I spent last week on vacation on the coast of Rhode Island, sharing a big beach house with a bunch of high-school buddies and their families. It was a spectacular time, and I even got to sneak off for a day of fishing, along with one of those old friends, photographer Sandy Hays. Months earlier, Capt. Aron Cascone had invited me to check out his unique flats fishery on Ninigret Pond, a tidal estuary in Charlestown, so I decided to take him up on the offer.
One of the great things about sight fishing is that you don’t have to be on the water before dawn, since you need a high sun for the best visibility. We met Aron at 8 a.m. and put his 17-foot Maverick flats boat in the water a half hour later. After about 10 minutes of running, we were on a set of flats where several channels came together, and we started seeing stripers immediately.
The day before, Aron had had one of his best days on the flats, and his client had landed five fish over 30 inches. Of course, that was “yesterday.” (I bet you can see where this is going.)
The tide was still falling and the sun didn’t offer great visibility, but I had a few shots from up on the bow in the first hour. However, the fish were either super-spooky, darting away as soon as I started casting, or were hunkered at the bottom of the channels. “Wait until we can see the fish from farther away,” Aron said. “Then we can get better shots.”
We got out of the boat and waded to a broad flat where, as the sun got higher, the fish showed up like black missiles against the white sand. For about an hour, we had shot after shot at singles, doubles, and small groups. About half the fish ignored our shrimp and baitfish patterns entirely, but many stripers turned on the flies and even followed them for a few yards. But what they wouldn’t do was eat. These were big fish, too, with many over 30 inches and a few over 40.
Although it was frustrating, it was also exhilarating. We’d watch a fish come up on the flat and wait it until it was in casting range. Once the fly was in the water, our concentration was focused on the fish and how it would react. Each turn and follow ramped up the anticipation of a strike. . .although it never came. We tried a bunch of different patterns to varying degrees of success. One pink shrimp fly I threw seemed to simply scare the crap out of the fish, which seemed odd.
Finally, Aron hooked and landed what was apparently the only hungry fish in the area. It was a very cool eat, as the striper followed Aron’s baitfish pattern practically to his feet before exploding on the fly and turning away. It peeled off a ton of line before Aron even had a chance to get his hand on the reel. After about a five-minute fight, the fish came to hand and Sandy shot the photos here.
Ninigret Pond is a fascinating fishery, and my failure to tempt one of the dozens of stripers I saw has only fueled my desire to get back down there.