe of the event.
The best tour guide distraction from recent gear developments was definitely Doris Duke’s twin Camels. Pointing out that the huge sand colored humps on the lawn were in fact Camels always raised an eyebrow. No one ever believed it. Not immediately anyway. But as they rose up tall and majestically strolled the grounds in slow motion there was a renewed sense of hope.
Hope that rod warranties had been sent in and that the tip at the end of the trip would not be too negatively impacted by what we will call gear failure that occurred in the shadows of the Mansions.