DUN: So, Abbie, Martha’s Vineyard. Tell me about fly fishing at Martha’s Vineyard.
Abbie Schuster: Martha’s Vineyard is a fisherman’s paradise. The season runs May-November and is chock full of fish the whole time, except for a minor lull in the heat of August when the fish go to deeper, cooler waters. In June and early July, it is hard to tell if you are in Belize or on Martha’s Vineyard. The flats are sandy, the water is gin-clear, and you are sight casting for big, beautiful stripers. The season only gets better from there. As it progresses, we see bigger stripers, more bluefish, and by the middle of August, we start to see bonito and false albacore.
Bonito and albies on the fly are unbelievably addictive and fun to catch. They will take you into your backing again and again. The water will be calm and beautiful and then, boom, they make their presence known. The angler must do everything in their power to keep their cool, muster an adequate cast, and strip quickly in hopes of getting their fly in the school before they disappear.
DUN: You seem so young and yet you’ve really become a name in women’s fly fishing. How have you been able to accomplish so much in so little time?
AS: Passion. I love fly fishing, the outdoors, people, and teaching. My goal is not only to teach fly fishing to my clients, but also to bring awareness to the fish we pursue and their fragile environment. Both of my parents are inspirations to me because they both started and own their own businesses. I have seen the hard work, passion, and dedication it takes. From an early age I knew I wanted to be a guide, and watching my parents grow has given me the confidence to start my own outfitter.
DUN: What was it like growing up Abbie? Are you from a fishy family?
AS: My parents both love to be outdoors and my father is a fish fanatic. They did not let my siblings and me hold them back. We always joke that it is amazing we all survived the “character building” adventures our parents led us through, and on top of that still love to fly fish with each other. Before I could wade on my own, my father would put me on his shoulders and we would wade out at night to striper fish. Although we found ourselves unintentionally swimming a couple times, it was worth the fish we caught and memories we made. My family is very close and a lot of that is thanks to the endless hours we have spent together on the water. I am incredibly grateful for that time, and it has made me the angler and person I am today.
DUN: Tell us about a typical day in your life.
AS: Most of the year I am up before the sun, tuned in to the weather, getting ready for another day on the water, and, most importantly, eating a giant breakfast. I will wake up way earlier than needed to ensure I can eat a good breakfast, otherwise I am not sure anyone would want me as a guide.
Once I am off the water in the evening I clean the boat, play with my pup, Rupert, and practice or teach yoga. This time lets me reflect on how lucky I am to be living the life I created for myself. Many days in the summer I get to see the sun rise and set on the water while teaching and guiding the art of fly fishing. To me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
DUN: Tell me something that very little people know about you.
AS: I am incredibly and dramatically terrified of mice. Occasionally I will see a field mouse and make a scene. It’s unfortunate when this traumatic event happens in the morning, which does not help me gain confidence from my clients, as they see their guide screaming and sprinting away from a tiny mouse.
DUN: If I was going to come to Martha’s Vineyard and wanted to fish, what would I need to know about the fishery?
AS: The first thing to know is that your time on Martha’s Vineyard will be well spent. The fish are aggressive, powerful, and wild. Our season is short and sweet; we are seeing fish from about the end of April through the end of October. For a relatively small island, it has an incredibly diverse fishery. You can fish on flats, saltwater inlets, rips, channels, and, of course, the surf. A boat is helpful for the rips, but wading can also be very productive. An 8-weight rod with intermediate line is what we use for most of the season. During the fall when the bonito and albies are migrating through, a 10-weight with intermediate line is key. False Albacore will run basically until they die, so it is important to get them in and released as quickly as possible.
For flies in open water, I typically use sand eel, peanut bunker/menhaden, squid, and popper patterns. On the flats I use some of the same crab patterns I use in the Bahamas. The water is thick with bait for much of the summer. Taking the time to see how the bait is moving through the water is a great way to match your strip with their natural movement.
DUN: What is your absolute favorite fish?
AS: That is a hard question. I love the serenity and constant flow of a river; I love the expansiveness of the ocean, but if I had to pick one it would be bonefish. When I am casting at bonefish it means I am hosting a trip somewhere warm with some of my awesome clients. Hosted travel trips are so rewarding because I get to show my clients a new environment, culture, and fishery. Experiencing that together is powerful.
DUN: What makes Abbie tick?
AS: The will to be better, to make a difference in the industry, and to be an environmental steward. I strive to teach my clients, friends, and anyone who will listen the importance of taking care of our natural environment. My entire livelihood comes from the ocean and rivers. It is my job to give back to those waters and take care of them just like they take care of me. This can be done through passion, endurance, and education. Every trip or school I host I try to enlighten my clients on the importance of respecting the fish and water. An ideal trip for me is when my client leaves with a new passion, not only for fly fishing, but protecting the water in which these fish reside.