The Hunt for Striped October

It was 9:30pm and everyone was drowsy. So when my wife and son announced they were going to bed, I decided it would be a good time to load up the Jeep and head to points salty. I’d failed in my first attempt to catch my October bass on the fly from the shore, and now there were now less than two weeks remaining to accomplish that mission.

At first it seemed like the wrong decision. A stiff, gusty breeze was blowing off the Sound,  and it didn’t look (or smell) very fishy. So I settled in with my cigar and waited for a more favorable tide. I passed the time with a few swings and dangles, and that’s how I uncovered my first clue: a peanut bunker snagged on my point fly. A few casts later, another snagged peanut. This gave me hope. The old saw of “find the bait, find the fish” ain’t always true, but at least I knew that stripers would have a reason for being here, even if I couldn’t see them.

At the turn of the tide I moved to another nearby location. Still no signs of bass (or even worried bait). But this is a universal truth: flies in the water catch more fish. I made a cast and let the flies swing around into a dangle. BAM! The hit came out of nowhere, but it was unmistakably a bass. No surprise — it took the peanut bunker bucktail fly on the team of three (the other two were silverside and anchovy). I made one more cast after I landed the 20″er, thought better of it, reeled up, and decided that I’d done exactly what I wanted to. I whooped and hollered and cackled all the way back to the Jeep.

The two are not mutually exclusive, but it is far more important to be a good angler than a good caster — or a distance caster. Which location? What tide? Where are the bass likely to be? What’s the bait? How can I present my flies in a way that makes it easy for the bass to eat? The cast that took this fish was all of 20 feet (and that includes 10-and-a-half feet of rod).

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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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New gig Wednesday, October 4: “The Little Things” at CT Surfcasters in Madison

Short notice, but I will be presenting “The Little Things” at the October 4 meeting of the Connecticut Surfcaster Association at the Surf Club in Madison, CT.  The meeting starts at 7pm and is open to the public. For more information, visit the Surfcasters’ website.

I’m continuing to work on “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass” — been hard at it today. Still waiting to hear from the Arts of the Angler in Danbury, CT and The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA, and Edison, NJ. When I have presentations and dates and times, I will share them here.

Number One Son just passed the Florida Bar, but here he is working on his drag-free drift. 

Bill Dry

 

 

Fear and loathing in fly fishing

Legendary ad man Bill Bernbach once handed each of his employees a card printed with the words Maybe he is right. The idea was to encourage his staff to give new or foreign ideas a fair shake.

I think fly fishing needs an equivalent. Especially striper fly fishing.

The populist culture is that of the nine-weight rod, the intermediate line, the rapidly sinking single fly, and the cast-and-strip presentation.  Deviate from those paths, and you are greeted with alarm by the collective. Conformity is encouraged. It is your safety net. Without it, you’ll be sorry. You’ll see.

This pack mentality is frequently observed on internet forums. Mention fishing for stripers with more than one fly, and you can almost see the eyes glazing over and the heads spinning. Tangles! Hard to cast! Is that even fly fishing?

Thankfully, striped bass don’t read internet forums. Unlike people, they are immune to fear (it won’t work) and loathing (I’ll look stupid).

There are so few absolutes in fishing. There are, on the other hand, many, many ways. So if you don’t aspire to fish like everyone else, open doors. Ask questions. Find out. Try new things. How does that guy fish? Does he catch a lot? Does it look like fun?

Maybe he is right.

No wrong answers. Only the right ones for you. On this night, the striped bass repeatedly picked out the middle dropper, a chartreuse and olive Eelie between 2″-3″.

Block Island Bass