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(Editor Note: As sure as the leaves turn color in New England in October, each year we receive a positively glowing subscriber report on the fishing around Essex, Massachusetts, for striped bass — and, this time, BIG bluefish — with Orvis-Endorsed guide Captain Kalil Boghdan of Downriver Charters (Tel. 978-407-7901. Web: www. Downrivercharters.com). The parade of positive reports we’ve received on Boghdan began in 2008 with a report from David Frances, Report ID 3986 in our Trip Planning Database. It continued in 2009 with equally positive reports from Honor Roll subscriber Bill Taylor, Report ID 4059; and subscriber George Bentley, Report ID 4095. These and all the reports in our database are available FREE to Online Extra subscribers. The latest reports is from subscriber Larry Johnson, a successful guide/outfitter in his own right at Soaring Eagle Lodge on the San Juan River in New Mexico. We’ll let him tell you the story. Enjoy!)
I was taking my semi-annual vacation to Boston from New Mexico this summer to see my beloved Red Sox play baseball, and to eat as much seafood in general and as many lobsters in particular as possible (13 in two weeks). I am an Angling Report subscriber, and I had noted the positive reports on Capt. Kalil Boghdan who works out of the Essex River area north of Boston. Striped bass have been on my “Fly Rod Bucket List” for some time, so I booked a day with the Captain. What a treat! The AR trip reports were spot on! My one-day trip eventually turned into five days on the water with this highly-skilled guide. When I booked, he answered all my questions, his e-mails were prompt and rendezvous locations very clear. He was very frank that the fishing had been slow but if we were lucky we would have some toothy bluefish added to the deal. He was correct in all regards.
As soon as I showed up at the marina in Essex and saw the spotless condition of his vessel I knew this was going to be a good trip. We followed the rising tide out into the mouth of the estuary and then back in again. Yes, we had to work to catch fish but they were there and he knew where to find them. We also had a little help from our fine feathered friends. Capt. Kalil was constantly scanning the water and the air for birds and said if there were birds feeding on the water, there were fish feeding under the birds.
We had two rods set up, one with wire leader for the bluefish and the other with 16-pound tippet for the stripers. Both rods were used a lot. Needless to say, after only a few hours out, I had already crossed both striper and bluefish off my list of new species on the fly. I don’t count fish, but we were well into double digits before he apologized for the fishing being slow. Slow…??? The fish were not huge on that first day but I was sure there were steroids in the clams and crabs they were eating! I was very glad I went with the 9-weight instead of the 7-weight that I almost brought with me.
As stated, I booked a one day trip, then another and another…for a total of five days on the water. Each day got better and I learned something new every day. Capt Kalil, a former educator, has to be one of the best instructional guides I have ever used, and I have used a lot of guides in my 57 years! I don’t know what kept me booking additional days. It could have been his fishing skills, or the hot coffee and fresh pastries each morning when we met at 6 am, or the gourmet lunch each afternoon. I have to say we were very lucky with the weather: not one drop of rain, temps in the mid 80s each day, no humidity to speak of and those nasty greenhead flies were almost non-existent.
On Day 2, we were off-motor and on a gentle drift over what had been a white sand beach a few hours earlier (they get seven- to eight-foot tides in this area) when all of a sudden, BOOM!, one torpedo zips by. And then, BOOM!, another and another and, BANG!, we were in the middle of a huge school of blues. These were big dudes. I quickly switched rods to the wire tippet. The first cast produced a 14-pound bluefish that ended up on the Boga Grip only after what seemed like a half-hour battle. We drifted and followed the school for some time and hooked up several more blues in the 10-pound-plus class. After that, we drifted the tide in and had stripers until we quit. So, of course, I had to commit to another day….
The highlight of my trip was my last day when we hit busting fish and birds everywhere. At that point, Capt. Kalil said, “We are going dry,” and he gave me his Orvis Helios 8-weight with what looked like a fat red and white canary made of foam and feathers. Well, I don’t know if you could call it dry fly fishing, but…. He told me to chuck it out as far I could and start popping and stripping as hard as possible. On my third pop, Wham! This fish hit like a baby tarpon, ate the fly and cartwheeled three feet out of the water. That “dry-fly” set-up was all I used for the rest of the day. What a finish!
Needless to say there was no controversy of any kind on this trip. I give Capt. Kalil a five-star rating on all facets of his operation and would highly recommend his services to all Angling Report subscribers. – Larry Johnson