Currentseams Q&A: Which line to use for fall blitzes?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

When there’s a lot of bait in the water, I like sparse, impressionistic patterns like this Little Crazy. A basic bucktail with a marabou throat, I based the color scheme on Ken Abrames much larger flatwing, the Crazy Menhaden. The Little Crazy is becoming one of my favorite juvenile Atlantic Menhaden patterns.

Alas, no fishing…but plenty of plans and schemes

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.

Is it too early to be thinking about steelhead?

Weird scenes inside the white fly hatch

Just a couple of photos from the recent White Fly action to entertain you on a Friday. Enjoy the weekend and please do a rain dance!

Ugh! Why do I smell so bad? Turns out it’s not me, but rather the hundreds of dead White Fly spinner carcasses stuck in my net from the previous night’s expedition. White fly spinners have a knack for finding their way into/onto your clothing, gear, glasses, and, very regrettably, into your nose, mouth and ears. This bears repeating: White flies taste really, really bad.
Not the shot I was hoping for, but it’s interesting enough to share. This stacked image has some nice scribbly abstracts of the moon over the trees and its reflection on the water, and the white fly tracks are reminiscent of jet contrails.

More “Surfcasting Around The Block II” news

I almost forgot — I’m be contributing another chapter to Dennis Zambrotta’s followup to “Surfcasting Around The Block.” It will be a brief chapter on what you need gear-wise to fly fish the island. Of course I’ll have my own opinions, but my goal, as always, is to help you get the most out of your fishing experience. I believe Dennis is hoping for a late fall publish date.

You can be sure I’ll mention a good pack, a shooting basket, and a floating line. And a headlamp that has a red light!

Summertime fishing, writing, guiding, and other news

Hello, all. My apologies for the lack of regular posts, but it’s summertime, and I’m working hard, playing hard. And so much to write about! Here’s what’s going on.

First, the fishing. I am in hard-core summer mode, which usually means long afternoons into nights. I know you won’t begrudge me the chance to get out and fish at the expense of writing here. I hope you’re getting out too. I’m also doing a bit of guiding. Then, there’s the yard and the garden. Speaking of which…

…we need rain! They’ve dropped the flow from the dam on the Farmington to 85cfs. The Still is currently a warm trickle. Ugh! The good news is that what’s coming out of the dam is plenty cold. I suppose we’ll have to rejoice in that.

Hot bronze, baby! Fortunately, smallmouth like warmer water.

I’m currently writing a piece for Surfcasters Journal on fishing the sand eel hatch with a floating line. It’s going to be loaded with tips on how to catch those stripers that not everyone can. Naturally, I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Last but not least, I am now officially a Scientific Anglers Pro. I’m a big fan of their Mastery Anadro line, and I’m waiting to give the Mastery Bass line a whirl. As always, I never hump products that I don’t use and love!

Fish on!

First Roses = Light Cahills on the Farmington

This happened Monday, so I’m a little late with the post, but my first rose blooms always mean there are Light Cahills on the lower end of the Farmington. The hatch is already progressing upstream. Call them what you want (Vitreus, sulphurs, etc.) — I see these first signs of summer as simple creamy mayflies, and I go with the generic term of Light Cahill, which suits me just fine.

Remember, you are matching size, color, and profile. These first invaders are usually a size 14-16 — sometimes you get a big 12. For dry flies I like the classic Catskills Light Cahill, the Pale Watery Wingless AKA The Magic Fly, and the Usual. For wets, the Light Cahill winged, the Pale Watery Wingless, and the Partridge and Light Cahill. Any of the creamy Leisenring or North Country patterns will also serve you well.

Old reliable “Grenada,” a hybrid tea rose, is always the first to pop. If I weren’t so busy with yard work, I’d be all over this hatch. Catch a few for me, will ya?

How planting by the moon can help you catch bigger bass

Some of you may know that I am avid gardener. Right now, I am planting by the moon. What’s that, you say? The basic idea is that just as the moon’s gravitational cycle causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects soil moisture. So you want to plant seeds and transplant during periods when more moisture is being drawn to the surface.

Okay, Steve. But what the heck has this got to do with fishing?

I’m a firm believer in paying attention to natural rhythms.Using stripers as an example, I also believe that the angler who wants to catch more bass, and especially bigger bass, will not be one who places a premium on leader construction or casting distance — but rather one who focuses on things like tides, moon phase, wind direction, bait patterns, water type, structure, location, water temperature, frontal systems, and barometric pressure. What’s more, that angler should pay attention to common natural markers, like hearing the first spring peepers or when flowering trees bloom.

It’s all part of one magnificent puzzle. Every year is different, but nature is always right on time. It doesn’t hurt to be able to cast a plug or a fly line very far. But if you really want to crack the big bass code, pay attention to Mother Earth’s natural rhythms.

Yesterday was herb day. Today it’s peppers. I have it on good authority that this weekend is a great time to plant cukes and squash.

Looking for a place to stay? Legends on the Farmington.

It’s an FAQ I get from my clients: “Can you recommend a place to stay?” The answer is yes. Legends on the Farmington. Located in Barkhamsted, CT, Legends is a gorgeous lodge-style B&B on the banks of the Farmington River. You’ve literally got great water right out the back door (Greenwoods pool). I’ve never stayed, but I’ve held classes there and it’s a fantastic space. It’s run by my friend Sal and his wife, and they’re swell hosts. Tell them Steve sent ya.

Hang your waders on the deck and come on inside. If you want to see the inside of the lodge, visit the Legends website.

Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk (and other goodies) at UpCountry Sportfishing!

Grady just bought someone’s collection of tying materials, and I’m happy to tell you that it includes Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk. Pearsall’s is no longer made, and nearly impossible to find, so this is a treat for those looking to tie classic North Country spiders with traditional materials. These spools are bargain priced, and as of Friday there were still plenty in stock. Naturally, I helped my self to a bunch, but I played nice and kept my silk gluttony down to a dull roar. Get ’em before they’re gone.

This photo was taken Friday afternoon. As you can see, there’s Pearsall’s Marabou silk as well.

You might also want to rummage through the bins — they’re in the room next to the parking lot — from this collection. Again, I can’t vouch for current inventory, but there were all kinds of game bird skins and other soft hackle delights at bargain prices. As always, please support your local fly shop!

A Modest Proposal (Revisited)

A couple of years ago, I made the suggestion that given the current condition of striper stocks — stressed — and that their future depends greatly on smaller fish getting to be larger — breeder size — might it not benefit everyone if we didn’t try to catch a bajillion small stripers?

Once again, I’m revisiting that energy. Ask yourself this question: Do I really need to catch dozens and dozens of school bass at the mouth of the Hous (or wherever you go this time of year where striped bass congregate)?

I invite you to join me in observing this new, off-the-books reg: When it becomes apparent that it’s a small bass on just about every cast, reel up and stop fishing.

Catching another dozen dinks won’t make you a hero. But walking away will.

This session, from yesterday, went up to 11. Things were slow until the tide reached a certain window. Then a rip formed, and it was the Bass-O-Matic. I was tempted to go for 12, but I stopped after this fish. You can, too. Thank you for your consideration.