What Striper Fly Anglers Can Learn From Pluggers

In short, a lot.

I’m currently reading Dennis Zambrotta’s Surfcasting Around The Block. As you may have read a few days ago, Dennis has asked me to contribute a chapter to his upcoming followup. It’s a little crazy to me that I’ve known about Dennis’ book for years, but I’ve never read it until now. While the focus of the book is on spin fishing the Block with plugs in the surf — and frequently surf under hardcore conditions — there are plenty of secrets that the fly angler keen on building his or her knowledge base will be able to use for their next outing, whether on Block Island or elsewhere. Here are some of my thoughts.

Color matters to needlefish pluggers. The needlefish is a primary choice for pluggers when sand eels are the bait, and the most popular color is fluorescent green. On Block I fish Big Eelies the vast majority of time, in all kinds of colors, and have never found that the stripers have a preference. But now my mind is wandering in to places of color and length. The Big Eelie in L&L Special colors is one of my favorite, high-confidence Block flies. It’s got a lot of chartreuse. Hmmmm….maybe a longer version, seven inches long, with more bright greens?….one way to find out…

Or, maybe the L&L in a Soft-Hackled Flatwing, tied about 7″ long. I really like fishing this color scheme over sandy bottom structure, like Crescent Beach...or on the Cape…

Location matters…and there are so many locations. I like to think that there aren’t too many anglers that know Block Island on the fly like I do, and then I read a book like this and realize how very little I really know — especially when it comes to locations. Part of it is that I’m a creature of habit. Part of it is that I like to fish flats and skinny water more than surf. Part of it is that it can be challenging to fish certain marks with a fly rod in wind and waves (almost constant companions on Block). But I’ve really got to explore more of these boulder fields (check out Gerry Audet’s talk on boulder fields sometime) and the mysteries they hold. In a way, Dennis hasn’t written a book as much as he’s built a roadmap. Follow it to find your own secret spot.

Tides matter. Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to fish, pay attention to the tides. There are certain marks on Block that I fish on universal tides, and others that I’ll only hit at a certain tide. Pay attention to the details in Dennis’ book and you’ll have the code cracked for you on your next outing.

Put in your time. And move around. If the bass aren’t biting where you are, give them a chance to move into the area you’re fishing. If that doesn’t work, move. One of the beauties of the Block is that everything is accessible and everything is short drive from where you are.

Okay, so the days of the multiple 30, 40, and 50+ pound bass blitzes from shore are over. (Dammit! I can’t believe I missed that. Oh, to have been a striper fly fisher on Block in the early to mid 1980s…) It’s been a slow last couple years for me for slot fish and above on Block, the opportunity still exists. Here’s a very respectable double-digit pounder on the fly from two years ago. Miss you, sweetheart.

6 comments on “What Striper Fly Anglers Can Learn From Pluggers

  1. William A Giokas says:

    Never give up trying and keep casting . Pluggers tend to do that and get rewarded. Bill

  2. Steve Culton says:

    Some nights I can just tell it’s not going to happen. Others, I feel like if I just wait a little longer…

  3. Bob Dibble says:

    I used to be a R.I. surf “plugger” back in the eighties, pre striper moratorium. Just a broke kid with 8′ Garcia rod & reel, a few atoms and some other lures, fished a lot along Matunuck. Some guy would always yell “how’s the fishin young man” from his beach house, I’d tell him it was really slow and we’d chat for a few minutes. Years later I realized it was John Chafee that I was bitching to about how slow the striper fishing was. I’d head off to moonstone, make a few casts amongst the nudists, yup it was a nude beach back in the day, then walk all the way back to hit the ebb in front of the Ocean Mist bar. I don’t think you missed much, except for fishing around a bunch of nudists.

    • Steve Culton says:

      The book is about Block Island and in that time frame we missed what is likely the best cow bass fishing from shore of our lifetime. I remember Moonstone beach. We never went there, but we used to camp at Burlingame.

  4. Dick Sablitz says:

    I was lucky to have grown up with surf casters in the early ‘60s. That’s how I started stripper fishing. Lived thru the “glory days” on Narragansett Bay, the Beavertail, Hazard Ave and Block. Have some pictures of fine fish taken on surf tackle as well as a fly rod. Great fishing, great friends and wonderful memories.

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