“Mainly Misunderstood — Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines For Striped Bass” in the current issue of American Angler

Why are floating lines so underused for striped bass fly fishing? Are intermediate lines  truly versatile? These questions and more are answered in “Mainly Misunderstood,” and you can read all about it in the current (May/June 2017) issue of American Angler. If you’re looking to open the door to a whole new world of presentation options, the floating line is the antidote to the mind-numbing metronome of cast-and-strip.

If you want to catch keeper bass like this with flatwings fished on a greased line swing, you’re gonna need a floating line.

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I love fishing floating lines in surf around structure.

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Of small streams, stripers, and stockers

I’m getting my money’s worth from the jolly old yo-ho-ho State of Connecticut this week. Monday I went small streaming. Tuesday was our semi-annual grandfather-father-son Salmon River outing followed by a little late night striper (non) action. Here’s how it went down.

Monday’s flow in the brook was medium-high, perfect for this time of year. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was enough to make the locals highly active. I saw charcoal gray stoneflies (size 16, and a few size 12), caddis (16), and Quill Something-or-Other spinners (10-12). No char were observed feeding on the surface, but they drilled the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) as well as the nymph (Frenchie variant size 18) and the micro-streamer (ICU Sculpin size 14). This parr-marked beauty took the dry.

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You can’t see the kype on this buck, but at 7-8 inches he surely is an old fish on this stream. He swung and missed at the dry, then crushed the dropper. I took two fish in the last pool I fished on the ICU Sculpin. The fly had barely slipped beneath the surface before each fish struck.

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Tuesday was one of the ten best weather days of the year: 75 degree air filled with blazing, brilliant sunshine. The Salmon was running clear and at a perfect height, and there were a lot of other anglers out taking advantage of the conditions. Here, the man who taught me how to fish reminds my sons that knots are not worthy of their trust.

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Gordo was fishing a Hi-Liter streamer with a couple BB shot on the leader when I saw his rod tip dip. I asked him if it was a rock or a fish. “Fish, I think,” he said. I told him that it’s a fish until proven otherwise. Next cast, bang! Hello, Mr. Recently Stocked Rainbow.

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I think if I were going teach a weekend-long class in nymphing, I might start by having everyone bounce worms along the bottom. I hadn’t caught a trout on a worm in decades, but I got back to my roots when my dad took a break and handed off his rod to me. Here’s my prize sulking on the bottom after release.

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All things must pass, including good fishing. So I finished off my piscatorial binge last night with a proper striper skunking. Lines were greased and flatwings were swung, but commotion near the ocean ’twas not to be. It must’ve been around this wee hour or so when I climbed into bed. Tired and happy is a most excellent way to fall asleep.

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FCF&GPA Awarded the Legion of Hot Dog Merit

Many thanks to the Fairfield County Fish & Game Protective Association for hosting me last night. One of the larger crowds I’ve presented to, and their clubhouse is a great venue. FCF&GPA understands that a fed presenter is a happy presenter, and since I thoroughly enjoyed my monster dog and chili, I hereby award them the currentseams Legion of Hot Dog Merit.

Much later, I went striper fishing. It’s a new spot I reconnoitered last year, and it looked fishy as hell in the daylight. It was a little creepy in the rain and the dark, and there wasn’t much sign of any activity, bait or predator. But I was standing in water throwing a Rock Island flatwing and fishing it on the greased line swing, and life was good. It got even better when I landed my first striper of the year, all 34 inches of her. Nothing like starting the season off with a bang — or in this case, a massive thud.

Gadzooks! The contest! I’m going to try to announce the winners in the next 24 hours.

The Rock Island flatwing continues to produce big bass. It’s become one of my confidence  patterns for stripers.

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Stripers en Espanol

Last week I had the pleasure of guiding Asier and Moncho. They wanted to learn more about linea engrasada (greased line) fishing for striped bass. What was remarkable about the session was that they came all the way from Spain to do it. I’d like to tell you we slayed legions of bass, but we saw only one fish caught in the two hours we were on the water.

But if there ever was an outing where catching was truly secondary, this was it. Moncho speaks limited English (and I know even less Spanish), so Asier served as an able translator. We talked fishing, greased line, Ken Abrames, asked and answered questions, drew diagrams in the sand, exchanged flies and hooks and cigars, laughed at our communication gaps — what an appropriate way to spend the the day after Thanksgiving.

Asier recently posted this in the comments section of my guide service link. I am both honored and humbled by his words. “We come from Spain to learn with Steve, we only spend two hours with him… much more than enough to convince me he is the kind of guide always wanted, the knowledge, the philosophy, attitude, positivism, and of course the way he teach… How much he teach us in two hours in the sea, I can´t imagine how much he can teach in the river…. I really would like to come back and…. let’s try… more!!!!! Thanks Steve, people like you make sense to fishing.”

Three amigos. Moncho is on the left, Asier on the right.

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Midnight on the Water in Rhode Island

No sightings of the ocean’s daughter. But I did spend some time watching a small pod of stripers move and feed on the tide change. We’ll get to that in a minute.

In the space of three hours, I managed to fish: skinny water on the incoming and outgoing; under a bridge (I love shadow lines at night); the inside of a salt pond; an estuary on a ripping incoming tide; and a snotty beachfront from a jetty. I fished hard and I fished well, and I dearly wish I could tell you that I slayed ’em, but all I could manage was one dink and a few courtesy bumps.

The outside beach continues to vex me. Conditions off the jetty last night were just about perfect:  a good SSW breeze, substantial breakers, surging whitewater wash. But no predators. This particular spot is a serial disappointment; it used to be an I-need-to-catch-a-striper-so-I’ll-fish-here destination. 2016 makes it 4 consecutive years I’ve blanked at it.

The bridge, the estuary, and the salt pond were good places to fish if you wanted to hook weeds. I did not want to, but managed a prodigious haul of vegetal flotsam.

My only bass came on my second cast of the evening on the incoming. After, I drove around to explore the other places, then spent the last hour alternately casting to and watching a small pod of school bass drift into position at the turn of the tide (it was easy to see them in the bright moonlight). But the bait wasn’t there in any volume, and the stripers didn’t bother to stick around.

And once the clock hit the wee small hours, neither did I.

There. That’s what I’m talking about. Failed experiment in night photography aside, that whitewater wash bottom center is prime real estate for casting your fly. The jetty allows you to fish into the pocket formed by the rocks and sand, not to mention a good parallel shot to the trough just off the beach. When the bass are in there, you find yourself in tight line territory pretty fast.

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Stuff I Use: the Eagle Claw 253 Hook

The Eagle Claw 253 hook is the traditional choice for tying the flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles made popular by Ken Abrames. It is a 1x short, O’Shaughnessy style spinnerbait hook with a non-offset point.

Ken didn’t choose that hook by accident. In Striper Moon, he writes of the 254 1x short, a similar hook, “The wire is light and does not cause the hook to sink unnaturally…the shank of this hook is one size short…this does two things: first, it makes the hook lighter and second it makes the point longer in relationship to hook size. I believe this gives me a mechanical advantage when fighting  a fish.” Those same attributes apply to the 253, which is the dominant hook in his book of fly patterns, A Perfect Fish.

“To fashion a fly from tradition is an honorable practice.” — KA. I did my best to honor that practice with the Rock Island, tied here on the Eagle Claw 253, size 3/0.

Rock Island Flatwings

The Eagle Claw brand holds a special place in my heart. It was the snelled hook we used when my father taught me how to fish for trout in the early 1970s. For years now, I’ve been tying most of my striper flies on the Eagle Claw 253. I usually buy them in lots of 100, readily available at any number of online retailers. Most of those 100 are sticky sharp right out of the box; those that aren’t are easily sharpened with a few strokes of a mill file. Eagle Claw makes a version of the 253 called “Lazer Sharp.” Ironically, I’ve found many of the Lazer Sharp hooks to be pencil-eraser dull, and difficult to sharpen. Stick with the regular 253 hook.

The biggest striper (probably between 30-35 pounds) I ever caught on the fly from shore took this Razzle Dazzle flatwing, below, tied on an Eagle Claw 253. At the time of the catch, the fly was at least 3 years old, and seen multiple seasons of use. I had sharpened the hook the night of the outing, as I had done many times before with Eagle Claw 253s, making sure it had enough sticking power to hold a junior cow.

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Most of the Eagle Claw 253s I use are size 1/0 and 3/0, although I will tie some of my larger flatwings on 4/0s. A word of caution: on larger stripers, I’ve had the 1/0s begin to open (I tend to put a lot of pressure on a fish when fighting it) although I have never lost a striper to an opened hook. If I suspect there are bigger fish around, I’ll go with a 3/0 and up. I have never had an issue with those sizes.

My favorite hooks for flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles, fresh from a 100 count bag, ready for the vise.

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Ray’s Fly Featherwing: A simple, sparse flatwing

Many years ago, I was having trouble with some bass that were feeding on silversides in a Rhode Island breechway. The fish were active, but I couldn’t get them to bite. Ken Abrames recommended that I try the Ray’s Fly Featherwing, a dressed-down flatwing version of Ray’s Fly. I remember him telling me that it was, at the least, another arrow  in the fly box quiver.

That was a long time ago. I remember tying some up, but I don’t know what became of them. I know I caught stripers on them. I think I lost my last one to a bluefish.

Recently, someone on one of the forums asked about a “Ray’s Fly flatwing.” I think the Ray’s Fly Featherwing is the fly he was referencing. I haven’t tied in a couple of weeks, so I went down to the bench this morning and churned out a few. So simple. And sparse. I’d be as inclined to use these for a sand eel as I would a silverside.

All saddles are tied in flat — flatwing style, as they say. Note that the olive saddle is tied in at the head. All you need to do now is add water.

Ray’s Fly Featherwing flatwing

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: White
Tail: 30 strands white bucktail under white saddle under 4 strands pearl flash under yellow saddle
Body: Pearl or silver braid
Wing: Olive saddle
Topping: Peacock herl