Four things striper anglers could learn from wet fly anglers.

Wednesday night I fished for stripers in the kind of water that I love: current, structure, and bass feeding on station. The bait was silversides, and the stripers had them cornered. All the predators had to do was wait for the meal to come to them. I did very well; the spinning guy to my right with the plug did poorly (wrong presentation, wrong size lure) and the guy to my left with the intermediate line and the stripped sinking fly did poorly (wrong presentation, fishing in the wrong part of the water column) as well.

After they left, I started thinking about how I approached the situation. I realized that all I had been doing was fishing wet flies. If more striper anglers applied wet fly principles to their fishing, they would surely catch more bass. Here’s where anglers using wet fly tactics have an unfair advantage:

Wet fly anglers know that they can master the current with a floating line. The simple act of mending slows the swing of the fly to a speed that is far more agreeable to fish — especially those unwilling to chase. By casting to the outer edges of the bait ball, and mending, I was able to make my flies swim along its periphery, moving at the same pace as the naturals.

Wet fly anglers know the value of sparse, impressionistic, unweighted patterns. The Partridge and Orange. The Starling and Herl. The Pale Watery Wingless. None of them look exactly like what they’re supposed to imitate. None of them are bulky. But they can be fished anywhere in the water column, particularly just below the surface where the fish are feeding. The flies I was fishing looked and did likewise.

Wet fly anglers know that droppers are the fastest way to find out what the fish want. I was fishing a team of three. Top dropper was an Orange Ruthless. Middle dropper was The Tick (small isopod/crab larva/shrimp). Point was a September Night or a Morning Glory. The bass eagerly took the top dropper and point flies. And I was covered in case they switched to something small.

Wet fly anglers know that sometimes the best retrieve is no retrieve. I’m lazy. So are predators. I didn’t catch any fish on the stripped fly. It was all on the swing, mended swing, or dangle. Explosive hits generated by fish feeding in confidence. Why would a fish chase bait when it is being delivered to them by the current?

Where’s the beef? Nowhere on this sparse, impressionistic single-feather flatwing, the Morning Glory. (You can find the recipe by doing an internet search for “Morning Glory striper fly”.)



6 comments on “Four things striper anglers could learn from wet fly anglers.

  1. Bill says:

    I did a bad thing on Sunday. I trolled in my canoe—with a krocodile lure–on my fly rod! And I caught two baby rockfish in the salt water!

    I did this because my casting with a big fly rod is ripping my flies to shreds. That one you posted is *exactly* what I was fishing–until it was all worn out (and two others as well). To go from little trout streams to big salt water takes some patience and technical self-analysis.

    • Steve Culton says:

      I have often found that stripers will continue to hit a fly as it gets ripped to shreds.

      But you’re talking about something different. Sturdier construction and slower line speed may hold the answers for you.

      I am often struck by the similarities between striper and trout fishing.

      • Bill says:

        The first time I ever caught a striped bass was the last year before the sw license came in. I had never caught one ever. I had spinning gear in the boat just because. I had zero experience with spinning gear (I didn’t sw fish at the time really–but if you own a boat on LIS you have a few rods…). I saw something interesting going on in the reefs on the way home. I cast. I saw a strike. I could see the fish! So I did that again. The water was moving over the reef (I had to move the boat up-current). I watched them chase and bump and refuse.

        Finally I cast the pink plastic worm right to the best spot and one struck and — here is the best part — I set the hook with the mono in my hand. I didn’t know how to use a spinning rod! So here I was fighting a striped bass with the rod in my left, the line in my right, and the handle on the left. Somehow I managed to change hands and I reeled it in.

        Yes–the similarities were immediately apparent. I’ve been dreaming of repeating that experience ever since.

  2. Steve Culton says:

    Time to turn dreams into realities. 🙂

  3. Georges Boyer says:

    I notice that you are using a clinch type knot on your striper flies. Is that what you are using? Maybe that knot suspends the flies better than the loop know I usually use.

    • Steve Culton says:

      Georges, I have been using the clinch or improved clinch on my striper flies for years. I know a lot of people love loop knots for their streamers. Long ago, I played around with loop knots with my striper flies, and I noticed no increase in my catch rate. That isn’t an indictment of loop knots — it may speak more to the type of flies I’m using (sparse, lots of built-in movement) and how I’m fishing them than anything else. If you like loop knots, by all means, use them.

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