No line application in fly fishing is more misunderstood than the floating line for striped bass. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s the intermediate line. Tell you what — read this, then go forth with your floating line and be fruitful and multiply your striped bass catch. “Mainly Misunderstood: Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass” includes words of wisdom from striper grandmaster Ken Abrames. It first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of American Angler.
Mainly Misunderstood-Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass
All good things to those who invest in the floating line. (Okay, we can add in the flatwing and the greased line swing.)
The tide and weather and scheduling planets aligned last night, so I found myself standing in some very cold water casting a large flatwing and smoking an Alec Bradley Tempus Churchill.
It did not suck. (All of it.) Especially when about 15 minutes in I started to get a few courtesy taps. I couldn’t tell if it was small fish or a subtle cold water take. Covering water, greased line swinging, and then at the end of a drift, a tug, a re-tug, a hook set, and I was into my first striper of 2018.
It felt so good that not even changing a flat tire in a McDonald’s parking lot in the middle of the night in the rain bummed me out.
Twenty inches of striped wonderfulness. The fight was uneventful until I tried to move the fish over a sand bar into some shallows. He wanted none of that, and we had some surface-thrashing bull-in-a-china-shop runs to break the calm of the night.
This question was recently asked on one of the striped bass forums. Here’s my answer:
- Take the intermediate line off your reel, wind it back on its spool, and return it to its box.
- Put a floating line on your reel.
- Never look back.
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.
Another late (or early) bedtime Sunday morning — 3:15am if you’re keeping score — but well worth it. I arrived at the mark with the tide still motoring in, and amused myself by sitting on a rock in the dark, absorbing the sights and the sounds of an estuary at night, with a Gispert Churchill to keep me company. I wasn’t hearing the sounds of feeding bass, but I could see plenty of bait meandering along the shoreline. So I tossed my three fly rig (soft-hackled shrimp on top dropper, Orange Ruthless in the middle, foam-back floating shrimp pattern on point) into the flow and managed a scrappy schoolie.
Ten minutes after the turn of the tide, I began to think that maybe I had made a mistake. Or that that cold front had knocked the feed off. Or the fish were simply elsewhere. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Moments later, the salt pond was lit up like night sky on the Fourth of July. Pop! Pop! Pop! There were bass everywhere, and the sharp reports of their feeding made it sound like I was at a rifle range. This went on for the better part of an hour.
These fish weren’t easy to catch, but that’s what made it so enjoyable — kind of like when you finally figure out that hatch and you fool that brown who’s been refusing your best efforts. I got them on the swing, the dangle, and especially by sight casting to the rise rings of active feeders.
Trout fishing for stripers with small flies and a floating line? Yes, please.
It would be safe to say that this fly was a popular choice that night. A re-palmer and it will be good to ride again. Tied on a #8 Atlantic salmon hook.
I remember that Saturday afternoon like it was yesterday. About nine years ago. Bright sunshine, the middle of the afternoon, and we took striper after after striper on the fly. I can still see the gentleman who was fishing above me, how he so gracefully yet purposefully stripped in each bass he’d hooked. He’d recast, strip, and then he was on again. The only reason I left that day was because I promised my wife I’d be home in a few hours to spell her (we had two very young kids at the time). My friends who stuck out the tide each had a triple-digit day.
Well, that was then. This is now. Same spot. Same tide. Roughly the same kind of day. And I felt fortunate to get three dinks in the last hour of the tide. (These were river fish, as evidenced by their darker above-the-lateral line coloration.)
I’m fine that I haven’t yet experienced the Bass-O-Matic this year. Really, I am. It’s fascinating how every year is different. I know I’m going to have one of those world-of-hurt striper thumbs sooner or later.
So whoever is in charge of these things, if you’d like to make it sooner, I’d be totally cool with that. Or a thirty-pounder. Or a kick ass summer on Block Island. Whatever you think is best.
In the meantime, I’m going trout fishing.
When nature calls, a clamshell makes a fine ash ray for your Aging Room Quattro F55.