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07/01 - Destination File - Chesapeake Bay Fly Fishing

By: C.C. McCotter

Finding a challenge is what keeps most long time anglers interested in their sport. I am constantly looking for a challenge, so when Captain Dave Compton of Charters Plus, Inc called and invited me on a Bay rockfish and bluefish trip, my first question was: "Can I bring my fly rod?"

With no hesitation, Compton told me "absolutely" and we quickly settled on a mid-June date. Captain Dave fishes the middle Chesapeake out of Ingram Bay near Reedville -- most recently known as a haven for rockfish hounds. As the rockfish stocks rebounded after the long moratorium of the 80's, Compton's "backyard" became world-famous.

To make sure we were up early and on his spot before other charter boats, I spent the night with Compton at his cottage. I soon learned Capt. Dave liked to gamble, but was smart enough to always play the odds -- like going to a spot reputed to hold big fish and getting there first.

The alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. but I was up well before it rang. We climbed into Dave's truck and drove to the marina (about 500 feet away) with our gear and loaded up his 25-foot Parker -- the Aces Up.

The 225 Johnson Ocean Pro on the stern fired right up and we headed out of the breakwater into the wide mouth of the Great Wicomico River on a warm, hazy and humid morning. The only other boats we saw was a lumbering, and smelly menhaden boat.

Compton's Parker was fast with the powerful outboard, and we were soon passing the Great Wicomico Light and heading for the Northern Neck Reef using the direction of Loran. At our destination, Compton explained, the Virginia Marine Resources Council had dropped some 1,600 tetrahedron-shaped concrete fish structures a few years back. Soon after it was created, the reef started attracting fish like lobbyists to a free lunch.

When we arrived after a 20-minute ride, Compton quickly assessed the tide, then dropped anchor about 75 yards away from the reef buoy. We didn't want to be too close he said, especially when the tide swung around again around 10 a.m. The water was a pleasant 77 degrees.

I looked at my watch when our first line was cast. By 6:20 Compton had his frozen chum bucket tied off, his fresh chum line going and three lines in, plus mine and no other boats in sight.

It took about 20 minutes before our first hit and it went to the gambler. Compton landed a "keeper" rockfish of 19 inches, but gently released it, telling me there would be bigger fish - another gamble.

I stuck with my flyrod and red/white Clouser minnow until Dave started getting bites every minute. Then, watching the bits of fish flesh drifting out of the thawing chum bucket and chum line, I realized it might be tricky to get the fish to hit a fake offering made of deer hair, lead and steel. I don't gamble, so I tipped my fly with a wee bit of alewive and again turned it loose into the chum slick.

It didn't take long to hook up. The rod was nearly ripped from my grasp with the slashing strike of a fish, then went slack after my hookset.

"Must have been a bluefish," Dave said with a smile. "Here, try this."

The Captain handed me a shore wire leader and a no. 1 hook. I am no purist, so I took the rig and tied the Allbright knot Dave had shown me earlier to connect it to my Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader.

Using that rig and my six weight HMX Fenwick fly rod and Fenwick World Class reel I caught a number of Taylor bluefish and one rockfish almost 27 inches -- all by 9:30 a.m. Like a good run at the poker table, all good things come to an end.

The action slowed by 10 as the incoming tide slacked. The breeze died and it grew steamy out in the open. Looking around, I counted 11 other boats fishing the reef area, all with very little luck.

Dave and I had to wait about 45 hot, biteless minutes before the tide began to ebb, once again spreading our line of chum beyond the boat and attracting hungry fish. At this point, Compton said he knew a good trick -- an ace up his sleeve, so to speak. We switched to smaller no. 4 hooks at his urging and started hooking up again immediately. There wasn't a five minute span when we didn't have a fish on. None of the other boats were doing as well. The gamber was turning the tables once again.

We took our final 27-inch rockfish and released many other chunky fish during the frenzy. I also had the pleasure of landing a three-pound bluefish on my flyrod without the leader, a bit of a gamble, I should note.

I had to be back at the dock by noon and by 11:30 Dave had the anchor stowed and the powerful outboard pushing the Parker homeward. We had our four-fish limit of rockfish, 10 bluefish on ice and the satisfaction of knowing we had definitely "left the table ahead". This was a good trip -- short, fun and productive.

While he does hold the standard Coast Guard charter captain license, the similarities between Compton and many other charter services end there. David specilizes in offering anglers a complete trip package. This includes arranging lodging the night before (if necessary) food and beverages, fishing equipment, cleaning the day's catch and more. With one call, Compton will totally arrange your trip from tuck-in to wake-up, first cast to icing them down. Dave also runs a 17-foot center console Sea Hunt for marsh and creek exploration and fly fishing trips for trout, flounder and puppy drum.

Like most cagey gamblers, Compton told me he was lucky, but his consistent success in tournaments proved otherwise. In the past three years anglers in Capt. Dave's Aces Up have won one three times in the Reedville Bluefish Derby. In 99 Compton had the third place daily rockfish winner and also won the rockfish youth angler award. Now that's a good day on the water. In 2000, Compton took the second place primary bluefish award for the same event. His boat also won the bluefish youth angler award for 2000. In 2001, again in the Reedville tourney, Capt. Dave won the first day bluefish Calcutta award and second place youth angler award.

Editor's Note: To arrange a trip with Capt. Dave Compton on the middle Chesapeake call him at 804/730-7877. He will be fishing for rockfish, bluefish, spanish mackerel, trout and croaker the rest of the summer in Virginia waters. Compton welcomes and fosters fly fishing on all his charters.

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