ESPN2: Extreme adventure in Montauk's blitz


  • Editor's note: Click here to learn more about "The Outdoors Show on ESPN Radio." And to find the ESPN Radio affiliate in your area, click here.

    Meanwhile, "Guide House: Montauk" can be seen through June each Saltwater Sunday on ESPN2 at 10:30 a.m. ET. For complete weekly episode descriptions,
    see the "Guide House: Montauk" show page.

    "Of course, saltwater flyfishing in the Northeast can be as extreme as one would care to make it."

    — Jeffrey Cardenas in the book "Sea Level"

    At first glance, flyfishing might appear to be the apex where drably dressed anglers, a long graphite wand, a small tuft of feather and fur, tumbling cold water and a hungry trout all intersect at a point in time.

    Call it genteel sport with the symphony warming up in the background.

    For extreme sports pioneer Greta Gaines, however, flyfishing is a sport that is … well, it's extreme.

    Forget the walk in the park stuff with soft music in the background.

    We're talking adrenaline rush, crashing waves, smashing strikes, hard pulls and gnarly music straight from the ESPN X Games.

    Gaines, a woman whose resume includes extreme snowboarding, making music, and motherhood among other pursuits, will stop by for a visit on this week's "Guide House: Montauk" episode on ESPN2.

    When that episode airs this Saltwater Sunday at 10:30 a.m. ET on the Deuce, viewers will get to see not only Gaines singing a catchy tune, they'll also see a bit more of the extreme nature of Northeastern flyfishing on the salt. You also can hear an interview with Gaines at 6 a.m. ET this Saturday on "The Outdoors Show on ESPN Radio."

    "This saltwater stuff, I can't even go back to trout fishing now because it's not the same," said Gaines, whose recent work has included being a correspondent for ESPN Outdoors' "New American Sportsman" and "BassCenter."

    "Once you've caught big fish on small tackle, well then forget about it, it's not the same."

    One person who knows all about the adrenaline rush that saltwater flyfishing in New England can produce is guide Amanda Switzer.

    Once a novelty as a pioneering female guide in what has traditionally been a male dominated profession, Switzer is today one of the hardest working, most knowledgeable, and highly sought after fly guides in the Northeast.

    Whether guiding clients, fishing before the ESPN Outdoors cameras, or casting a fly on her own, for Switzer, there's no better place to be as a fly angler in autumn than to be off Montauk with a 10-weight fly rod in hand.

    "It's a phenomenon," Switzer said of the blitz. "It's so bizarre that it's happening. You're drawn into nature at this amazing gathering, almost like a magnet."

    "I don't know if it's an addiction or not, but you want to be a part of it."

    This is exactly why executive producer Jason Puris and the ESPN Outdoors cameras were there to record the action last fall.

    "Montauk, well, it's sort of extreme flyfishing," Puris said. "You've got a lot of small boats, tons of fish, tough weather, big personalities, and people crowding around trying to catch these fish."

    "It's a complete opposite of standing in a river trying to catch a fish."

    Puris knows from first hand experience, having started flyfishing for New England stripers off the coast of Nantucket more than a decade ago.

    Today, from the briny waters near New York City, he continues to pursue the adrenaline rush of a striper's hard take, sizzling run, and thrashing head shakes on the fly.

    All of that - plus the reality of the fall blitz frenzy and the interesting people that pursue these hungry fish — is something that Puris wanted to capture in this already popular reality based flyfishing series.

    "This project was a dream come true for me," Puris said.

    Like most dreams come true, it was one that required an extraordinary amount of hard work.

    Such work involved the on-the-water coordination of guide boats and camera boats to start with, ensuring that no one got in the way of these working guide's paying clients who were actually on-board fishing as the action ensued.

    It also included the coordination of various camera crew members and sound technicians recording film and sound all day long.

    Add in the logistics of miking up everyone, providing food, rotating crews every few hours, and dealing with such off-the-wall things as sea sickness, and well, you can see that filming this show was not the equivalent of "A River Runs Through It."

    "We started filming at 5 a.m., waking them all up in the morning," Puris said. "We would then go straight on through until 10 or 11 p.m. that night — it was exhausting."

    "Add in the rough seas, 40 to 45 pound cameras, and being on board these boats for several hours and it was tough."

    Hard work wasn't all that was required for filming each episode of "Guide House."

    A little old fashioned nautical luck from the weatherman didn't hurt either.

    "We lucked out with spectacular weather during the shoot," Puris said.

    "In fact, we only lost one day of shooting. But the day after we stopped shooting, the guides didn't work for two weeks afterward because the weather was so bad."

    As anyone who has ever fished the region can attest to, good weather notwithstanding, tranquil conditions on the New England coast doesn't mean that waves aren't rolling or that the boat remains still.

    And that presents a whole new series of challenges to film such an angling reality show, namely the protection of costly camera and sound equipment.

    "We damaged a bunch of sound equipment," Puris ruefully admitted.

    "Our sound guys were basically wearing their mixers while wearing a poncho with a window in it to monitor levels. But these boats take waves and the guys got wet."

    Fortunately however, for the accounting department, at least, Puris indicates that no cameras were lost.

    "That would have been bad for the budget."

    What wasn't lost was the adrenaline charged fly rod pursuit of big stripers - cows, as they're called by northeastern fly rod enthusiasts — weighing 10, 15, 20, and even 30-pounds plus.

    Add in hungry bluefish and false albacore willing to attack well tied flies and you've got big game fishing adventure on light tackle that is virtually unparalleled anywhere else in North America.

    And all of this within amazing proximity to the Big Apple, I might add.

    That irony is not lost on the adventurous Gaines, whose snowboarding exploits have taken her far from civilization, deep into the pristine quietness of a snow covered wilderness.

    "My current love now is fishing," said Gaines, noting that motherhood has made her even more appreciative of time spent on the water.

    That she loves fishing isn't too surprising since Gaines grew up in spending plenty of time on a family farm and is the daughter of novelist, screenwriter and outdoors enthusiast Charles Gaines.

    But with marriage, motherhood, a Woman's Extreme Snowboarding World Championship title, recording music in Nashville, hosting the "MTV Sports and Music Festival," appearances on ESPN Outdoors' programming, and most recently, fishing competitively on the Women's Bassmaster Tour, added into the mix and what do you find now?

    Well, for Gaines, her love for fishing — especially saltwater flyfishing — continues to burn hot, bright, and unabated.

    "What I feel like every time I get out there, there's that rush and I can't believe I'm here, and I hope I'm good enough to be here," Gaines said. "It's pure anticipation.

    "That's the common link between the exhilaration I found in my early 20s when we would get to that (fresh) powder, find the (snowboard) line that no one has taken, and we were going to get there first.

    "There's a lot of that in fishing."

    Tune in this weekend to watch the second episode of "Guide House: Montauk" and see if you can't find it too.