Best of 2018 #1: A Striper on the Fly from the Shore for 12 Consecutive Months

Whew! After nine December outings, over 30 hours of fishing, four different locations, it all came together at the 11th hour (both figuratively and literally). I didn’t think it was going to happen. December was by far the toughest month, with high and cold water, wind and subfreezing temperatures, and a maddeningly inconsistent bite. It only proves that catching a striper on the fly from the shore for twelve consecutive months takes skill, planning, perseverance, and — this cannot be understated — luck. Am I going for 13? Maybe. Stay tuned.

It all began on a whim. It was a warm(er) January night, and the tide lined up with some free time. Forty-five minutes in, there he was. I was crazy enough to try again in February, succeed, and off I went.

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Once you get past March, things get a little easier. They certainly get warmer, as you can see from the gloveless, submerged (not happening in February) July water hand. 

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WHACK! I was dragging the deer hair head streamer across the surface to change it out when the fish hit. What a great story about how I caught my December bass! But wait. What is that? Not a striper. Nope, it’s a five-pound Northern Pike. I can’t remember ever being so depressed about catching a quality fish on the surface in 35 degree water. Good thing I didn’t lip it.

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I planned on paying homage to a friend (who’s had a very tough go with cancer this year) by catching the December fish with one of his flies, but I lost one on the bottom, and I wanted to keep the other. Ultimately, the winning fly was a three-feather flatwing/bucktail hybrid version of the Crazy Menhaden. I called Ken on the way home to tell him about it, and he said, “You should call that fly the ’12 Consecutive Months December Striper On The Fly From The Shore Crazy Menhaden.'” Who am I to argue?

Crazy CU

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Cold but happy Post-December Striper Flashlight Hat Man.

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Best of 2018 #3: Big stripers, and lots of ’em

Every year is different, and where 2017 (if you’ll pardon the expression) fell short, 2018 was off-the-charts good for legal bass. Many, many stripers over 28″, with one that went a good 25 pounds and missed the magic 40″ mark by half an inch. I already mentioned Block Island in this countdown, which came back with a big striper vengeance. What’s my secret? Put in your time. Follow the tides. Floating lines. And as Ray Charles so eloquently sang, “Nighttime is the right time to be with the one you love.” (You can find out more at my presentation “Targeting Big Stripers From The Shore” at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Destination Theater Room A 10am Saturday 1/19.)

Yeah, baby. Love the colors on this one. Whenever possible, I try to keep the fish in the water for the photo op. Does it get any better than keeper-size summer stripers feeding on sand eels? As it turns out…

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…yes it does. I dubbed her “Long Jean Silver.” Hope she makes lots of baby bass next spring.

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Some stripers should be measured not in pounds or inches, but rather: could this fish eat a small dog?

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TU 225 awarded the Order of the Triple Jalapeño Burger with Octoberfest Clusters

You know it’s going to be a good night when you sit down at the table and moments later a server brings you a cold, crisp Octoberfest — which you didn’t order, but would have. Sometimes things just fall into place. Many thanks to my good friends at the Narragansett Chapter of TU who demonstrated once again their mastery of the concept of a fed presenter is a happy presenter. Always a pleasure talking fishing over dinner. The topic for the club was “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass,” and we had a some good Q&A afterwards. Now, I gotta make a new presentation for next year!

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve got. (And if it’s stripers like this, you’re probably doing something right.)

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Three-Feather Flatwing/Bucktail Hybrid Preview

For the uninitiated, a flatwing/bucktail hybrid combines the seductive motion and swimming action of the flatwing (three contrasting feathers here) with the color-blending deliciousness and adding-the-illusion-of-mass properties of bucktail. (See the Rock Island and Crazy Menhaden three feather flatwings.) So, just a taste for now.  Details to come soon.

I don’t know how important color is to a striper at any given moment, but I really like the blends on this fly.

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Tales from the Bass-o-Matic

I don’t usually publish these things but clearly the word is out, as evidence by overflowing parking lots and anglers massed together like so many sardines — the spring striped bass run is on. (And then some.) It’s been about ten days now. I caught it the day it turned on, and I returned yesterday for round two of the hysteria. Both days I stopped counting after 25 fish. (The intrepid angler, if he or she had several hours, could easily reach or surpass the century mark.) It’s rather insane, to the point where you go through stretches where you literally are catching the proverbial fish on every cast. The fishing isn’t technical: find a rip, cast, strip, fight, release. I’ve been using a full sink tip integrated line, a short (2-3 feet) leader, and an assortment of soft-hackled flatwings 3-4″ long. I have a limited interest in this kind of fishing, but I gotta admit that it’s a lot of fun while I’m doing it.

So: If you fish on the Cape, start sharpening your hooks. There’s a whole heaping helping of stripers heading your way.

These stripers are uber-aggressive gluttons who are wanton and reckless in their need to destroy your fly. Most are in the 14-20″ class, with a few bigger bass in the mix. They make for a decent battle in a ripping current. Yesterday I caught them on the strip, swing, dangle, and even with my eyes closed.

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Four members of the Connecticut Surfcasters each hauled out a bag of garbage they collected on their walk back. I know you’d like to join me in thanking them for their efforts. Pictured here are Charlie and George. Well done, gents.

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So far, I’m giving this season a very enthusiastic striper thumb’s up.

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600 Followers Contest Swag

I spent part of yesterday hunkered down at the bench, fingers flying around fur and feather. My intention was to get these out today, but it will have to wait until early next week. In the meantime, feast your eyes — and think about the potential glory you hold within each cast. On we go to 700!

Roger and Vince asked for striper flies. Here’s a starter kit, with many major food groups covered. They’ll be getting one of each. Clockwise from bottom: Orange Ruthless (clam worm), Ray’s Fly (silverside), Inconspicuous (anchovy), Eelie (sand eel), Grass Shrimp Solution, and Soft Hackled Flatwing (generic baitfish/attractor).

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Here are Paul’s soft hackles and wets. Left cork, clockwise, starting upper left: Partridge and Light Cahill (2), Hare’s Ear wingless, Red Fox Squirrel nymph, Squirrel and Ginger, BH Squirrel and Ginger. Right Cork, clockwise, starting upper right, Hackled March Brown, Grizzly and Grey wingless, Dark Hendrickson (2), Drowned Ant (2).

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Many thanks to everyone for your readership, kindness, and support. I have lots of good stuff planned for this spring and beyond, so stay tuned.

Going way back in the archives: “The Art of the Flatwing” by Tom Keer

“The Art of the Flatwing,” written by Tom Keer, appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Fly Tyer. I’ve had this article in pdf form for years — and now it’s got an online home. Speaking of flatwings, I interviewed Ken Abrames yesterday. Our focus was on the Razzle Dazzle-style patterns in A Perfect Fish: color rationale, nomenclature, genesis, anecdotes and other good stuff. I’m not sure what form it will take, but you’ll get to read/hear some of it in the future.

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Here’s my take on the Razzle Dazzle, one of the featured flies in the piece. Ken once described this fly as a caricature rather than a detailed painting or sculpture.

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Instead of peacock herl, the topping is an olive saddle and a silver doctor blue saddle tip.

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What you leave out of a fly is as important as what you put in.

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