Striper Report 8/24/14: Back to Silverside City (with apologies to David Bowie)

Hey man, this report is so late.

Hey man, the fishing wasn’t that great.

Enough of that. To the outing. Hoyo de Monterey double corona on the drive down. Most excellent. Time and tide conspired to create supreme fishiness at dusk. Sadly, the bass did not cooperate. So after an hour of good old-fashioned college trying, I left the windswept rocky shores and rolling breakers for the friendly confines of the inside.

Out of the truck and a walk and wade to spot B. The bad news: weeds. An obscene amount of weeds. Weeds on every cast weeds. The good news: infestation levels of silversides, with bass feeding on them. The challenge: make your fly (or in my case, flies: 2″ super-sparse peanut bunker bucktail on top dropper, a 2.5″ Eelie in the middle, and a 3.5″ September Night [have I mentioned that it is time to tie up some September Nights?] on point) stand out among the thousands of naturals.

On the one cast out of a hundred that I managed to both, I hooked two bass. They weren’t big, but they gave me the illusion that I had triumphed over nature.

Last stop, another spot on the inside. In theory, it was a brilliant move. In practice, it was good for casting. Ten minutes in, I realized that I was tragically flawed as a prognosticator, and I should lick my wounds on the way home. And celebrate my one-in-a-hundred good fortune.

With no listening choices other than AM or FM, I subjected myself to what passes for classic rock, but is in reality dreadful pre-programmed subscription crap for the masses. Seriously, I don’t need to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” twice in one night. Once every six months would be fine. Ditto anything by Journey or Billy Joel. And I don’t ever need to hear “The Joker” again.

Sorry if you like those artists or songs. Don’t lean on me man.

Here’s a short video of the bait situation. I actually hooked more silversides than stripers tonight.

 

 

 

 

Currentseams Q&A: Multi-fly striper rigs

Q: Just wondering how you rig to balance strength on the dropper and still allow movement in the fly?  Blood knot with a long tag?  Or surgeons knot with a long tag towards the tippet end? What do you think your hook-up ratio is for the front fly versus the trailing dropper?

A: I think you’re referring to a tandem rig; when I fish multiple flies for stripers, it’s usually a team of three. I build all my multi-fly teams with 20, 25, or 30# Worldwide Sportsman camo mono. The mono size depends on where I’m fishing and what flies I’m using. For example, crystal clear water or small flies would have me leaning toward 20. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll use a triple surgeon’s knot to form the droppers. If I suspect larger fish may be in the mix, I’ll use a double uni knot. I had a “bad” experience many years ago with a school of high 30s bass — if I hooked two, the bottom fish would pull the triple surgeon’s knot right out from the top dropper. Now, if I’m targeting larger stripers, I go with a single fly.

If I am fishing multiple baits ( i.e. grass shrimp, peanut bunker, silverside) the fly that gets eaten most is usually the one that most closely matches the naturals the fish are feeding on, regardless of position. One night a small peanut bunker fly saved my bacon. It happened to be the middle dropper. It still worked when I re-rigged with a single fly.

If I know what bait is present, I’ll hedge my bets. This June I fished two small grass shrimp droppers with a small clam worm on point. The water was infested with grass shrimp. 3/4s of the bass I caught came on the shrimp patterns.

My three-fly team from early June 2014, top to bottom: Grease Liner variant, pink Crazy Charlie, Orange Ruthless. The bass liked all three flies. These tags are about 5-6″ long.

Striper ShrimpDropper Rig

In early July, small sand eels were on the menu. I rigged a dropper system of two sparse sand eels suspended between a corkie and a Gurgler. This setup was fished in barely any current at a dead drift. Even though the bass were keyed on the sand eels, I still took one on the Gurgler (the point fly) while it was just sitting there.

This Golden Knight is tied on a small freshwater hook, but on an Atlantic salmon hook, it’s the kind of fly that I like to have when I’m fishing multiple sand eel patterns.

Sparse Golden Knight

Fishing with my mind

The calendar said soccer tournament for the weekend, but I packed my gear anyway. We were staying in North Kingstown, RI. Any number of prime striper waters would be just a short drive. The only question was, would I have the energy — or the desire — to get out after a day of schlepping around soccer pitches in the hot sun?

The answer was yes. Saturday night, I headed to one of my favorite spots, My Father Le Bijou 1922 Belicoso in hand. I fished for about two-and-a-half hours. The thing was, I never wet a line.

I stood on a dock and searched for signs of life. There were horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, silversides, and jellyfish. But no stripers. I walked along a rock wall and watched the swirls and eddies formed by the last of the incoming tide. I peered over a bridge and marveled at the dessert-plate sized blue crabs swimming across the outgoing tide, faster than such seemingly un-aquadynamic creatures had a right to, as they hunted silversides.

When I returned to the dock, the stripers had moved in. I watched one fish for a half hour. He was about two feet long, and fat. He travelled in the same counter-clockwise circle, approaching from down current, sweeping along the bottom slowly and methodically, then cutting sharply to the left, accelerating, and disappearing into the void before materializing below a few minutes later. On rhythm. Perfectly.

It was magic.

A few of his friends made slashes on the surface, neither timed nor spaced.

I thought about getting out my rod. More than once. But I knew that was not the right thing on this night. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Just like the stripers.

The next time I go back, I’ll catch some. They will understand.

Dockofthebay

 

 

The wicked witch of the east

The old saw goes, “Wind from the east, catch fish the least.” But ever since I fished my first easterly, I’ve had a hard-on for them. Especially the ones that always seem to roar through this time of year. Not only do they they keep the meatballs away, I also find the fishing is often surprisingly good.

Yesterday was overcast with an unrelenting easterly blow of 20-30mph. This was comic book casting wind. Into its teeth would have been impossible with a thick floating line. With the wind behind me, back casts were an exercise in do-your-best, and my strategy was basically to loft the line into the banshee and let her deliver the goods.

Seinfeld had the puffy shirt. I had to settle for the puffy rain jacket, billowing Gore-Tex courtesy of the bitch of April.

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About ten casts in I took my first striper. Then, save for a couple follows, nothing for an hour. That’s an eternity in these conditions: strong moon tide current in an exposed estuary. Windblown water pouring in from the ocean over a sand bar, colored that odd yellow-grey/sea green you get with an easterly. Frosty whitecaps and chop, and some perilous looking rips. Seaweed and organic  flotsam everywhere. Forty-eight degree air temperature, but with the wind chill off the ocean, I could barely feel my fingertips. Windblown rain showers that felt like BBs against my jacket.

Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, I was certain there were fish around. Yet I wasn’t getting any action on my smaller (3.5″) soft-hackle. I thought that maybe it was getting lost in the maelstrom. Let’s break this down. The one hookup I had was at the surface. Perhaps something bigger and easier to see might work? The best solution I had in my box was a 7″ long, all black deer hair head fly. On it went. And on they went. I lost count of how many stripers I caught in the next half-hour. It wasn’t a fish on every cast, but it was a follow, a nip, or a hookup on every cast. Tremendously exciting to see the takes right near the surface amidst the storm surge. The spray from the hit would sail into the air, get captured by the wind, and shower the surface with a liquid blast radius.

In the end, it was as simple as this: In rough water, make it easier for the fish to find your fly.

Night Tides

And so we mark the official beginning of the year’s Zero-Dark-Thirty adventures. We kicked off 2014 with something a little different; instead of our usual haunts, we rolled the dice at a new location and were rewarded with fairly consistent action. Most of the fish were in the 20″ class, but there were a few that stretched the tape to 24″. And one big momma.

Dr. Griswold with the best fish of the night, first cast into a new hole. I have yet to put a fish on the reel this year. Soon, Steven. Soon.

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And you can put your weeds in it

One of the more agreeable aspects of fishing salt pond outflows on a dropping tide is the conveyor belt effect: everything that was inside comes rushing past you on its way to the sea. Bait. Stripers. And sometimes, sadly, weeds. Lord, did I have my weeds Saturday night. Two of them were quite pleasant, a Cabaiguan Guapos on the drive down, then a Saint Luis Rey Corona Gorda for the trip back. The middle, not so much.

From an old, not-so-famous poem: “But all the outgoing tide decreed, was piles and piles of stringy weed.”

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Jon and I started out at dusk at Salt Pond A. We could see multitudes of bait in the water. But the only predators feeding on them were jellyfish, ranging in size from a salad plate to a more ominous-looking small platter. Off to Salt Pond B. Jammed with silversides, smaller unidentified baitfish, pods of worried mullet, needlefish, and — alas — precious few stripers. Jon managed a few small hickory shad, while I experienced a first: a mullet on a fly. I was fishing a team of three small bucktail baitfish patterns, ranging from two to three-and-a-half inches. Oh. I also caught weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. Dropper rigs excel at finding weeds. A 3/0 shot above the middle dropper provided a partial remedy, but I still got my limit of aquaflora.

On the way to Salt Pond C, disaster. Clumpthumplit! “What was that?” Jon asked, and immediately answered his question: he had left his rod on the roof of the car. A more fortuitous tumble might have kicked it into the breakdown lane, or even the grassy median. Positive waves were sent as Jon went off into the night to retrieve the fallen warrior. But no. DOA, including the reel. Last rites were given to both roadside, and Jon’s car, now playing the role of hearse, began the long, sorrowful journey back to Connecticut. But not without a detour. Salt Pond C still needed to be investigated. I made quick work of backing up the pool along a short channel. No fish. Several weeds. And lots of biolume.

So, it didn’t happen for us. Don’t bum out, man. Soon, those ponds will be holding.

Just completed a new article for the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide: “A Good Night For The Five-Weight.”

I don’t fish for stripers like most people do. Sparse flies with no eyes. Floating lines. And perhaps most of all, unconventional rods.

For five years now, I’ve been catching striped bass on my trusty five-weight. The first time I used it, I fished in fear. The second time, more excited than frightened. By the third outing, I had completely embraced the concept of using lighter tackle to fish for stripers. Every year I try to push the limits of what I can to with my nine-foot TFO TiCr. Every year, I discover that I have far more power with a lighter rod than I ever imagined. Not to mention fun.

My new personal best on the five-weight, This 33″ chubette from a few weeks ago had some shoulders. She easily went 15 lbs.

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For those of you interested in exploring the wonders and challenges of catching bass on lighter tackle, “A Good Night For The Five-Weight” covers basics like rod selection, rigging, and how to play and quickly land larger fish.  It will be in the July 2013 issue of the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. You can find a copy of the Guide in fly shops from southern New England to North Carolina, or though their Facebook page.

Let me know what you think.