Sissy Stick by Bill Wetzel

By Bill Wetzel

The quiet serene sanctity of the Back Bay drained its ebbing tide along the spring cord grass, as the arc of the rod and the draw of the line put the fly in position for dorsal fins to rise and bring the morning to its completion. Give me a break. I just can’t take the sissy wand and all the bologna that goes with it. I know some of you are already thinking that I am a snobby prick that does not know his ass from his elbow.  I will not confirm or deny, but I will have some fun here. Can someone tell how a fly reel can be six or seven hundred bucks, when it basically consists of nothing? Take a walk into Poorvis. I have never seen more overpriced fishing equipment in my life. If you want to get poor quick, have some expensive scotch, a fine cigar, and wear a dorky looking vest, then break out the overpriced sissy stick and go catch some schoolies.  Be my guest!  Actually that doesn’t sound too bad. I have been down that road once or twice and kind of liked it. Back to getting to my point! I have a few friends that are exceptionally good with the sissy stick, and back when we had time to fish with them I think I was only out fished by the sissy sticks on one occasion. Despite getting their rear end kicked on every trip, these guys would stick with their wands of glory. Sometimes we would have a strong NW in our face with waves beating on our chest, and out would come the sissy wand. There I was with my face in the wind casting loaded needle fish through a 20 knot North West, and my buddy would be facing the other way casting ass backwards, and catching nothing by the way. Eventually I was given a four weight, convinced to join a fly rodders club and headed to the west branch of the Delaware, to build ramps for the handicap, catch some trout, and eat some good food. Those were some good times. Once again I need to stick to my point!  I mean come on, cigars, quaint little fly rod shops, with tooth pick rods that look like I could break them after falling on my first rock of the night. You can’t even use the damn things as a walking stick.  Good lord, set the sissy stickers free!  Give them real rods that they can go out in a wild nor’east surf, with white water and wind eating them alive.

Every fall there is a group of sissy stickers that come to my home waters of Montauk  to fish  the daytime white bait blitzes. I have this little spot that I like to fish on flood water, and for most of the season I have it to myself.  It never fails that this group will come into this spot and shut it down to all other fisherman who might like to have a crack at it. Because I can be a pain in the ass on occassion I have worked my way in the spot despite the presence of guys smoking cigars with fly vests in the Montauk surf. Sounds like an oxymoron does it not? I have left on more than one occasion when they were mohaking the bass on flies, and I could not get so much of a touch. This would usually occur in flat gin clear water conditions. However  there has been times out of the corner of my eye  that I watched their frustration as I took bass after bass to their zero. What a warm fuzzy feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that gave me.  A few times when I was able to school the boys using wood plugs I would scream at the top of my lungs “Bob Hahn!”, as I threw Mr, Hahns metal lip to fish on nearly every cast. I tell my wife these stories and she will remind me that “all you fisherman are nuts.”  I think there is more to it than that. In front of the word fisherman she should put surf, because I do believe that most of us surf guys and gals are pretty nutty. Not me though. I am straight as an arrow, my cheese is on my cracker, and the train is on the track!


Ya know, for all this ranting and raving here I almost secretly carry a nine weight at all times in between my wheel well and bedroom quarters in the back of my buggy. I will joking tell my customers that “I have the sissy wand in the back if you want to take a shot with it for any thing in tight” Then I tell them not to tell anyone. So my point is that I think I need medication.


Editor’s note;

Bill Wetzel is what we like to call “The Hardest Working Guide in the Surf”. A quintessential Montauk Regular Bill works hard at teaching his clients the secrets of Montauk coves and consistently puts them on the fish. No wonder most of his customers come back for more year after year. Bill also runs a Surf Rats ball, Subscribers only forum at he exchanges ideas with his subscribers and of course, logs each and every one of his trips for all to read. Check it out at



19 comments on “Sissy Stick by Bill Wetzel

  1. Pete F

    I too once fished only with the flyrod. Then I decided to catch big fish.

    Back when I fished only with the fly rod, I was in Maine fishing in a tidal river and broke my big rod. Being 3+ hours from home I wasn’t about to quit since I was catching fish. I had my 5 weight trout rod in the truck and caught fish for hours up to 5# or so. That is tough on the wrists.

  2. jim ward

    . you dont own the beach , those fly rod idiots have just as much right to be there as idiots who guide people who dont have a clue as to what they are doing and are trying to buy their way to a forty plus fish

  3. jerryc

    Fly Fishing Update by Papciak is generally one of my favorite columns in the Journal, plus there are no documented instances of “mohawkers” ending up in Orient Point after setting their GPS to Montauk.

  4. dan s.

    Not to sure about small fish some pretty darn big tarpon seem to like the sissy stick, and as for overpriced orvis don’t they pay you for seminars? Bite the hand that feeds..

  5. billwetzel

    Although this is a short article, believe it or not a lot of thought went into it. The purpose of the article was to show an inner struggle I have, although a bit exaggerated for an attempt at entertainment. In that inner struggle I am ultimately a self-diagnose hypocrite, which was the comedy aspect I was making an attempt to portray. Though I had these weird feelings towards the fly rod, ultimately I joined a fly rodders club, built access ramps for the handicap, smoked some fine cigars and ate some really good food. Further I pointed out that I keep a nine weight in the back of my buggy, which I was hoping helped to demonstrate the hypocrisy. Maybe not? That is why I say in the end I need my medications. I also wanted to point out in sort of an abstract way that although I struggle between the two I am just a fisherman, who believes that the fly rodder, the surf caster, the bait guy, the rookie, the local expert all need to stay on the same track. Nobody got that? AS for your comment Mr. Ward. You are right, and that was kind of the point. And about me being an idiot. Maybe? Regarding Orvis. Ok you got me. I made fun of a store that the prices are terrific. I think I did one lecture there about 15 years ago which I probably did not charge for. But ok, if you want to say I bight the hand that feeds me, you may have a point. I read this to my wife before I submitted to Zeno, and I said this could go either way. People will love and understand it or they will hate it. She liked it by the way. Guess I got the hate. Sorry if I offended anyone, but the intent was to point out that I find my own thinking offensive.

  6. CTMatt

    Jim I hope you aren’t saying guides are idiots. I see their service as a form of education and a form of apprenticeship in order to give folks an opportunity to elevate their game. These folks sometimes risk their lives for their clients and Bill I am sure is no exception. I think you have a skewed view on what a guide provides. The experience lasts a lifetime as well as the knowledge gained.

    My gripe about sissy stickers is they take up precious real estate and need a considerable amount of space to cast. If a guy is in tight to my spot I get sprayed from his line…doesn’t bug me terribly but I usually share the space. To each his/her own.

  7. Jim J.

    I was surprised the other night I took the long walk out to the beach where I like to fish and I was the only guy out there that was not sissy sticking 7 guys stretched out along the beach not a single guy had caught a thing and here I was just letting my bucktail fly way past these guys and banging fish for about two hours now I call that FUN

  8. Joseph Badolato

    Talk about valuable real estate…..How about a fly rodder at the tip of a jetty? That’s why I fish mostly at night, alone, no complaints. To each their own, just be respectful of the next guy and get there first!

    Great blog Bill.

  9. JohnP

    I literally took up flyrodding as a kid because those darn trout would not touch a worm or any other bait when they were on a hatch. The fly rod was the only means to deliver that super small artificial.
    The fly rod in the salt offers a means to deliver a pattern that is very close to most naturals in size and shape. And becasue many fishers also tie their own, this represents a chance to get much more involved in the entire process. You dont have to say you caught it on a Bob Hahn or a Beachmaster or an Andrus. You caught it on your own. But casting a fly rod and handling fly line requires some practice that not everyone has the patience for, and yes, there are some days when a heavy 10 foot rod and a bottle plug is a better choice.

    Many years ago a well-known surfcaster gave me some great advice. He said – “Go out this spring armed only with a few bucktails in your pocket…learn how to use them…you will become a better fisherman.” Well, a bucktail is a weighted fly. I also usually have both sets of gear with me, but when I go out with just the fly rod, for some reason the “fun factor” is always higher.

    The image of fly rodding in the Norteast suffers from perception. Flyrodders are seen as scotch drinking snobs, just like some other forms of fishing conjure images of tatoos and beer bellies. Neither is true.

    Great post. Stirring the pot is a good thing.

  10. joe m

    Bill I enjoyed the post
    I use both sticks whichever works best for the occasion. No need to spend a lot on either gear. To catch fish on the fly is a little more satisfying at times. Like a bow to a rifle hunting. Maybe more of a connection

    I got your point

  11. Bolt Vanderhuge

    If anyone managed to get offended by this article, then I think they missed the point.

    I mostly surfcast with heavy spinning tackle, but also do a little fly rodding, and I possess the same ambivalence towards fly rod. Bill, you did a great job of capturing that feeling.

    A problem I see with the Northeast saltwater fly culture is that there is a sub-faction within it that focuses on image over substance. This is -not- all saltwater fly fisherman, but a malignant group within the larger community that contributes to the stereotype described in this article. They place sooooo much emphasis on acquiring the gear, the clothing, the casting, and looking that part that they never focus on the basic mechanics of fishing (the why, when, where, and how) and as a result don’t catch a whole hell of a lot. There’s a jetty around here that the albies storm every fall, and I see some guys come back year after year, and I have never seen them catch even -one- albie. But they look damn good doing it.

    I know other fly fisherman who don’t look the part, could give a fuck about image, but they are consummate anglers with an intimate knowledge of the fish they’re after and they smoke the doors off of them. They get it. Their priorities are in line and their catches reflect that.

    The elephant in the room is that this same image consciousness and valuing of style over substances is seeping into the surfcasting culture as well! $400 waders, $300 dry top, custom rod and zeebaas, and dacron custom plug bag filled with custom ebay-bought wood that they don’t know how to use and it’s their second season in the surf. They catch jack shit, but they have over 1,000 posts on an internet message board, most of which are pictures of their unscratched reels and salt-stain-free plug bags. Sadly there are more than a few “surfcasters” who are cigar smoking, scotch drinking, dorky dressed yuppies too.

  12. uncatim

    Story, comments – this was hilarious. Thank you – from another guy who needs medication. I might just open a fifth of medicine now.

  13. frank

    a great, entertaining, thoughtful read…this coming from a passionate wielder of the sissy stick…thanx bill….

  14. MN

    I grew up fishing with traditional gear and also with the fly rod — just used whatever suited the conditions best. These days, I fish with the fly rod 98% of the time. Why? The fight is better with a fly rod. With gear, you just crank em in like a commercial fisherman. When I fished gear a lot, it just seemed to deaden the fight. Just one fellow’s opinion. But I grew up trout fishing. Saltwater fishing (except on the flats down south or in a redfish marsh) is def more practical with traditional gear. Easier on the shoulder, too. I’ve found surf fishing with a fly rod to be pretty darn tough — that’s when I get out my surf casting gear.

    It’s true that, for most fishermen, traditional gear does make it easier to catch big fish. But there are few things more satisfying than fighting a big fish on the fly — catching my first tarpon on a fly rod was awesome, a life changer. You can catch big fish on the fly. It’s just a matter of skill and strategy.

    Fly gear is certainly overpriced. It’s a real pain. Some companies are selling a lifestyle, not equipment!

  15. irish

    I love my fly fishiing, my two favorite fly fishing quotes

    ” I’d rather catch fish, than fly fish”

    “Q–what’s the hardest thing about flyfishing?………………………………………….
    A–telling your dad that you’re gay”


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