Striper Report 8/29/22: Of dropper rigs, sparse flies, and slot bass

I fished Monday late night into Tuesday early morning in Estuary X in Rhode Island. When I arrived there were clear signs of bait and stripers on the feed. Here’s what happened, in the form of observations and lessons learned and re-learned.

This time of year, the SoCo estuaries are loaded with silversides. In case you didn’t know, silversides go nuts when you shine a light on them. They form tight schools and they congregate in shallows near the shore. There are also juvenile Atlantic Menhaden around, from 2-4″ or so, but silversides are the dominant bait. When there’s that much bait in the water, a dropper rig is your best friend. Droppers are the fastest way to find out what the fish want. They also raise your chances for a hookup because you have more targets in the water.

My first casts were made with a three fly team consisting of a sparse, generic bucktail about 3″ long on top dropper, Mark Gustavson’s Lil’ Bunky in the middle, and a Magog Smelt bucktail on point. There was a substantial current and my presentation was a greased line swing. I had action on every single cast, sometimes on all three flies — except it wasn’t bass. It was weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. When it became clear that flora was all I’d be hooking, I decided to search for fauna elsewhere.

This juvenile menhaden pattern is sparse, simple, and — as you’ll see — highly effective.

At the next mark I switched to a suspension dropper rig — one with a floating fly on point (in this case a Gurgler) — because I was fishing in shallower water with a much slower current. What’s more, there were several rocks in my presentation zone topped with bubble weed. So this rig helped keep my flies away from trouble. While there was an enormous amount of bait, there was not a corresponding number of stripers in the mix. I was having one of those nights where no matter where I moved, the stripers would shift to just out of casting range. By the turn of the tide I was a wee bit frustrated.

But sometimes persistence pays off. I moved to a different location where I’ve had some success before. I spent a few minutes sitting on a rock, savoring the calm of a cigar in the middle of a cloudy, humid night. I could hear the silverside schools working; every once in a while, they’d get agitated. But I wasn’t hearing any slashes or pops that would indicate stripers feeding. Still, they weren’t getting restless for no reason. I was standing upstream of two bait balls; my logic was that bass would be looking for strays to pick off. If I could dangle my rig near the edges of the bait balls, or even equidistant from them, perhaps my fly would get seen.

There are two ways at impact to determine that you’ve hooked a good bass. The first is sheer power of the hit. The second is sound the water makes as the bass rolls on the fly. I got both. I set the hook — never with the tip, always a sharp rearward thrust back toward my hips. Once the bass realized it was hooked, she bolted for deeper water, another positive sign that you’ve got a good ‘un (bigger bass love to sound). Because the night was damp, my old Scientific Anglers System 2’s drag wasn’t at its powerful-run-stopping best. She peeled off 75 feet of line in a jiffy. I managed to stop her run by palming the reel. From then it was a matter of cranking the reel and not letting her breathe. And before too long, I was admiring her substantial flanks and alien-creature mouth. You beautiful striper, you.

I had a rough night with the camera, so please believe me when I tell you that this shot doesn’t do her justice. 32″ and faaaat. Easily 15 pounds. I was truly impressed with her girth. She’s been eating well! The other thing to note is the silversides in the water. There weren’t any bait schools nearby — these are all random silversides, which gives you an indication of how much bait was in the water. As you’ve probably guessed by now, she ate the Lil’ Bunky.

11 comments on “Striper Report 8/29/22: Of dropper rigs, sparse flies, and slot bass

  1. Brian Labowsky says:

    Congratulations on a hard earned fish. Thanks for taking us along.

  2. Jerry Kells says:

    The Lil’ Bunky looks and reads like a complicated fly to tie? Or am I just reading too much into it
    I live in SoCo and the bait is all over no blues at all no snappers or stripers I can find
    Love the blog

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Jerry, it’s a very basic fly if you break it down. Bucktail tail, body braid body, bucktail wing and collar, marabout throat, peacock topping. Pretty standard stuff. I don’t even bother with the jungle cock eyes. And keep it sparse! If you have more questions please give me a call!

      My spies tell me me the breachways and ponds are loaded with bait and at varying times and tides, bass. I wasn’t wowed by the number of bass on Monday but they were there. I love night time this time of year. I envy your location — it would be so cool to be “there” in under a half hour.

  3. Bob says:

    πŸ‘

  4. rich rubin says:

    [image0.jpeg]
    I have excellent success with these. Often mix in some pink and yellow. Hope you do some zoom stuff this winter
    Rich
    Good health is true wealth

    • Steve Culton says:

      The image didn’t load in case you want to try again.

      I’m hoping for a return to more normalcy this winter, which means less Zooms and more personal appearances. Hopefully you’ll be able to make some of the shows or attend a club meeting near you. Of course, I won’t rule out a random Zoom here or there…

  5. Steve Culton says:

    Rich, I appreciate the vote of confidence, as well as your feedback. I’d have to first set up or figure out some kind of E-Z pay system. I certainly won’t rule it out, and I do value suggestions like this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s