Many questions (rhetorical and otherwise)

I once read that a good way to learn things was to ask a lot of damn fool questions. I tend to do that in my fishing, whether I’m wondering to myself, trying something new, or picking the brain of someone who knows a lot more than me. Here are some recent points I’ve been pondering:

Is “pushing water” the most trite, overused, overhyped concept in streamer construction today?

How do all those stripers find my 1″ long sparse grass shrimp flies at night with no moon in water with visibility of under 2 feet?

Why don’t more striper anglers think in terms of matching the bait, and presenting the fly like the naturals are behaving?

When it comes to choosing lines and leaders, is there a more important question than: “What do you want the fly to do?”

If intermediate lines are the most versatile, why do the vast majority of striper anglers use only one presentation with them?

Is there a striped bass swimming today that cares if your fly turns over?

Last but not least: why the hell didn’t I get out and fish in the wake of last weekend’s storms?

If you want to consistently catch bigger bass on the fly from shore, fish how, where, and when most other people don’t.

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

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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The best sand eel fly is the one that gives you the most confidence. (Like the Bruiser Big Eelie.)

Here’s another sand eel fly pattern that I can’t do without: the Bruiser Big Eelie. Faithful followers know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie template is a tried-and-true favorite that lends itself to all kinds of color variations. “Bruiser” because it’s black and blue and purple — and because this fly has accounted for some of my biggest stripers. Perfect for those dark of the moon nights when the bass are looking up and tracking those telltale thin silhouettes across the surface. I’ve been fishing this fly for close to a decade now, and while the Bruiser has appeared elsewhere, I haven’t presented it here until now. Speaking of presentation: swing it, dangle it, dead drift it, and strip it in ultra-short jerky bursts (my favorite).

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Hook: 3/0 Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs blue bucktail
Tail: First, a purple saddle, second, another purple saddle, third, 2 strands blue flash and 2 strands purple flash, fourth, a black saddle, fifth, a black saddle. (All saddles pencil thin and tied in flatwing style.)
Body: Purple braid
Hackle: 3-4 turns purple marabou, tied in at the tip
~
The Bruiser Big Eelie Rogues’ Gallery:
Block Island, 20+ pounds
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Everyone’s invited to tomorrow night’s “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass” presentation.

The Long Island Flyrodders have graciously offered to open my Tuesday evening presentation to all currentseams followers. So, that’s tomorrow night, September 4, 8pm in Levittown, NY. Hope to see you there, and in fine Steve Somers fashion, directions here.

Want to catch more — and bigger — stripers? Then come to this presentation.

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Sand Eel Secrets

There are several baits that give striper anglers fits: clam worms, grass shrimp, and truly tiny stuff (like crab larvae), just to name a few. You can also add sand eels to the list. I see the forlorn souls trudging off the beach, beleaguered and bewildered, always with the same mournful complaint: “There were all these fish feeding and we couldn’t catch them.” Sand eels might be the sulphurs of the salt. They’re a plentiful bait, easy to identify, the fish love to eat them — and most anglers approach the situation the wrong way.

I love fishing for striped bass that are feeding on sand eels. Some of my best nights of striper fishing have occurred during a sand eel hatch. Here are some things I’ve observed that will help you catch more bass that are feeding on sand eels.

— Striped bass are very much like trout. They like current, and they will key on certain food sources at certain times at the expense of all other menu options. What’s more, they will feed in a certain manner in a certain part of the water column. Sound like trout taking emergers just below the surface film? Good! Once you grasp this concept, you’re halfway home.

— When confronted with the scenario of stripers crashing sand eels on the surface, most anglers attack the problem with sinking lines and/or weighted flies. This is the equivalent of wading into a trout stream where trout are sipping Trico spinners, then tossing a tungsten cone head Woolly Bugger. (Sidebar: yes, stripers will root along the bottom for sand eels, then eat them as they shoot for the surface. Dredging the bottom with a weighted fly can be productive. But if you see the fish leaving rise rings or splashy boils, that should be your first clue that a floating line and an unweighted sand eel pattern is a good place to start.)

A floating line, a sparse, unweighted sand eel pattern, and a very happy angler. My friend John, who was fishing next to me, caught a bass in this size class on 11 consecutive casts.

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— This is not rocket science. Recall Fly Fishing 101: What are the fish eating? How are they eating it? What do I have in my box that most closely resembles the bait (size, color, profile)? How can I present my fly to mimic what the naturals are doing?

— It’s almost never a bad idea to target an actively feeding bass.

— Aggressive feeders will take a stripped fly with gusto. I like very short (3″ or less) rapid strips. Wait until you feel the weight of the fish before you set the hook. Always strip set.

— There often comes a time in the hatch when the bass will no longer chase. The stripped fly is rendered useless. But the catching doesn’t have to end. The smart angler will change tactics. He or she might use a dropper rig, suspended in the surface, managing it like a dry fly presentation (dead drifting over a feeding lane) or every-so-slightly maintaining tension on the line (not so much a retrieve as it is a gathering of slack). The takes in this scenario will be sublime. Again, strip set.

If the rise rings become softer and the stripers won’t chase a stripped fly, try a dropper rig suspended in the film.

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— Just because you don’t see stripers feeding on the surface doesn’t mean a) they’re not there, and b) they won’t take a sand eel fly at the surface.

— I like to shuffle into a beach trough or across a flat to see if I can roust some sand eels. On the dark of the moon I look for their biolume contrails, or feel for their crazy bounces off my legs. If I’m lucky, a nearby striper will ghost his position by stomping on the fleeing bait. Now I have a target.

— Confidence catches fish.

Find sand eel patterns that you have confidence in, then go forth and prosper. I happen to love Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie, shown here below the glasses and in the left side of the box. Note the vast array of colors; I’ve never experienced that stripers have a preference. I also like Ken’s smaller Eelie, and Ray Bondorew’s Marabou Sand Eel. And for the record, I haven’t caught a striper on sand eel fly that had eyes in over a decade.

Block Island All-Nighter Flies Big Eelies

 

 

 

Olive Fireworm Big Eelie Fireworks

Flies don’t catch fish — anglers do. Still, I sometimes like to fish by feeling, and the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie is my traditional choice on the 4th of July.

On our nation’s birthday, this 15-pound striper said yes to the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie. What a tremendous battle. I’m always in awe of the power of Block Island bass.

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Olive Fireworm Big Eelie Variant

I was going through currentseams the other day and was surprised by how few fly patterns I’ve actually posted. Take the Big Eelie. I’ve been tying it in a seemingly endless series of colors for — well, for as long as I’ve been tying it — but I haven’t posted many of those variants. Let’s begin to remedy that with the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie. It draws its palette from the single feather flatwing of the same name found in Ken Abrames’ A Perfect Fish. The result is an explosion of bass-tempting pyrotechnics. Fish it on or around July 4th to celebrate Independence Day — or the fact that you’re out casting a fly to striped bass. Aw, heck. Fish it when ever you like. It is, after all, a free country.

The Olive Fireworm Big Eelie

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 10 hairs each orange, yellow, and chartreuse bucktail, mixed
Tail: First, a red saddle; second, 4 strands copper Flashabou; third, an orange saddle; fourth, a gray saddle; fifth, an olive saddle. (All saddles pencil thin.)
Body: Chartreuse braid
Collar: Hot orange marabou, tied in at the tip, 2-3 turns