I can remember back some 20 years ago, hearing about fly fishing for stripers on the east coast... specifically, Montauk. Being a west guy, I had at that point never traveled further east than Chicago, and had no clue what the east coast was all about. In my mind, it was a place of tall buildings, lots of people, and very small waves.
The furthest point east in America, Montauk sits at the end of Long Island Sound. Driving from LaGuardia International Airport to Montauk is a true test on one's patience, taking the better part of 3 hrs to reach the center of town.
I arrived late, well past 9 pm, but just in time for a beer at the Shagwong Tavern... an old, dark, beer joint where the Rolling Stones and other icons from the entertainment world would hang out with Andy Warhol during the raging 70's. I could feel the history bleeding from its walls as I drank my beer, and thought about my next 5 days chasing the fall stripers with Capt. Paul Dixon.
Capt. Dixon is the man. Confidante, engaging with an east coast swagger and a touch of California cool. He was born in Surf City USA, Huntington Beach, California during the mid-1950s. He spent his early years as I did, surfing and fishing the deep, cool Southern California waters a few steps from his mother's home. He left Southern California in the early 90's, moving to Montauk.
Some people might tell you Paul Dixon was not the first fly rodder on Montauk, but he sure was the first to put Montauk on the map as a world-class saltwater fly fishing destination. He opened a fly shop, started a guide service and tirelessly promoted the fishery throughout the 90's. He trained and mentored most of the best guides that work the Montauk waters today, and is the areas fly fishing striper ambassador.
Spending 5 days on a boat with Paul is akin to hanging with the Pope in Vatican City. Everywhere we went, whether it be on the water, in a restaurant, or walking down the street, folks waved, saluted, shook hands and yelled "Hey Paully how ya' doin'!"
There is something about fishing fall blitzing stripers with a guy like Paul. Guides like him make you a better angler and not for the obvious reasons. It's the sort of unspoken details they bring to a day of fishing. How Paul positioned the boat to put me in the perfect casting angle during a particular striper blitz, the understated yet confidant guidance when I needed to pick up my fly line and reposition my cast, or the big smile and firm handshake after landing my first 40 inch striper. These are the things I remember most, and what make Paul a special guide.
To say the least, the fishing on Montauk was unreal. My timing could not have been any more perfect, and in fact, the entire week prior to my arrival the guides had not seen a single striper. So, I guess I was lucky.
There was something about this trip that transcended fishing: I felt welcomed and at home, on and off the water, in this tight knit fishing community.
For me, the 60 foot fly cast is the final path of a fishing journey. It's the road that leads me there that gives the greatest satisfaction. The road to Montauk was no exception.