This is kind of a blast from the past! When I was a kid growing up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn I was obsessed with fishing artificial lures for stripers. I used to make my own top water plugs out of broom handles and paint them with spray paint.. For me getting a fish to eat something that wasn’t real and making it come alive was what it was all about. One of my heroes back in the day was a guy named Al Reinfelder. I used to subscribe to two magazines back in the day. The Long Island Fisherman which was a weekly black and white publication that had great local intel on the party boat scene and the local surf scene. The Saltwater Sportsman always had awesome articles on early saltwater fly fishing that allowed a poor Brooklyn kid to dream about exotic species in far away places. Al wrote articles for both of these pubs but I first I learned of Al Reinfelder while reading the Long Island Fisherman in the early seventies when I was a teenager. I used to save all the issues he wrote articles in, man, I wish I still had them. Al used to have the most amazing photos of big cow stripers; he just always looked good holding big fish, not a hair out of place. He passionately wrote about fishing off bridges at night and would masterfully swim his bait tails through the piling shadows hooking big fish religiously. He loved to fish the Crossbay Bridge in the Rockaways not far from my home waters in Breezy Point. Al and his fishing buddy Lou Palma created the Alou Eel (Al from Reinfelder and Lou from Palma) which were artificial eels that had a lead head you could cast and swim like a real eel at night. They Started the Alou Fishing Company together. I still have an Alou eel somewhere in my fishing shed. They were deadly lures. From the leftover plastics tails of the Alou eels, the boys created the bait tails which were like bucktail jigs only with plastic tails that seamlessly came off the lead heads. Al and Lou are each holding one in the picture above. This was the beginning of saltwater plastics on the east coast that specifically targeted local stripers, blues and weakfish but soon became so popular almost every species of fish around the country were landed on them. You may ask why am I talking about bait tails when I spend most of my fishing with the fly? The reason I am bring this important jig back is because the principles are the same. You must impart action to allow your fly or jig or swim to imitate a wounded bait fish and entice the apex predators to eat. Although just stripping in the fly or reeling in the lure will sometimes get bit, it is the skill of the angler that will adapt the cadence of the action, fast, slow, stop, drop, change sizes and colors etc., to make your fly or jig, a lifeless piece of plastic or artificial materials come alive. What made Al Reinfelder such a great angler was his dedication to understanding how fish feed and how to present his artificial bait tails so they got eaten. It wasn’t a fluke why Al always caught big fish, he earned it, and was gracious enough to share it with those that cared to take notice… it was a sad day when I heard that Al Reinfelder had drown, his boat capsized on a river while fishing for shad, I think the LI Fisherman did a special issue on his life…he will always be remembered in my book and his approach to solving a problem by adapting his baits to fit a particular situation was a life lesson for me.
This is an awesome article. I had no idea you had fishing roots going back that far.
My fishing mentor and hero was my Gramps–my maternal grandfather. He took me on my first fishing trip 52 years ago. He was very much like these two men in your blog, in terms of experimenting. Gramps was a deer hunter, and would collect all of his and his buddy’s buck tails. He would scrounge the shooting sand pits for spent lead, sifting out of the sand by the pound. As he was also an amateur gunsmith, and reloaded cases for most of his 40 guns, he became good at making molds for casting lead bullets. He developed a mold that incorporates a hook, used to cast jig heads, using the dyed bucktails, and even sold them on the side. He dyed them dark blue (others colors too, but blue worked best all over Minnesota and Wisconsin). I still have some old hooks, the mold, his Herter’s vice, and even some of the original blue Rit dye. Since I am tossing cone heads anyway, now you’ve got me thinking….
By the way, did I ever tell you my wife has a cousin with a house on the waterfront (city side) on City Island? Alas, she doesn’t fish. The last time I was visiting my sister in Newport, we stopped in NYC to see a friend and then to see that cousin. I saw a number of good boils…no fly rod with me…or license for that matter.
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2013 23:39:09 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org