'One and done!" shouted Vincent Catalano as a big bluefish exploded on his hookless popper.

"Get that fly out and strip it, fast!"

My cast fell three yards short and a bit to the right but was still close enough to rile the chopper as Catalano yanked the popper away. In a violent boil the size of a washtub, my white Clouser Minnow vanished and the line snapped tight as the toothy predator fell for our bait and switch routine. Shifting into high gear, it powered away and I would need several minutes to wrestle it within grasp.

"Nice going," Catalano said, smiling, and using pliers to carefully pull the hook from the 'gators toothy jaws. You've got everything going right now."

The 34-year old East-End fly-fishing and light-tackle guide (joeyccharters.com) was being kind. My casts Thursday morning had been mostly short, sometimes sloppy and often wide right as we taunted slammer blues and stripers in the rips of Gardiners Bay. With patience and humor, he politely corrected a few basic flaws in my fly-casting routine and now our diligence was paying dividends. As the dropping tide began to fade the action was relentless with thick pods of bluefish sliding across the rip and spilling deeper into the bay.

"It is an amazing fishery on the East End this time of year," said Catalano, who will soon shift operations to Montauk for the fall run. "What many people don't realize, however, is how easy fly-fishing can be if you work with someone to learn the basics."

In my case, at least two prime fly-fishing errors needed addressing. First, I was making too many false casts while trying to get my line far from the boat.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"When we fish as a team, one guy raising fish with a hookless popper and the other casting a fly rod," Catalano said, "you only need to cast about 30 feet. These fish are vicious and they'll chase the teaser plug right to the boat. Make one back-cast and drop your line forward. The fish will find your fly."

A second fault was setting the hook with my rod. In salty fly-fishing the rod is too soft to set the hook solidly so you need to point the tip right at the fish and strip hard on the line. It took a while to get this down but, once I managed mind over matter, the hook began to stick with more authority.

"Really, all it takes is practice," Catalano said as he released another double-digit bruiser. "It's easier to catch these fish with a spinning stick but to master fly fishing you've got to endure a few bad casts to work out the kinks."

Surf fishing show

and seminar at Hilton

@Newsday

The Fisherman Magazine's Annual Surf Fishing Show and Seminar is scheduled for Thursday at the Huntington Hilton on Route 110. The program features plenty of surf fishing seminars and more than 60 surf fishing tackle manufacturers. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $15 for children 16 and under. Call 631-345-5200 for more information.

The Montauk Surf Fishing Classic, hosted by The Fisherman Magazine and Long Island State Parks, is slated for Sept. 25 through Sept. 27. Entry fee is $15. Call 631-321-3510 for more information.

Email: outdoortom@

optonline.net