February Stripers

Cold fronts and wind and snow and sleet be damned, I went striper fishing. This was virgin winter water for me; I looked at this place last year and wondered if any bass would care to stay though the cold months. I have my answer.

Only 20″, but a bass is a bass. Dagnabbit, now that I’ve done January and February, I guess I gotta go for 12 consecutive months with a striper on the fly.


Things to do in your Jeep during an electrical storm

I had a brilliant plan for last night’s striper expedition. Really. It would have been perfect. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to fire up some major thunder and lightning action just as I pulled into the spot. Not wanting to be a statistic, I cooled my heels in the truck with a Liga Privada No. 9 Double Corona (a cigar of immense depth and power) while the storm raged overhead. I turned on the Mets game, and since they were murdering the Cubs, it made the 90 minutes of prime lost tide slightly more bearable. I decided to amuse myself by trying some artsy no-flash-in-the-dark selfies. Here’s a trippy Jimi Hendrix acid light show rendering of your humble scribe:


As soon as the storm passed, I raced to the beach where I managed two stripers in the last gasp of the outgoing tide.

A reminder that no fish is worth chasing in an electrical storm. Please get off the water and take cover when you hear thunder.


The Stripers Forever Release A Breeder Club

The Stripers Forever Release A Breeder Club encourages anglers to practice catch-and-release for striped bass of breeding age and size. To become a member, you need to catch and release a striped bass of at least 36″ (about a 20-pound fish) and provide a photo or a witness.

While club membership admittedly walks the line of narcissism, I am pleased to say I’m now a two-time member. But, let’s give credit where credit is due: this year I was simply in the right place at the right time. Still, I’ll take it. There is precious little in fishing that matches the brutish power of a twenty-pound ocean-going bass in four feet of water.

I’ve been certified.

Stripers Forever Release A Breeder Club


Today’s word is: “shoulders.” Can you say “shoulders?” Sure. I knew you could. This isn’t the winning fish, but it’s still a good one.  

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

Stripers Forever is a non-profit, internet-based conservation organization that advocates for the conservation and responsible stewardship of wild striped bass along the Atlantic Coast. They seek game fish status for wild striped bass on the Atlantic Coast. You can find out more about Stripers Forever and the Release A Breeder Club here.

Fly Fishing for Striped Bass: Meditations, Musings, and Observations

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out fishing I tend to get lost in my thoughts. Some of those thoughts involve the standard issue routine of life. Others, a problem that is currently in want of a solution. Most often, though, I’m thinking about fishing. I’m also doing a lot of observing — conditions, other anglers, how fish are feeding, what the bait is doing. You know. The truly important stuff. Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend eight glorious nights fly fishing for stripers. Here are thirty-six hours and nearly a hundred stripers’ worth of thoughts and observations wrapped up into six hundred words.

~ Stripers often feed like trout. Consequently, you should be prepared to fish for them like trout. Match the hatch (bait). Present your fly (or flies) to the bass in the manner the natural bait is behaving. Target specific rising fish.

~ If you use stealth and caution, you can get remarkably close to actively feeding stripers, especially at night. I have waded to within two rod-lengths of a striper that was rising in three feet of water, and caught him by dapping my sand eel fly in the film.

I love sight fishing on rocky flats at night. After I crept up on his position, I watched this bass feed for several minutes before making a cast. Taken on a chartreuse and olive Eelie.

Block Island Bass

~ Stripers will frequently chase and hit a rapidly stripped fly. The more you fish for stripers, though, the more situations you will encounter where they will ignore a rapidly stripped fly. If you want to catch those fish, you’ll need to have other presentation arrows in your quiver.

One of my favorite ways to catch stripers is by dead drifting a three-fly team. The point fly (in this case a Gurgler) and the floating line stay on the surface; the two droppers are suspended just below. I use this approach when there’s a lot of bait in the water, especially small bait like clam worms or grass shrimp or sand eels. The takes are sublime. Rather than a bull rush smack, the sensation is one of building pressure as the bass, feeding with confidence, sucks the fly into its mouth. The explosion comes moments later at hook set. It is a poetic and beautiful and — when bass are feeding near the surface — highly effective way to catch striped bass.

Sand eel dropper rig

~ A floating line allows you to present deep (and deep in current), on the surface, and all points in between, without having to change lines or tips or flies. You can mend a floating line over the tops of waves along the beach.

~ The notion that a weighted fly is all you need to fish for stripers is like saying that a Woolly Bugger is all you need to fish for trout.

~ Sticky sharp hooks. Always.

~ If stripers are crashing 2”-3” sand eels on the surface, do not be surprised if they ignore a 6” Black Bomber or dumbbell-eyed sand eel fly.

~ Striper fishing spots can be notoriously fickle. The moon changes, the weather changes, winds shift, tides move, bait moves, stripers move. If you’re not getting any action, go find the fish. Make note of the most favorable conditions for a given spot.

~ A fine, hand-rolled Dominican cigar is an effective (not to mention, delicious) way to keep the no-seeums away. Certain botanical sprays, not so much.

~If you want to catch more stripers, fish when other people don’t, fish where other people don’t, and, most importantly, fish how other people don’t.

Pay attention to the little things, and the results can often be measured in pounds.


Dear Meatball*

Dear Meatball,

How are you? That was some wind last night. Cold, too, huh? The water was warmer than the air.

Technology is so cool these days, isn’t it? Cars, computers, phones…even headlamps. I remember the first one I bought for fishing. It was little more than a stubby flashlight attached to an elastic headband. Now, you get multiple LEDs with spotlights capable of throwing 45 lumens. Or more. You can see everywhere with those things.

But you already know that. You and your buddies sure got your money’s worth out of your headlamps last night. What’s on the shore? Let’s light it up! Gotta check my rig, or look at my reel? Light it up! Anything in the water in front of me? Turn on the high beams! Is that guy still fishing above us? Scotty, full power searchlights on him!

Here’s the thing: that guy was me. When I’m fishing on the dark of the moon, I want my eyes, which aren’t great in the first place, to adjust to what little ambient light is available. It’s tough enough wading around in the dark without stumbling over submerged rocks and gravel bars. Your 600 candlepower light bombs in my face aren’t making the job any easier. It’s also rude as hell.

What’s more, flashing bright lights in the water in the pitch black of night generally isn’t good for business. Scaring the fish and all that. Which is why I cannot put into words the extent of my delight when you and your Vegas light show packed up and left.

Once you were gone, a funny thing happened. I started to catch stripers. Sure, it could have been a matter of time and tide. Personally, I think it was not having your group trying to replicate the total aggregate wattage of Times Square. The bass came in nice and close, and took my Crazy Menhaden flatwing on the greased line swing with confidence.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for leaving.

Your pal,


Red lights at night, gentlemen. Red lights at night.


*With apologies to Billy Lagakis, from whom I so shamelessly stole this wonderful descriptor.

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.