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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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April 12, 2012

Donna's First "Reel" Deal on a Fly Rod

by Bob Banfelder

Donna and I moved from Queens to the East End of Long Island in 1990. Having made the transition to saltwater fly-fishing after decades of freshwater angling, we eventually worked our area bays: Reeves Bay, Flanders Bay, Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay, Hog Neck Bay, Noyack Bay, Southold Bay, Gardiners Bay and beyond. Starting out one fine morning in June, we took a canoe along the southeast corner of Reeves Bay. I paddled the 16-footer along the bank then put a 9-foot #8-weight Scott rod with a Super 8 Abel reel spooled with 100 feet of Teeny TS 350 F/S 8-10 weight into Donna's anxious hands. Anxious because she could now cast well enough to send that line out to distances of forty to fifty feet, thanks to a fabulous fly line (especially for beginners) as well as casting lessons from Dan Eng, our venerable Committee Chair fly-fishing skills instructor from Eastern Flyrodders of Long Island. Dan has worked with Donna and me at pre-meeting sessions then later with our son, Jason. Dan has improved our casting distance twofold. We are very fortunate to have such talented folks such as Dan in our midst.

Early on I had tried several fly lines on the market and became sold on Teeny Line. Teeny fly lines offer a wide range of choices. Their T-Series and TS-Series in 24 and 30 feet, respectively, are fine places to start. Teeny's magic is in the marriage of a floating line matched to a sinking taper. All one piece. No knots. No splicing. No hinging. Two colors determine its perfect balancing point so there is no guesswork in where and when to draw and shoot the line. When both colors extend approximately one foot past the front guide, it's magic time. And talk about cutting through the wind, it's simply a breeze. I'd sail an imitation out to sixty feet. Later, with practice, practice, practice, I could occasionally add another twenty or so feet. But at that point in time, Donna was holding the goods; I had paddle in hand.

After a dozen casts toward the shoreline, Donna spotted a swirl several yards to the east, excitedly instructing me to "turn this yellow banana around" so that she didn't have to swing her body about. In all candor, it is a tippy canoe, designed for cruising, not a solid fishing platform by any stretch of those sixteen precarious feet—not like our sturdy Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game Angler sit-on-top kayak, which we later purchased, designed, however, for a single soul.

Two false casts and Donna sent the 6-inch bunker imitation several feet just past a second swirl. The first 30-foot green section of 7-ips sinking line hit the water and immediately disappeared. Seconds later, on a moderate retrieve, five yards or so of red floating line tore across the bow, pulling the boat toward a piling as Donna set the hook. The drag on an Abel is about as able as you're going to get. Smooth as silk or satin. The 8-weight Scott rod performed flawlessly. For newcomers, I would recommend the Teeny T-300, 24-foot length shooting head because it's easier to handle.



"Rod up! Let him run," I hollered.
"He's making a beeline for the piling," she protested.
"Good. Maybe it'll knock itself out," I half-kidded. "He's turning."
"So is the boat," she brayed.

I knew Donna had a good fish. "Stay with him," I commanded, like she really had a choice. She fought the denizen for a good two minutes.

"I can't hold him much longer."
"Oh, but you can and you will or there won't be any supper for you."
"Then we'll go to Danowski's or Gallo's fish market," she threatened.
"That's not exactly what I meant."
"Oh, my God!"

The big fish jumped . . . bigger than the cocktail blues she'd been catching on spin-casting lures; bigger than the striper shorts, too. It wasn't a monster, but I thought it would break five pounds, that is, if it didn't first break the leader. The fish jumped again. A good-size blue. Slowly, Donna was gaining back line.

"The fish is getting tired," I offered encouragingly.
"Then it's winning the battle because I'm getting exhausted. Correction. I am exhausted."
"Look! It's on his side."
"Look. I'm practically on my knees."
I had the net in hand. "Maneuver the fish to the center—I can't reach it from here."
"I can't."
"Yes, you can."
"I hate you!"
"Take it out on the fish when you land it. I've got the net. Extend your arm like an outrigger, not straight out. Do it!"

The denizen splashed and thrashed then dove deep for a final time before Donna had it alongside the boat. I scooped it up neatly into the net. The fish flapped and pounded the floor of the canoe to the powerful pounding of Donna's heart, I'm sure. A beautiful 27 inch, 5¾ pound blue.



"Do we return him to the water or keep him?" I asked.
"My first real saltwater fish on a fly rod? Are you crazy? I caught it. I'll cook it. And we'll eat it tonight."
"Would you like to fillet it, too?"
"No, that's your department."
"Happy?"
"I'm hooked. When can we do this again?"
"How about right now?"
"I need a breather. How about tomorrow morning?"
"Tomorrow it is."
"I love you!" she exclaimed with a smile.
"A moment ago you hated me, you said."
"I did not."
"You did, and I'm going to put it in a story one day."
"I'll deny it. Furthermore, no one will believe you."
"Sure they will. All fishwives are liars, everybody knows."
"You just reminded me."
"Of what?"
"We've got to take a picture for proof and posterity just as soon as we get back."
"Done. Are you going to make my favorite bluefish recipe tonight?"
"Done," she swore.

And she did. Here it is. The great irony being that Donna truly hated bluefish and anchovies before landing this marvelous recipe.

This recipe was given to us by, and in memory of, Bev and Bob Johnsen. It's a dynamite recipe for any oily fish.

Bluefish Bake


Ingredients:

2 bluefish fillets (cocktail blues or larger are fine; amounts below are for the larger fillets—adjust accordingly).
5 flat anchovies in oil
1½ cups of Hellman's Real Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon olive oil

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place fillets in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the fillets.

2. Bake the fish for about 15 minutes or until flaky.

3. While the fish is baking, mash the anchovies with a mortar and pestle and add the anchovies to the mayonnaise, mixing well.

4. Remove fish from oven. Switch oven to Hi broil setting.

5. Smear the mayo/anchovy mixture over the top of the fillets. Place under broiler. The mayo/anchovy mixture will begin to bubble. Remove the fillets from the oven when the mixture is golden brown.

Bon appétit.

Note: Presently, our bays close to home (Reeves and Flanders), are loaded with bunker and schoolies. We're having loads of fun with fly, spin and bait casting outfits. Bluefish, I'm sure, are right behind.



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