The night started off like all the others that summer in the late 90s. My fishing partner, Ronny, and I met at my house around 11, excited for yet another night of fly-fishing for stripers. The excitement was even greater this late-August night because I had access to a creek in one of the most exclusive areas of Long Island, an area that had not seen many anglers.
I stumbled upon this forbidden gem by accident (as most great things seem to happen) when a young teenager wandered into the tackle shop where I worked, asking about fly-fishing the area. I’d heard rumors about the place from old-timers who used to fish there before it was turned into a private beach club. Sure enough, the teenager’s grandfather, who was visiting from Florida, was a member of this ultra-exclusive club.
That same day, my new young pal introduced me to the property’s caretaker, whose palms were quickly greased with a bottle of expensive wine and a 15-pound loin of fresh bluefin tuna I’d caught a few days earlier. The caretaker, who was from New Zealand (and an avid angler himself), quickly outlined the rules—no fishing during the day, no fishing on weekends, and my car was the only one that could be parked in the turnoff on the side of the property. He said he would inform the local police of the make, model, and license plate of my Jeep so they wouldn’t bother me. This was no joke; I’d noticed security cameras in trees and on utility poles when I first walked onto the property.
So, that is how Ronny and I ended up with our rods rigged in the middle of one of the most exclusive, and elusive, fishing haunts on Long Island. Since it was August, we opted to wear jeans and wading boots to minimize noise. Upon arrival, I found the gate unlocked as promised (fifteen pounds of bluefin goes a long way), and we quickly began walking in the direction of the creek. We crossed a small bridge, pausing to watch spearing, killies, peanut bunker, and grass shrimp beginning to get swept out in the outgoing current. We hopped over the guard rail, and gingerly made our way down a 15-foot wall of boulders and onto a narrow beach paralleling the creek. As we trekked north toward open water, we could hear the telltale popping sounds of fish slurping bait off the surface. I felt like a kid in a candy store; I could hardly contain myself at the fortune bestowed upon us.
We rounded the corner and saw what we could only hear earlier—hundreds of fish feeding at the mouth of the creek. It was a flat calm night, so we slowly waded out along the bar, careful not to make too many waves and spook the bass. I let Ronny take the lead and fish down-current of me. Right away, he was into his first fish of the night, a 10-pound bass that ate a 2-inch Ray’s Fly ahead of a Cherry Bomb—a dark, multi-colored flatwing I had designed for another local creek.
We went fish for fish for most of the tide, and lost all track of time and sensation, including thirst and hunger. I frequently looked around, waiting for another angler to show up, but it didn’t happen. I almost felt guilty. Here we were, only a few miles from one of the biggest cities in the world, and we had one of the best fly-fishing spots all to ourselves, or so we thought.
Around 3 a.m., we’d had enough, and left with the bass still biting. Because it was a Tuesday night, we both had to be somewhat functional in a few short hours, so a nap was needed. We clipped our flies off the leaders, reeled up, and started our walk back to the Jeep. Neither of us said a word, the result of being exhausted and totally content with the night’s fishing. As we slowly made our way along the beach, I was startled to see a figure dressed in all black standing at the water’s edge about 25 yards in front of us.
As we got closer, the figure seemed to pace us, staying about 50 feet away at all times. All I could see was the outline of a person wearing a wide-brim hat and a long trenchlike coat. I didn’t say anything to Ronny, assuming my mind and eyes were playing tricks on me. When we reached the spot where I had first seen the figure, only two sets of prints were in the sand – the ones we had made on our way in. My heart started to race, and the figure was still pacing us. There’s no way this is happening, I thought to myself. Who is this guy? A poacher? The caretaker? Why aren’t there any footprints in the sand? I looked behind us and then again in front. The dark figure was still there.
As we came closer to the bridge, the figure simply vanished as if it had walked straight through the bridge. When we reached the wall of boulders we needed to climb up to get to the bridge, I noticed no wet footprints. Impossible, considering a person had to walk through water to get to this point. I prayed there was another vehicle parked next to mine, but mine was the only one there.
As we reached my vehicle, Ronny asked if I had seen the dark figure pacing us. He described in detail exactly what I had witnessed. I looked at him, confused, “Wait, you saw the same thing? What the heck was that?” A wave of shock, panic and fear shot through my body.
We quickly tossed our gear in the Jeep and high-tailed it out of there. During the whole ride home, we questioned what had really happened. We were stone-cold sober, yet both had seen the same figure pace us for 100 yards of beach and then simply vanish into a bridge without a trace.
Several months later, I received a frantic phone call from my girlfriend (now wife). Remember, these were the days before you could find out anything on the internet in a matter of seconds.
“Get over here, I have to show you something! I think I found what you saw that night.”
Could this get any weirder? She was not sure when or how, but a copy of a book about ghosts of Long Island had ended up on her dining room table. She handed me the book with shaking hands, and told me to flip to page 58. I sat there, completely shocked, as I read nearly a word-for-word account of what Ronny and I had seen.
Apparently, the property we’d been fishing once had a drawbridge where several people drowned in the early 1900s. It was converted into a vehicle bridge in the 1980s after the private club took over the property. Two of the most commonly seen figures have been a girl in a black dress or a man in a hat and trench coat.
I have since moved from the area where we had the encounter, but I frequently meet people from that town. One day, a gentleman who was about 80 years old told me a story about a famous fisherman who drowned in the area I used to fish. This gent frequently fished the same area alone at night, and on more than one occasion, he’d seen things he couldn’t explain. As he stared into space after hearing my own ghost tale, he burst out laughing and said I had nothing to worry about, “That was just Jack watching. He shows up from time to time to keep people away from his spots!”