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Copyright © 1998 - 2007 Captain Jim Freda
Saltwater Fly Fishing Perspective
by Capt. Jim Freda
Shore Catch Guide Service

inter is a great time to write about and discuss any topic associated with the striper surf as most of us have packed it in for the season. In this article I would like to address the fly fisher as we prepare for our big fly fishing show at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ.

In the past several years I have seen a slight decline in the number of anglers that have been entering the sport of saltwater fly fishing. This may be do to the fact that the sport has reach a saturation level for the moment after a quick and massive influx of anglers took place between 1998-2003.

It seems that most anglers that I meet now either have a fly rod or two or just aren’t interested. The birth of many saltwater fly fishing clubs along with the Internet have also both served to shorten the learning curve for anyone entering into the sport or looking to move up the skill ladder.

I have also seen the purist concept of “I only fly” fade more and more into the background as many fly fishers will now too pick up a spinning or conventional rod to catch fish. You can thank big bunker for influencing many longrodders to move more and more in this direction. Watching someone catch one thirty pound bass after another while your fly goes untouched doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what you need to do.

However I am confident that as time goes on another push of new beginners will take note of just how much fun catching a fish on a fly rod is. Numbers will jump back up or at least remain constant. Maybe the numbers we are seeing now are more the norm with the bigger numbers from 1998-2003 the exception.

It we look at saltwater fly fishing in the northeast there is a fascinating history that is associated with the sport. From its New England infancy days in our country to the present the sport has seen changes that have been spear headed by several influential and creative individuals. Pioneers such as Zane Grey, Tom Loving, Joe Brooks, Lee Wulff, Holly Hollenbeck, Lefty Kreh, and Stu Apte, to name a few, piloted the sport in the early years.

This initial impetus led to its progression in our central NJ seaside communities in the sixties. At that time, two men, Cap Colvin and Fred Schrier were influential in forming one of the first interest groups at the Jersey Shore that focused on the sport. In 1962 this led to the initial chapter of the Saltwater Flyrodders of America. The first meeting of this group was at Cap Colvin’s Tackle Shop in Seaside Park.

With the likes of men like Cap Colvin, Lefty Kreh, Mark Sosin, Frank Woolner, Vin Sporano, Lou Rhodia, Butch Colvin, and Eddie Morrison, a new era had emerged with new techniques and strategies for catching fish along our NJ beaches. This initial surge to establish the sport in our area carried a punch that lasted into the early seventies but by the latter part of the decade the flame had been diminished.

Bob PopovicsBy the mid 1980’s a resurgence of saltwater fly fishing once again was refueled along the Jersey Shore. The impetus was the brain child of one of the most influential and innovative saltwater fly tiers known today, Bob Popovics.

In January of 1985 Bob decided to break out a card table in his Seaside Park home and invite some friends over to tie some flies. His gracious wife, Alexis, whipped up some brownies and coffee for the guests and the tying began. Some of the men who came out on that first night and signed Bob’s register book were: Don Wall, Dr. Richard Fort, Fred Schrier, Tom Fote, Eddie Morrison, and Lance Erwin. Sessions were repeated every Tuesday night and as word got out the numbers grew. No one was ever turned away from Bob’s home.

Bob recalls having upwards of fifty-five people crammed into the upstairs of his house all trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Guys and girls lined the stairs and even crowded into the bathroom for some space. Guest came from as far as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Long Island and North Carolina. As the numbers grew it was obvious to Bob that the small room in his house was considerably undersized. So on February 18, 1992 Bob announced that this would be the last meeting at his house and a flyrodder’s club would be formed with a much larger meeting place. The expected first meeting date would be in the early part of May of the same year.

ASWF Bob formed a committee to discuss a club philosophy, by laws, a constitution, press releases, costs, dues, speakers, and the like. This first group consisted of Ed Jaworowski, Lance Erwin, Hank Brandenburg, Don Wall, Joe Patton, Dick Dennis, Bill Hoblitzell, Tom Fote, Marie DeSaules, Doc Kaden, and Joe Cavanaugh. The club became the Atlantic Saltwater Flyrodders and met at the Tri-Boro First Aid Building in Seaside Park.

The camaraderie of sharing the fly rod experience is a uniting element that I feel will always keep this sport alive and flourishing. Add to this the sensation that one gets once a fish is hooked and you are hooked. As I quoted in my first book, Fishing the NJ Coast “the sensation of holding a pumping fly rod in your hand is unmatched by any means of conventional or spinning tackle. The throbbing, pulsating, and bending rod releases its energy directly into the hand. It’s almost as if you have the captured fish by the tail.

Today more and more fly fishers are setting their sites on much bigger game to the likes of tuna, marlin, and sails. Fly tying has also evolved into an art that is embedded in the skilled hands of many that are using new technologies to create new imitations. With these thoughts in mind I invite everyone to stop by our booth at the Somerset Show on January 26-28th and say hello. I would like to get to meet face to face many of my StriperSurf friends that I only know by type. It’s a great show, hope to see you there. End

Copyright © 1998 - 2014 Jim Freda, All Rights Reserved

Articles by Captain Jim Freda

Capt. Jim FREDAEmail Captain Jim Freda

Jim Freda is a highly respected charter captain, author, outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and photographer. His first book Fishing the New Jersey Coast, has been a best seller and received the “New Jersey Center for the Book Award” as one of the most notable NJ books. He co-authored a second book Saltwater Fishing a Tactical Approach, A Guide for Northeast Beach and Boat Fishermen, with his Shore Catch associates Capt Gene Quigley and Shell E. Caris.

Jim has weekly fishing columns that appear in the Bergen Record, NJ's second largest newspaper and the Coast Star and Ocean Star newspapers of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Nationally, Jim is a contributing editor for Fly Fishing in Saltwaters magazine and also writes for Fly Fisherman magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Eastern Fly Fishing, Big Game Journal, and Regionally he writes for On the Water magazine where he has is own monthly column, The Fisherman magazine and the NJ Federation of Sportsman Clubs newspaper.

As a seminar speaker Jim is featured as one of the celebrities on the Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series, as one of the “Stars of the Show” at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ, the Northeast’s largest fly fishing show and is on the National Pro Seminar slate at the Toyota Saltwater Expo also in Somerset. He is also regularly featured each year at many of the local fishing clubs in the surrounding area including the State’s two largest clubs the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and the Saltwater Anglers of Bergen County. Capt Jim has also been a guest speaker at all the Trout Unlimited Clubs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jim has also been a special guest speaker at the Bloomberg Network in New York City.

He is a member of the National Factory Pro Team for St. Croix Rods and pro staff for Fins Fishing Line, AVET Reels, Spro, Gamakatsu, Hogy, Korkers, Costa Del Mar, Columbia Sportswear and Aquaskinz.

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Books by Jim Freda
Saltwater Fishing A Tactical Approach Fishing the NJ Coast