Club History

 

Started on January 9, 1993

Early History of Connecticut, Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers

The development of Connecticut, Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers can be attributed to a series of events that occurred between the middle to late 1980s and early 1990s. Up until that time, Tom Bogue, Curt Nelson and I spent most of our saltwater fishing time chasing abundant numbers of bluefish off Black Ledge east of New London light. Since I arrived in the New London area in the early 1970s, you could pretty much count on lots of bluefish off Black Ledge from late May through November, with a few large weak fish thrown in. Rarely did we ever see or catch bass back then. I docked my boat at Bakers Cove where Tom Bogue or Curt Nelson and I would make the short run to Black Ledge after work and fish until dark. Over the years I was convinced that this was the perfect life style for me and set a goal to purchase property on the water, hopefully on Baker Cove. 


In the early day, spin fishing for bluefish gradually evolved into one of us teasing the fish to the boat with hook-less poppers while the other cast flies to them once they got in range. We were pretty much satisfied with this “taking turns” kind of saltwater fly fishing action for a good 5 or 6 six years (the club still has some video of that early hot bluefish action). 


In the middle 1980s the hot bluefish action at Black Ledge started to dry up, and by 1988 was pretty much over, leaving us with an addiction for saltwater fly fishing and no fish.


The drastic reduction in blue fishing forced Curt Nelson and I to explore other options to satisfy our saltwater fly fishing appetites. Ron Whiteley suggested we try fishing for stripers at night in the waters under the bridges at Palmers cove. 


It was also around this same period of time that neighbor and member Phil Guiney called me about a piece of waterfront property coming up for sale on Jupiter Point. It was the perfect place so I sold my old house and started building my water front home in 1989. 


With the little experience gained from fishing at night at Palmers Cove, Curt Nelson and I paddled my canoe from my newly purchased property across Bakers Cove to the Poquonnock River delta. As we suspected, there was an abundance of stripers feeding at night during the outgoing tides.


I was living in my new home by the spring of 1990 and Curt and I were now pretty much focused on catching stripers at night. Between fishing at Palmers and Bakers cove we met more and more saltwater fly fishing enthusiasts like Rennie Robinson, Jeff Pollard, Jerry Plaaten, Jerry VanDuinen, Dick Sablitz, Dave Burnside and Charlie Muscarella. In early November of 1992, I caught my biggest striper ever (42”-27lbs) on a fly given to me by Rennie Robinson. It was around this time that I could see a core of enthusiasts that might be interested in starting a club, and I felt confident that I could organize it after just completing a two year stint as the president of Thames Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU). Basically my motives were selfish, I just wanted to talk to more saltwater fly fisherman and make more friends (the club still has some early video of fishing the Poquonnock River delta in 1993 shot by Ron Jirsa).


Even though he has never taken any credit for helping to start this club, John Springer was pivotal in kicking it off. During the annual the fly fishing symposium sponsored by the Hammonasett Chapter of T.U. in January 1993, John allowed me to circulate a sign-up sheet of people interested in belonging to a saltwater fly fishing club. This club was started as a result of the large response and support of those who signed that original survey. 


So it was in the winter and early spring of 1993 that a small group met at my new home overlooking Baker Cove to talk about the details of starting the new club. We ended the meeting by kicking in $15 dollars each as seed money. 


Based on our first newsletter (April 1993) and my best recollection the original organizers were made up of myself (Steve Cicoria), Curt Nelson, Dick Sablitz, Dave Burnside, Jerry Van Duinen, Charley Muscarella, George Kelly, Art Brooks, Jeff Pollard and Stuart Cole. Other early supporters were: Bill Podoba, Bill Sheridan, George Terpenning, Ron Wojcik, Tom Fordyce, Barry Adams, Jim Conaty, Roland Straub, Jerry Plaaten, Billy Gunn, Ted Reich, Lou Dutra, Tom Haggerty, Tom Bogue, Charlie Utz, Charlie Kelley, Wayne & Steve Aguiar, Don Avery and Bob Salerno who printed our first newsletters.


The original club structure was setup based on Robert’s Rules of Order and the constitution made it clear that the club would be focused on having fun not on supporting political and/or environmental causes. Most core members were also T.U. members and felt that they had had enough of fighting political and/or environmental causes in T.U. 


Our first meeting was at the “Box Office Eatery” (now defunct) in Niantic on May 6th of 1993 with an outstanding turnout including great support from local fishing retailers, fly-fishing professionals and fly-tiers. Entertainment included a raffle table and fly tiers, including Page Rogers and, I believe, Tom Kintz. Ed Mitchell provided a program on saltwater basics and most of the local tackle shops provided prize material. Retailers included: Rivers End, Fish Connection, Colonial Sports, Watch Hill Fly Fishing Company (no longer in business) and North Cove Outfitters. 

By the end of June we had 60 paid members and by December paid membership was up to 78. In fact in the first couple of years the club membership was small enough that we had a fishing jamboree at Bluff Point Beach in the late spring.


Our first Christmas party was held on January 1994 and George Kelly was awarded a special gift for supporting most club functions and for bringing so many new members. From that point the club continued to grow along with the nationwide growth of interest in saltwater fly fishing. We had 101 paid members by April 1994 and 130 by March of 1996. Membership growth was significant during and after 1996, as high approximately 325.


The rapid growth in the size and the direction of the club after 1996 disappointed some of the original members and there was some loss in membership as a result. We have reestablished the original direction of the club in the last few years. Our membership as of January 2006 is approximately 200.

Steve Cicoria