“Surfcasting Around The Block II” is here!

Surfcasting Around The Block II — Forty Years of Striped Bass Surfcasting Stories, Articles and Legends from the Islands of Block and Aquidneck is on the shelves! Dennis Zambrotta’s much-anticipated follow-up to his out-of-print classic Surfcasting Around The Block is actually a group effort with multiple contributing authors — many of them Block Island surfcasting legends. Although the focus is on fishing the island with spinning gear, the astute fly caster will be able to glean a treasure trove of information on fishing the island.

Sitting in my favorite reading chair, looking for intel from Campo, McKenna, Abate, Winters, and that Zambrotta guy…

And yes, there are two chapters devoted to fly fishing Block Island authored by yours truly. The first part is a story about a particularly memorable Block Island All-Nighter. The second covers gearing up for fly fishing on Block Island. Where can you get Surfcasting Around The Block II (ISBN979-8-218-07120-2)? The Saltwater Edge. The Island Bound Bookstore. And The Surfcaster. Happy reading!

What a football of a Block Island bass! This is a really good story. I think you’re going to like it.

“Meditations on the Sand Eel and a Floating Line” in issue #75 of Surfcaster’s Journal — plus a short striper report

I’m delighted to have piece in the diamond issue of Surfcaster’s Journal. Meditations on the Sand Eel and a Floating Line is exactly what it sounds like: my thoughts on fishing this important bait using traditional patterns and salmonid tactics — and catching more striped bass. Most anglers I see targeting stripers feeding on sand eels use intermediate lines and weighted flies. They’re missing out, and typically only catching the stripers that are willing to chase. Some of the answers to the mysteries of “How come I can’t catch those bass?” when they’re feeding on sand eels are unveiled within.

Surfcaster’s Journal is an online e-zine. If you’re not reading it, you should be. Although the focus is primarily on using spinning gear, there is some in-depth fly casting content (like this piece) — and there is plenty of invaluable information that may be gleaned from the traditional surfcasting articles. It’s only 20 bucks for a year. You can subscribe here.

I remember this night like it was just a few months ago: Block Island, July, and a school of 15-20 pound bass were in close harassing sand eels for several hours. The stripers were very willing to jump on. But what about those frustrating nights when you can’t buy a hit? Read Meditations on the Sand Eel and a Floating Line and become a closer.

Mini-striper report 10/16/22: I fished for several hours last night with surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski. He was plugging and I was on the 2H fly rod. Conditions appeared to be perfect, but the neither the bass not the bait got the memo. Toby managed two school bass and yours truly took the skunk. Toby had a trenchant analysis of the evening, which, as you have not yet heard it, I will now precede to relate: “Bleaaahhhh.” That’s a direct quote.

Re-thinking this whole scud thing

Scuds are everywhere. In case you don’t know what they are, scuds are freshwater invertebrates. They look a lot like tiny shrimp. You find them on the bottoms of rivers, and where they’re prevalent, they’re an important food source. Scuds are common in many tailwater systems, and I’ve recently come to the realization that I haven’t ever fished them much. That’s been a mistake.

For example, the Housatonic River is loaded with scuds. That I haven’t ever fished a scud fly there seems foolhardy at best. I can imagine the same for the Farmington River. Although the Farmington isn’t known for scuds, a good scud fly will look alive and like something good to eat — so why wouldn’t a trout partake?

To get you started, here’s a great little scud fly from renowned Colorodo guide and new friend Pat Dorsey. It’s called the UV Scud, and you can find the recipe in this tying video. Fish on!

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.