Bert took a striper lesson with me on Monday. We banged around two different tidal marks near Long Island Sound. The wind made for a few casting and mending challenges, and the water was heavily stained. Bert learned about non-stripping presentations where the angler brings the fly to the fish. The greased line swing, the dangle, strategic mends — these are all now part of Bert’s striper fly fishing vocabulary. We even had a tug in the midst of this mid-day maelstrom. We also covered fly selection, dropper rig construction and presentation, and baitfish ID. If you want to catch those hard-to-catch, unwilling-to-chase, and (most of all) bigger striped bass on a regular basis, you need to learn presentation. Great job, Bert!
Then, Monday night, I ventured to the Ocean State. It never occurred to me that the entire southern New England coastal waters might be stirred up by the blow. Yep, the estuary I fished was the same sandy mess and weed farm. Bait was everywhere — mullet, peanuts, silversides — but the only thing that was on them were a few bass in the 12″-16″ range. In a little over two hours I managed a couple hits from these smaller guys, but no hookups. I stayed out way later than I should have, and I didn’t hit the pillow until after 3am. Maybe next time.
A late but hearty and heartfelt thank you to the Basil Woods TU chapter from central New Hampshire for hosting me via Zoom last Thursday! I presented my original “The Little Things” to a very enthusiastic group. More and more fly fishing clubs and TU chapters are taking advantage of technologies like Zoom to hire guest speakers like me. If you’re outside reasonable driving distance, you can do the same. For more information on programs, visit my Presentation Menu page here.
Here’s a brief Q&A segment from post-show. Q: Do you arrive at the river rigged for streamers or do you start with emergers? A: It depends. Sometimes I make up my mind well in advance that I’m going to fish a specific method, consequences be damned. For example, there are days in the winter when I’ve decided that I’m going to fish streamers solely because I’m willing to risk catching one large trout — I hope — rather than a bunch of smaller ones. Or maybe I just don’t feel like nymphing. There are times in the spring and summer when I’ll plan to swing wets, and then, as the hatch moves out of the emerger stage, switch to dries. Other times I’ll get on a nymphing kick, and that’s how I’m going to fish — simply because that’s what I feel like doing. So, fish the method that pleases you most. And know that if you want to catch more fish, you’ll need to be fluid in your choice of methods as conditions and time of day/year dictate.
The rockabilly music scholars among you will no doubt recognize the title as the Eddie Fontaine classic (or the Beatles’ excellent BBC cover, for bonus points). But for our purposes, it’s an apt description of my Wednesday night outing. Surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski reported several hours of similar non-action the night before, but that was many miles east of the mark I fished. Besides, this was an entirely different type of water (estuary). I fished 90 minutes of incoming, then outgoing tide. Not. A. Touch. No menhaden (juvenile or adult). Only a handful of silversides. I heard three pops and saw one small bass holding in the current. In desperation, I zipped over to another mark, which was also dead as Julius Caesar. So it goes.
Here’s a question from long-time reader Bill G: There have been big blitzes on the Cape, but I’m not getting hookups. Do you recommend a floating line for fishing blitzes?
As with many questions, there are simple answers — and complex ones, too. The simple answer is: yes. With a floating line, I can mend, so I have more control over current and my presentation. I can present at the surface, near the surface, or deep (depending on leader length, type, and fly weight/structure/materials); and I can present on a dead drift, the swing; or strip. As with many questions I get about lines/leaders/flies, you must first answer the question, “What do you want the fly to do?” — and go from there.
Which brings us to the subject of blitzes. In the abstract, blitzes are good. You’ve got a concentration of bait and bass, so the mystery of where are the stripers and what are they eating has been eliminated. Sometimes, it’s too easy: all you need to do is toss a fly into the maelstrom and you’re on. But we’ve all experienced the frustration of fishing a blitz where we can’t buy a strike. Line type is important, but there are other factors to consider as well.
Is there a lot of bait? If so, are you fishing droppers? Fishing two or more flies during a blitz will dramatically raise your hookup odds.
Where are you making your presentation? The middle of the bait ball is often the worst place for your flies. Try presenting along the edges or a couple feet away — or try going underneath the bait. Blitzing stripers are looking for easy pickings: the stragglers or wounded or dead that are outside the safety of the bait ball.
How are you presenting? If the stripers are looking for easy pickings, a stripped fly may be your worst option. That’s why dead drift presentations near the bait are often so effective.
Fly selection matters. Try sparse, impressionistic patterns than move and breathe and create the illusion of life even when at rest.
I’ve had success during blitzes with both floating lines and full sink lines — but the one time I recall using a full sink, it was because it was so windy, and that was the easiest line to cast. Thanks, Bill, for the great question, and I hope this helped.
Last night I was treated to a few hours of striper fishing with surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski. We fished a top-secret mark on Long Island Sound where there’s no public access (Toby has permission from the landowner, God bless him). Conditions were perfect, with a very light breeze out of the northwest. The air temp was decidedly cooler than the water, which was about 75 degrees.
Right away, I liked the spot. It’s a rocky reef where the incoming tide sweeps over the cobble and boulders from left to right. The tide was already moving when we arrived, and it wasn’t long before the current became quite pronounced. I started off with a team of two JV menhaden patterns, and about a half dozen casts in I had my first hit of the evening. It was a quick bump that felt like a small fish. Unfortunately, this was to become a pattern; I had dozens and dozens of these quick tugs, but was unable to get a hook set.
To make matters worse, my two-handed casting was rusty and I discovered that my two fly team had become irreparably tangled. Since I was feeling lazy, I clipped the dropper section and tied on a larger fly on the now 4-foot leader.
I had a few more bumps, but meanwhile, Toby was slaying them on plugs, especially his needlefish. I swapped out the deer-hair head contraption I was fishing for a “Sand Eel Punt” (basically an Eel Punt with sand eel-thin saddles) in Block Island Green. Finally, I connected with an 8-pound bass. That was my only fish landed of the evening. As my action slowed, Toby continued to pound up bass, albeit not in the size range we were hoping for. As the moon rose, the bite began to taper off.
Some observations: I can’t remember the last time I had so many hits that didn’t convert to hooksets. It was almost as if the stripers were afraid to commit to the fly; certainly some of those nips were from smaller bass. I can’t blame it stripping the fly right out of their mouths; any movement I was creating was no faster than about 1 foot-per-two-seconds, and I was doing plenty of greased line swinging. With the two-hander, I was able to cover far more water; however, when the bite was on, I had many hits when I only made casts of 50 feet or so. Lastly, why did Toby catch so many more fish than me? Was he covering more water? Was it the action or shape of his plugs? The depth he was fishing? Did my shorter leader have an influence? Why were Toby’s hits more demonstrative than mine? All stuff I’m trying to figure out today.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be a featured speaker and instructor at this year’s International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey! The dates are Saturday, November 12, and Sunday, November 13. My tentative schedule is: Seminar, Tying and Fishing Wet Flies, Saturday 10:30am; Tying Class, Tying Soft Hackles, Winged, and Wingless Wets, Saturday 1pm-3:30pm; Seminar, Beyond Cast and Strip: Presentation Flies for Striped Bass, Sunday 11am. The rest of the time I’ll be tying on the show floor. I believe the seminars are included in your admission price, and that you have to sign up for the tying class. I also want to emphasize that this is a preliminary schedule, and that the Symposium website should have more information up by October 1. Naturally, I’ll update you as things develop. Mark it down, and be there or be square!
Folks, I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to post any fishing reports. That’s due entirely to the fact that I haven’t been fishing, which we all know is just plain wrong…or as my son Gordo would say, “that’s messed up.” It’s not going to get fixed this weekend, either. But…
…I will have some news to share with you next week about an event I’m participating in this fall. I’m really excited about it, and I think you’ll be, too. Sorry for the cliffhanger, but duty calls elsewhere. In the meantime, tight lines, sparse flies, floating lines, and let’s keep those fish wet.
You gotta hand it to the Long Island Fly Rodders. This club knows how to have a cookout (even in the rain) and how to make a guest speaker feel right at home. So: a very big thank you! Last night, I presented — after dining, of course, a fed presenter being a happy presenter — Wet Flies 101 to very enthusiastic group of over 50 people. There were so many great follow-up questions, it’s hard to pick one out, but I’ll try to get to some of them later this week. In the meantime, thanks again, and see you next time.
A reminder that I’m speaking tonight, Tuesday, September 6, at the Long Island Flyrodders in Levitttown, NY. Despite what the website says, I go on at 7:30pm, with the group’s social festivities/casting lessons beginning at 6:30. Meetings are held at the Levittown VFW, 55 Hickory Lane. The group tells me that all are welcome. My subject is “Wet Flies 101” which is a gateway to wet flies, soft hackles, and how to fish them. You too, can become a skilled practitioner of this deadly art. Hope to see you there, and as always, please come say hello.
I’d known about the South Platte for years, but never got the itch to go fish it, until I did — and now I am faced with a matter of difficult settlement: my favorite trout water is almost 2,000 miles away.
It’s so easy to fall in love with the South Platte. Since it’s a tailwater, it’s a viable fishery year-round. It’s got so much productive water that you could very likely stumble into fish (and if you know how to read water, you could quickly become a dangerous machine). In addition to being cold — I didn’t take a temperature, but it had to be high 40s-low 50s — the water is clear enough that the eagle-eyed among us can sight fish for trout. And the trout — ah, the trout — are fat and feisty and fantastic. Plus, there are lots of them. Subsurface invertebrates are everywhere and provide the trout with a daily smorgasbord. It’s almost like someone imagined, then created a trout theme park fantasyland. Really, it’s that good.