The best way to fish an intermediate line?

This question was recently asked on one of the striped bass forums. Here’s my answer:

  1. Take the intermediate line off your reel, wind it back on its spool, and return it to its box.
  2. Put a floating line on your reel.
  3. Never look back.

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Stripers don’t care which line you use. But a floating line places you in charge of the presentation, so you can bring your fly to the fish. Not vice versa.

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

Coming soon to a stream near you

Tied for a client, this neat little collection will drive smallmouth bass (and trout) out of their minds. We have the subtle (size 12 August White soft hackles), the traditional (size 12 Black Magics, tied as a 14-16), the horrible (size 4 TeQueelys), and the noisy (Gartside Gurglers, size 2 and 4).

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Mulling over a striper puzzle

I received this question this morning, and it’s a good one to share. It comes from an angler who is just starting out with a floating line for striped bass.

Q: Last night I fished the last 3 hours of outgoing with a friend. We fished a nice little rip¬†with schoolies feeding. Same fly as my friend,¬†about 20′ apart on my left.¬†¬†(A spin guy on my right). My friend caught 2 with the same fly as me. Spin guy struck out. My friend has an intermediate sink ¬†line, me and my floating. So I’m thinking is my line doing something completely different or independent¬†from what my leader is doing down below?¬†¬†It was a can’t miss scenario, they were feeding for about 45 minutes. I’m thinking the line up top is doing one thing, and the leader (about 9′, 20#, 15# tapered) is doing something different in the¬†rip below. ¬†¬†

These were my thoughts:

Ok, let’s break this down unemotionally. Fish actively feeding for 45 minutes, yet in this “can’t miss” scenario, two out of three anglers did, and one of you managed the massive amount of….¬†two fish.¬†It would be significant if the spin guy caught 20¬†and your friend caught 20¬†and you caught nothing. But you’ve got one angler catching all the fish, all being relatively few.¬†None of you did particularly well for can’t miss.

It’s¬†difficult to armchair quarterback a situation when I wasn’t there. But one thought is that your friend had the best angle of presentation. That happens all the time in fishing, from trout to steelhead to stripers. Or, he was simply lucky. (That also happens.) Or, he chanced upon two of the village idiots. Let me explain that last one.

I don’t know how both of you were presenting your flies, but you describe a rip. That means current. ¬†I can tell you what his intermediate line was doing the moment it hit that current. It was starting to drag. His line formed a large “C” shape and his¬†flies followed that path at a high speed, even faster if he was stripping. So he caught two fish that were willing to chase. If you had a floating line, and you weren’t mending, your line was doing the same. Given identical flies, both¬†flies were in the same relative position in the water column. If you were mending, your fly was moving slower, and depending on its weight and the speed of the current, probably higher in the water column.

The concept¬†of¬†line and leader¬†behaving differently is a¬†core principal of line management. When¬†nymping at a distance, a trout angler may have his line flat on the surface — that is, when it’s not airborne because he/she is¬†throwing a series of upstream mends during the presentation — while the leader is at a right angle to the surface with the flies bouncing along the bottom. Line and leader are doing very different things. In a greased line swing, the line is being moved in an upstream arc in a series of mends, while the leader and fly remain perpendicular to the current as they move downstream and toward the angler’s side of the river. Line and leader doing very different things. It’s called line control. Presentation. And it’s the difference between fly fishing and treating your fly rod like a glorified spinning rod.

You weren’t not catching fish because you were using a floating line. None of of you did well because you weren’t presenting a fly or lure that matched what the fish were feeding on in the manner they were feeding.

What’s the bait? How are the bass eating it? What flies do I have that match that bait, and how can I deliver that fly to make it easy for the bass to eat? Answer those questions correctly, and you’re on your way to catching the fish that not everyone can catch.

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Striped Bass Podcast in the can

Or so they’d say in the days of film and reel-ro-reel tape. I guess the proper term now would be “on the drive.” Regardless, last week we recorded material for a podcast(s) about fly fishing for striped bass with a floating line, flatwings, sparse flies and other traditional fly fishing methods. There are over two hours of material to sift through — thankfully, not my job — and unfortunately, I don’t have a release date. But hopefully the editor will hop to it and we’ll have something fun and informative to listen to on long drives or — shhhh! — while goofing off at work. When I have more information on a completion date, I’ll let you know.

The boys are back from summer camp, so my three weeks of hedonistic binge fishing are over. Not to worry. I have brilliant plans for sneaking out to the water…

I haven’t been in ten days, but my spies tell me the Farmington continues to fish well. Plenty of cold water has the trout fed, fat, and happy.

As always, thanks for reading and following currentseams.

Flatwings. Floating lines. Traditional presentations. You too can learn the secrets of catching stripers that are measured in pounds instead of inches. Coming soon to a podcast near you.

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Celebrating summer

July is a darn good month to be an angler in these parts. I just returned from a week on Block Island, and while the fishing wasn’t great (spotty action and smaller fish) I did get into bass every night. Detailed report and pics to come.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to the Farmington, in particular to swinging some wets. The spring’s cool temps and voluminous water supply should make for some terrific wet fly outings over the next several weeks. Speaking of wet flies, there’s one more opening in Sunday’s UpCountry Wet Flies 101 class. Jump on it and become the envy of all your trout angling friends. You can’t sign up with me; you have to do it through the store¬†here.

Speaking of jumping on things, if you’re planning on booking a lesson/outing/trip with me, best to inquire now. My days are filling up (two gigs next week) and I am going to jealously guard my personal fishing time. You know where to find me.

Client John with a fine example of what is possible on the Farmington River at noon on a sunny day in July.

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Thanks for taking me fishing, dad

My dad took me and my friends fishing on the Salmon River in Colchester — this would have been in the mid-1970s — and upon our arrival he announced, “I’m going to walk downstream and fish. You guys go upstream.” His intent was to find a little peace and solitude away from a pack of 14 year-old boys. Fifteen minutes later, he turns around and sees us in a line behind him, shadowing his every move. Where else would we be? He was catching all the fish.

Thanks for taking me fishing Dad. I wanted so badly to be as good an angler as you. I think the greatest fishing skill set you taught me was reading water and finding where the fish are. It’s come in pretty handy over the years.

Most of all, Happy Father’s Day.

Another generation of Cultons learning from old pro Paul.

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