Fish America: New York

Week four on the road began on the Farmington River in Connecticut with Matt Wettish. Wettish has been stalking big brown and rainbow trout in the Farmington for a few years now, and was kind enough to let me tag along Monday morning. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO >>
We employed a technique that was somewhat of a hybrid between spin- and fly-fishing. Using ultra-light, 6-foot, 6-inch rods and 2-pound test Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader, we drifted live mealworms through the river on tiny nymph hooks. It's a delivery method Matt has been toying with and perfecting for years, and it's pretty lethal on big browns.
It takes me a while to get the hang of the technique, but once I do, we're bringing trout, like this beautiful brown trout, to net. Hearing the drag sing as the fish bolt into the current on the light gear is the kind of fun fishing that just makes you laugh out loud.
Barbless hooks and careful handling ensure a healthy release of these beautiful fish.
Matt's experience on this river shows, he places the mealworm perfectly, and he's in. The drag is singing as the fish, larger than any we'd caught that morning, takes off in the current. After a spirited battle we snap a photo of the impressive brown trout, definitely a highlight of the trip, before watching it swim away.
As the morning grows warmer, these fish stage and move into shallower water, and we target them upstream in faster water. Here, getting the right drift is more challenging, and I miss more than my share of fish, but manage to land a few.
We're steaming way south, about 110 miles off, where a bigeye tuna bite has been rumored. It's a five-hour haul from the port in Merrick, and my farthest ever run offshore.
The crew consists of (from left) Fred, Gene, Anthony, "Pink Floyd" Lloyd, and myself. These are the type of guys that could have fun fishing in a puddle. There's baked ziti, there's chilled wine, there are no shortage of stories, and although an overnighter takes a lot of work, this type of fishing isn't exactly roughing it. These guys have put in years of hard work, and are reaping the benefits, and they know how to have a good time.
We drag our spreader bars everywhere the first afternoon, changing colors, freshening the rigged baits, and changing course, without a knockdown.
When the sun sets, it's time to chunk. We've got everything: bunker, butterfish, sand-eel chum, and mackerel. We set our slick and wait.
The next day's trolling proves equally frustrating, and eventually we head for port. It's hard to complain, though, about one of the finest meals I've been treated to on this trip, one of the nicest boats I've been on, and a starry night in the Canyons. There's something about being 100 miles offshore, under all the stars you'll ever see, that sort of puts the fish, or lack thereof, in perspective. I thank Gene as many times as I can and it's back on the road. I'm headed for Hancock, New York to fish the west branch of the Delaware River.
My original plan was to fish the Neversink River, but the river is running so low that I change plans, thanks to the advice of guide Captain Joe Demalderis of Cross Current Guide Service. Joe has been fishing the region for decades, and knows every pocket, pool and riffle on the west branch.
We take out in Deposit, New York, I get a ride to my jeep, jump in and head south. Next up is Montauk, New York, where I'll be surfcasting for big spring stripers.
In Montauk I've chosen to fish with Mike Coppola. Why? See above. The guy catches enormous striped bass. I could give you a laundry list of the tournaments he's won, but the above fish, a mounted 55-pound bass taken out of the surf last season, should be all the proof needed. The 34-year-old leaves his office in Manhattan on the weekends to work the rocks of Montauk, and he doesn't fool around.
Mike lends me a spare wetsuit and takes me deep into the heart of Montauk's South Side. The stretch of shoreline is a mess of rocks that range from pebbles to house-sized boulders. It's treacherous walking. We begin the night at 10 p.m., with the intention of fishing through sunrise. Stripers will feed in close to shore under the cover of darkness.
To say wet-suiting is difficult is like saying the sun is warm. You're swimming to boulders, you're climbing on, and then waves are knocking you off. You get back on and repeat. The trick, I find, is to stand at the front edge of the rock, and lean forward into the surf, so that the waves only knock you to the back of the boulder, not clean off. I manage to stay on a rock long enough to land my first wetsuit striper. Not a cow, by any means, but I'm thrilled. The beating from the surf slowly wears me down until I'm drenched sore and exhausted.
Breaking right at the end of our casts is a school of stripers reaching at least 36 pounds. Mike lands a 36-pound fish and deposits it on the rocks and is back to casting. He lands and releases another fish in the 30-pound range shortly thereafter. There are plenty of decent-sized stripers mixed in.
After a long night in the surf, we take the prize catch to Paulie's. Paulie's Tackle is the surfcasting hub in Montauk. It's where to go in the morning to find out what happened the night before. There's fresh coffee, no shortage of rumors and stories, and usually a lot of laughter.
With our wetsuits drying on the rack, we call it a day… or night. I make it about an hour down the road before falling asleep in a parking lot, and with that, week 4 comes to an end. Monster brown trout on 2-pound-test line, an overnighter in the Canyons, drift-boat fishing one of New York's most challenging trout waters, and an entire night spent in the Montauk surf have left me exhausted but grateful for another amazing week on the road. Next week I'll take a shot at some Jersey bluefin, head to Fire Island for some surfcasting, and finally end my stay in the Northeast before heading south.
If you go… Upper Delaware River: Joe Demalderis, Cross Current Guide Service and Outfitters. Joe is a class act and first-rate fisherman. Montauk: Paulies Bait and Tackle.