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Pro Tips: How to catch bluefish on a fly

We caught up with Cheeky Ambassador and professional guide Abbie Schuster to learn how she locates, targets and catches bluefish on the fly. 

Summer blues...

By Abbie Schuster

During these winter months I often find myself daydreaming about summer days on the water. It's hard to beat those warm July days when you are all rigged up, and boom! Out of no where ... you're in the middle of a bluefish blitz! For those of you who have never seen a bluefish blitz first hand, the energy, power and aggressive nature of these fish is downright scary. I've heard that if bluefish grew to be 50+ pounds, taking a summer swim at a New England beach would be suicide. Thank you Mother Nature, I really like the beach!

Catching these predators on a fly is an experience unlike just about anything else in New England. First thing I do when I see the initial fish break the surface is take a deep, calming breath because in a second all hell is going to break loose. Cast your fly, really any fly, and strip as fast as humanly possible and hold on, there's a good chance you will connect with pure attitude!

Cast far and strip fast

Of course there is a little more to it than using any fly and stripping as fast as you can, but those are the basics. Bluefish are so aggressive they will eat almost anything, although my favorite way to fish for them is with poppers. You can watch the mayhem as they rip through a bait ball and find your fly "popping" across the surface ... WHAM! Poppers represent an easy target for these eating machines, and for the angler, the visuals are simply awesome.

Poppers are an exhilarating way to catch bluefish

I was fishing from my kayak one morning and had a small striped bass on my line, it was about 2 feet from my boat when the surface exploded and a glutinous, yellow-eyed bluefish took half of my striper with it! This is what you're dealing with when you fish for blues ... a menace to all bait fish, large and small. 

Look for structure and baitfish

The best way to find bluefish is to look for structured areas where baitfish congregate, like a nearshore reef. Their favorite meal is peanut bunker, an oily baitfish that migrate south during the fall season. Scan for oily patches on the surface, even though things may look wonderfully calm up top, down below bunker are swimming for their lives, often times with little success. Sometimes you can even smell the carnage from below wafting to the surface.

Peanut Bunker are a favorite snack for bluefish

Another sure bet indicator is to follow birds diving on the surface, usually when there are birds diving, there is soon to be a blitz, so have your fly rod rigged and ready. These fish are not leader shy, so the heavier the tippet the better. I also use bite guards or shock tippet so I don’t spend the entire day replacing flies lost to their razor sharp chompers.

With razor sharp teeth and yellow-eyes, bluefish have the look and attitude of a true menace

Another reason I love bluefish is because they are not snobby creatures, they don't belong to an elite club like our friends the trout or false albacore, they're plain old workhorses. I've often wondered if the blue in blue fish stands for blue collar ... hard charging workers with little regard for what you might think of them and of course, tons of fun! So here's to you my simple friend, stay angry and I'll be waiting for you when the weather turns.

Abbie is the owner, founder and head guide for Kismet Outfitters, located in Massachusetts and Maine.