Bonus Summer Striper Box: The Sight-Fishing/Flats Box

I don’t typically do a lot of flats or sight fishing on the beach for stripers in the summer. But on those rare occasions when I do, I have a small box ready to go. This is a small Orvis Day’s Worth Box (sadly no longer available). I also like this box a lot. The dimensions are roughly 4 1/4″ x 3″ x 1 1/4″. It’s not waterproof, but its clamshell snaps shut tight thanks to some strong magnets. Smooth foam on one side, and scalloped foam on the other.

In which we keep it simple: dumbbell- and bead chain-eyed crabby stuff on one side; ditto slender, sparse baitfish on the other side. Oh! And a bonus small jiggy-thingy just in case. Now we just need the right light and surf conditions…wait…I see you…

Re-Stocking The Summer Striper Box, Part Two: The Bigger Stuff

Okay. We’ve got the left side filled in with all kinds of sand eel patterns and smaller shrimp, crustaceans, and other tidbits. What goes into the right side? Much, as it turns out.

The right side of the box is a hodge-podge of patterns: a few more tiny shrimp and baitfish, some smaller bucktails and single feather flatwings, some weighted patterns just in case, a Gurgler and some already used Big Eelies if bluefish are around. Time to fill in that top row.
The top row gets the bigger stuff: squid patterns, Gurgling Sand Eels, Eel Punts, etc. I usually keep a dropper rig in my chest pack, pre-tied and ready to go, sealed in a zip-lock baggie. And there you have it. Let’s hit the surf! And the flats. And the salt ponds. And the estuaries. And the boulder fields…

Re-Stocking The Summer Striper Box, Part One: Sand Eels

Organizing and replenishing my summer striper box is an annual ritual. I thought you might like to see how I do it. The left side of my box is the busiest, in terms of number of flies and how often I’m dipping into it. This is the left side, the sand eel side, and I’m covered for both matchstick sand eels and larger ones up to about 5″. Let’s start with the box: it’s a C&F Design Permit Box, completely waterproof, four rows of slit foam, 7 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ x 1 2/3″. I’ve had this box for years, and I love it.

The top two rows are for sand eel patterns, so I start by removing every fly and taking inventory: what stays, what goes, what needs to be replaced? The bottom two rows are mostly small stuff, like shrimp, crustaceans and isopods, clam worms, and tiny baitfish. Then, I fill in the third row with smaller sand eels. Left to right, The Golden Knight, Ray Bondorew’s Marabou Sand Eel, and Ken Abrames’ Eelie on various hooks and in different color schemes. These smaller sand eels are most likely going to used as part of a dropper rig team of three.
Now I’m ready to fill in the top row with Big Eelies. Note that I carry multiple color combinations (and I have more in reserve at home that I can use to fill in the blanks). I’ll choose a pattern based on conditions, light, bottom structure, ritual, tradition, and — most importantly — feeling. It’s easy to lift up the tail to see what’s beneath; this system allows me to maximize available space. I also carry a few extra Big Eelies in a baggie. I hand these out from time to time to people I meet on the beach. Right, John?

“Deadly Elegance” in the current issue of Surfcasters Journal

If you live in southern New England, right now is one of the better times to try to catch a large striper. Herring are coming in to spawn, and the stripers know it. I’ve already taken three slot bass this year, one of them 15 pounds. My implements of destruction are a long rod, a floating line, and large flatwings fished on the greased line swing. You can read about how I’m getting it done in this new piece, “Deadly Elegance or: How I learned to stop stripping and love the greased line swing.” You’ll find it in the current issue of Surfcasters Journal. Issue #72 to be exact.

Surfcasters Journal is an e-zine, and the current periodical bible for serious striper anglers. Whether you’re a surfcaster or a fly angler, it’s loaded with information you can use to catch more bass — and bigger bass. Some of the best striper anglers I know are contributors.
The opening spread of Deadly Elegance, sans copy. You need a subscription to read the article, and you can get one on the Surfcasters Journal homepage. Those are my Bombardiers, a nine-feather flatwing of my creation and a darn good fly for tempting bass that are feeding on herring.

CT Striper Anglers: Amendment 7 public hearing and comment

Once again, those of us who love striped bass have a chance to make our voices heard. The ASMFC is currently conducting public hearings; Connecticut’s virtual meeting is being hosted by DEEP, and it happens on Tuesday, March 22, 6pm-8pm. As our friends at the ASGA have said: Get involved. Do what is right for the stock. Do what is right for future generations.

Contact: Justin Davis 860.447.4322

Register for the webinar here. Make sure you select the correct date/location. You can attend any meeting you would like, just make sure to include your home state in your comment.

Please note that in order to comment during virtual webinar hearings you will need to use your computer or download the GoToWebinar app for your phone. Those joining by phone only will be limited to listening to the presentation and will not be able to provide input.

Here are the main issues for Amendment 7, along with the AGSA’s thoughts on what’s best for the fishery.

Finally, if you (like me) can’t attend a hearing, the public comment period ends on April 15, 2022. Individual emails are what counts the most. Form letters count the least. Send your comment to comments@asmfc.org with the subject line “Draft Amendment 7.” ASGA will be running a raffle again this time. There will be awesome prizes from our best sponsors. Just copy stripercomments@gmail.com in your email to ASMFC and you are entered. It does not matter if you agree with our positions or not. We just want folks to participate in this process.

Don’t be bashful. Open your mouth and let your voice be heard!

Tip of the week: check those hook points

It’s easy to tell I’ve been steelheading. All you need to do is look at my right thumbnail.

That’s where I test the sharpness of my hook points. (You do know that a sharp hook is the single most important thing in fly fishing, yes?) There’s nothing more important than a sharp hook. This becomes self evident with any bottom-style presentation. The fly tumbles downriver, bumpety-bump, over sand, rocks, boulders, sticks, and whatever other things might be lurking down below. Contact — especially repeated contact — with any of them can result in a dull hook point.

So when I snag the bottom, the first thing I do before the next cast is check my hook point. Even without a snag, I am constantly checking my hook points. Every ten casts should be a no-brainer. Maybe you want to check after every five. Do it every three or two or even one and I still won’t call you crazy. Au contraire. You, dear sir or madame, are being a savvy angler.

You’ve heard of striper thumb? This is steelhead thumbnail. To check sharpness, you drag the hook point across your nail. The point should stick to your nail like Scotch tape. If it doesn’t, the hook isn’t sharp. Off it comes. Most steelhead are won and lost at hook set. Be ruthless about the sharpness of your hooks and you’ll catch a lot more fish.

Steelheading isn’t fair. You can do everything right and still drop fish. I know I am going to lose steelhead due to an occasional sloppy hook set. I know I will lose steelhead because sometimes the fish bests me. I know I will lose steelhead for no other reason than plain bad luck. But I will never lose a steelhead because my hook points aren’t sharp.

Winter catch-and-release: Avoid frozen gills and eyes

With single digit temperatures again in the forecast, this seems like a good time to talk about cold weather catch-and-release best practices. When the temperature is so low that you’ve got ice forming on your waders, or your line and leader sports frozen droplets the moment they hit the air, you should be thinking about what could happen to a fish’s gills or eyes if exposed to that same frigid air.

When it’s Everest summit cold out there, try to keep fish in the water as much as possible. Absolute best practice would be to never remove the fish from the water. If you must take a picture, keep the fish in the water (in your fish-friendly landing net) until you’re ready to shoot. Then it’s 1-2-3, lift, shoot, and get that fish back in the water ASAP. Limit your number of shots. Please remember that damage time is measured in seconds.

It was in the teens when this picture was taken. We probably shouldn’t have done it. On the plus side you can see water still dripping from my hands, which indicates the shot came moments after the steelhead was lifted from the net. Photo by Peter Jenkins.
Option B is much safer for the fish. I know, it’s not the same, but Arctic air can be cruel on your favorite gamefish’s gills. How cold is it? You can see droplets and sections of ice already forming on my waders. Photo by Peter Jenkins.

From the archives: “Soft Hackles for Winter Steelhead”

As you may know, I am currently occupied with getting ready for my oldest son’s wedding. In lieu of new material, I’m recycling some of my favorite posts from years past. Let’s continue on the steelhead kick (man, I really want to tie into some fresh chrome!). Six years after its publish date, Soft Hackles for Winter Steelhead remains relevant; I still use these flies, and whether swung or dead drifted along the bottom, they still catch fish.

Ever notice how 36-degree water doesn’t feel as cold when you’re releasing a steelhead?

From the archives: “Ten Things Every Beginning Steelheader Should Know”

November means steelhead. At least it does for me. This year, though, the steelhead adventures will have to wait a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s an oldie but goodie from the archives: Ten Things Every Beginning Steelheader Should Know. Even if you’re an experienced steelheader, you might find a useful nugget within. Enjoy the read — and enjoy the ride.

A man, a steelhead, and a cigar. Gotta love November!

Making sense of the changing striper management landscape, or: thank goodness for the ASGA

On the difficulty scale, keeping current with how the ASMFC plans to manage (I’ll be kind and not place quotes around manage) striper stocks is somewhere between Calculus II and Organic Chemistry. Flux and fast and fluid also come to mind as good descriptors. (And as always, alliteration.) But thanks to our friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) it’s become easier.

Next up will be draft Amendment 7. Public comment will be open later this year, and I’ll be sure to get you the links. To help you understand what’s going on before then — no degree in Chaos Theory required — here are some helpful links.

If it looks like a moratorium proposal, is it really? Nope. Here’s why.

Once again, recreational anglers will need to mobilize and speak loud and clear when Amendment 7 comments are requested. Here’s a primer on the highlights and landmines of Amendment 7.

If you’re finding this stuff helpful, and you really care about stripers, you should join the ASGA. You can do that here. And of course, any donation you can make helps them continue their outstanding work.

Last but not least, here’s a great piece from our friend (and friend of striped bass) Charles Witek on the importance of getting Amendment 7 right.

Thanks for taking the time to read. And thanks for caring about striped bass.

We have to do our best to make sure the resource is handled with care. Getting involved with Amendment 7 is the best way you can do that.