"Gotta go," Bob Wassuta at Wego Fishing in Southold said.
"Wednesday," Nor'east Saltwater advertising manager Phil
"Me, too," Rich Johnson of The Fishing Line added.
"Gotta try the fly," I chimed in. "How deep, Bob?"
"Thirty to forty feet," he said. "Maybe fifty."
Uh-oh. Time to board the Deep Water Express.
I fine-tuned all three of 3M Scientific Anglers' Deep Water Express
shooting heads in preparation.
A Line Profile Chart is included with each so that the lines may be trimmed
to suit individual fly rods. Each of the lines' front and back tapers
are weighted differently. Using the chart to do a quick calculation can
speed the tuning process along.
I started with the lightest - the 550 grain head. I planned to use a
Sage 1190-3 RPL-X and tune each for that rod. It's the only way to get
the best balance between line and rod.
I installed a temporary braided monofilament loop on the Back Taper of
the 550, using a drop of a super glue to hold the loop in place during
the tests. 3M's Bruce Richardson advises uses nothing less than a 12-
or 13-weight rod for the full 550 grain Express. Though my rod
was rated at an 11-weight, it normally loads a 40-foot Intermediate shooting
head of about 430 grains (13-weight), so I suspected it would have little
problem handling the 550 as is, but I started with some gentle casting
strokes, just in case. Too much of a line load can snap a fly rod, so
go slow when you test these heavy lines.
Remember, you're not looking for distance. You're looking for depth.
Don't power a cast as you normally would. Actually, you don't have to.
You'll find that the weight of the shooting head will pull along a lot
of shooting line behind it and an easy casting stroke can result in a
50- to 60-foot cast.
The rod handled the 550 Express nicely. A little slow, yes, but
I was still lawn-casting to 60 feet. I decided not to trim this head.
The 550 sinks at about 7.5 inches per second. If I trimmed it down to
a more castable 450 grains, I would have lost some of that sink-rate.
On to the 700 grain Express.
I didn't trim this one just yet, either, but instead of trying to cast
the full line, I let out about 10 feet at a time and gently lifted the
rod in a wide arc from front to back. Surprisingly, the 11-weight handled
the load. This was most likely due to the 3-piece construction which makes
for a much heavier and stiffer butt section than you'll find on a comparable
2-piece rod. I found I could lob all 700 grains, but for safety's sake,
I trimmed about 75 grains from the back taper.
The Front Tapers are lighter than the Back Tapers, so reversing the head
would work to increase the load on the rod. (Mass x Velocity = etc., etc.)
In fact, I tried reversing the 550 and found that it practically overwhelmed
the rod, so for most fly rods, I recommend trimming from the back.
The 850 grain head would have to be trimmed significantly. I removed
100 grains before testing and I wound up with a 24.5-foot line. Does this
defeat the purpose of the 850 Express? Not really, because I've
compressed that 725 to 750 grains into a short package that will sink
more rapidly in a current.
I decided the heaviest head would be a "last resort." My fly
rod would have to contend with the line weight plus water drag and, with
luck, a big summer flounder. It might be too much.
I met Bob, Phil, Rich and Don Zieran at Wego Fishing last Wednesday morning.
We would be taking Don's 25-foot Taggy Too Columbia to drift the
Green Lawns, just a short run from the dock.
Don set up the first drift and I held back in order to get an idea of
what I would be up against. We started in about 30 feet of water, but
soon the depth finder soared to 55 feet.
"Humps and troughs all along here," Bob explained. "The
fluke are in the deeper water."
"We don't usually get fluke on the ledges," Don added.
Uh-oh again. The bait boys were using 5-ounce sinkers, bouncing their
offerings within a foot or so of the bottom.
The best scenario for a fly rodder at the Lawns would be fluke sitting
on top of the humps. Summer flounder aren't scavengers. They attack moving
targets and I felt I could have been able to work a pattern at 30-feet,
but a 50-foot dead drop was something else again.
Rips set up the best fluke situation for fly rodders. You can use a fast-sinking
head and let the current do most of the work as it carries your pattern
along in a thoroughly natural presentation.
For the next drift, I rigged my rod with the 550
head, a 3-foot 30-pound-test butt leader, a 1.5-foot 18-pound-test tippet
and Glen Mikkleson's Acrylic Squid. There were no baitfish in the
bay last week, but some squid were still around. I figured a squid pattern
was my best shot.
The Deep Water Express lived up to its name. After a few casts,
I found that the best method was to get the full head and about 20 feet
of shooting line in the water on a cast, then feed out more line on the
drift. The line quickly sank out of sight.
Knowing whether or not I was touching bottom proved to be the hardest
part. The sinker-bouncers could feel bottom easily and their baits were
automatically within a fluke's strike window when that lead hit bottom.
I had to do a lot of guesswork, but a snagged spider crab told me I was
in the right neighborhood. The 550 was doing its thing, down to at least
But my line was practically straight down in the water. There was little
wind and both Bob and Don agreed that the ebb current wasn't setting up
the way they hoped. To compensate, I tried some longer and more frequent
casts up current of our drift, allowing the line to sink and swing around
as I worked the pattern in short strips, trying to imitate a squid's movements.
On our fourth drift, the wind and current picked up. My line was now
angling off the stern. To compensate, I fed out more until I had 75 to
80 feet in the water and Whack! Missed. Whack-whack!
We returned with fourteen fluke. Phil Scocca limited and Don Zieran had
the biggest at 4.25 pounds. Jack Duerew picked up a 13-pound 10-ounce
doormat next to us aboard the Peconic Star II and we watched Pat
Peck reel in a 28.5-inch fluke. As for me, I missed that fluke and the
current never set up quite the same way again for the rest of the day.
Bob and Don said the fluke weren't all that aggressive. They were just
"laying on the baits," and the lack of a good current might
have been the cause.
Still, I learned a lot. The 550 Express can get down to fluke
in 50 feet of water. You can make Mikkleson's Squid do life-like
things in the water. A fly rodder needs more speed on a drift than a bait
angler (a trolling motor might help) and you can catch deep-water fluke
on a fly, if you're quick enough.
Wait 'til next time.