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For some years now, Capt. Jeff Northrop (*) has been "pushing the envelope" of fly rod and light tackle flats-style fishing for striped bass, bluefish and bonito around the Norwalk Islands in Long Island Sound. Northrop’s pioneering efforts have received a lot of good press, and from what I’ve personally seen, the praise is well-deserved. He’s the genuine article – a friendly, personable and hard-working guide with top-flight equipment and encyclopedic knowledge of his local area.

It’s pretty much an accepted fact that Northrop and the two guides who work for him can get you into fish anytime from May through November, barring extreme weather. As fellow Angling Report correspondent Jerry Gibbs and I recently discovered, Northrop is now able to offer top-flight striper fishing in February, March and early April, too. The secret is the constant warm outflow from the LILCO power plant on Long Island, about a 30-minute boat ride across the open Sound from Northrop’s marina in Westport, Connecticut. The oil-fired LILCO plant uses seawater for cooling, then releases it through a spillway back into the Sound. This warm outflow water attracts baitfish and stripers and holds them all winter long. If you wished, you could probably fish in January. What this means is, you can take a day off from your New York business trip or your New England ski vacation and catch fish!

Northrop is the kind of guide who positions the boat to give his client the best shot at fish and tells you right where to cast. It is possible for two anglers to fish simultaneously – Gibbs and I scored seven double-headers. We hooked fish on our first 14 consecutive casts and landed almost 50 fish in the six-hour trip. Most of these were "school-size" stripers and were lots of fun on the five-weight rods we used early in the morning. A brisk wind later in the morning forced us to use heavier tackle to punch out the big Deceivers and Clouser Minnows. Gibbs hooked an exceptional fish of well over 30 pounds on a nine-weight rod that ran well into the backing. After a 20-minute battle, the hook pulled out just as Northrop was reaching out with the lip gaff. Apparently these larger fish mix right in with the schoolies, so you never know whether your next fish will be two feet long, or twice that.

Our trip was initially scheduled for early March, but a major blizzard forced us to postpone and various conflicts kept us off the water until the end of the month. If possible, I’d suggest booking a general time frame and let the weather determine which day you actually fish. However, given the seaworthiness of the 18-foot Hewes flats skiffs Northrop uses and the relatively protected fishing location, the odds are good that you can just pick a day and go. Be sure to bring layers of warm clothes, including waterproof foul-weather gear over pile clothing over long underwear, plus neoprene gloves and a hat to keep you warm on the fast, pre-dawn ride over and dry on the windy ride home.

Northrop’s services aren’t cheap. He charges $375 for a four-hour half day and $475 for a six-hour full day. That’s for two anglers and includes a substantial box lunch and all tackle. Incidentally, all of Northrop’s reels are set up for a left-handed retrieve. This means that if you’re as helplessly wedded to right-handed winding as I am, you should probably bring your own reels with sink-tip lines and fast-sinking shooting heads.

If I sound particularly enthusiastic about this fishery, that’s because I live in the Northeast, specifically in New Hampshire. It delights me to know there is now some winter salt water fly rodding available this side of south Florida! – Tim Jones.

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