Striper report: and then, there was one

Eleven consecutive months of a striper on the fly from the shore down. One to go.

I decided to start this month’s quest early — ten hours into November, to be exact. The tide was outgoing, of an unremarkable height, slightly stained. I saw some small baitfish, but no birds were working. Another fly angler flogged the water across from me; two dudes with spin rods joined the fray as I was getting ready to leave.

To the fishing. I was using a 3″ September Night on a floating line. As so often is the case this time of year, the fish will hang out on the bottom. I gave it half hour with he floater, then switched to the full sink integrated line. Bingo. I was snagging the occasional mussel, but one time the bottom fought back. A fine 20″ striper, hooked neatly in the corner of the mouth. And since no one else was catching anything, I reeled up and headed back home.

Forgot the camera, but like this one, November’s bass was clean and bright and fresh from the ocean.

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December Dinks

The most difficult part of striper fishing in December isn’t the cold. It’s finding the fish. Once you do, you can pretty much get out the tally sheets.

So I headed south to see who might be out and about. Save for a multitude of sea birds and one other fly angler, I had the beach all to myself. This being a powerful moon tide, there was no shortage of sexy rips and seams to cast into. I was two-handing it with a floating line, a six-foot section of T-11, and a three-foot leader of 20-pound mono. A four-inch long September Night seemed like a fine choice of a fly, although I spent considerable time debating the merits of throwing a sparse bucktail like the Magog Smelt.

I fell into the meditative rhythm of cast, mend, mend, swing, slow retrieve. I was ready for the pull of a hungry fish.

The answer was no.  All I was catching was sea lettuce and marsh grass. The other angler across the way was likewise blanking. Then he got into a small striper. And another. I kept waiting for the hits that never came. Since I had a limited time slot — I was slagging off work — I reeled in and headed for another spot. The distance and brisk pace I kept made me sorry I had put on that extra layer of fleece.

New venue, same results. There comes a point in every skunking where you make peace with the fact that you’re not going to catch anything. So I reminded myself that while most of the world was working, I was fishing. The sun was out. I had the pleasure of a peppery, earthy Churchill. But, I asked, could I please get just one fish? I raised the question out loud, because I find that when you’re alone, that works a lot better than just thinking it. How else to explain the strident bap! at the end of the next swing?

These stripers didn’t know there weren’t any mullet around. Not to worry, for the September Night worked quite nicely on this December afternoon.

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And that was the start of the Bass-o-Matic. All small fish, but each of them fresh from the ocean,  flawless and gleaming bright.

With great discipline, I peeled myself away from the frenzy five minutes before my hard stop. So much to do. So little time.

At least now I could cross “catch December stripers” off my list.

Becoming an instant expert

I stole that phrase from Grady Allen, who used it to describe fishing on the Farmington after the stocking trucks had done their work. For a shining hour or two, it’s a fish on every cast. You can do no wrong. You savant, you.

It’s kind of the same with early season stripers. The water temp shoots up 10-15 degrees in the course of a month. The fish are on the move. And they’re hungry. All you need to do to catch bass is find them and put a fly in their area code. Find a big enough school, and your arm can get tired right quick. And the thumb on your landing hand looks like someone took a belt sander to it.

Like casting to freshly stocked trout, the fishing isn’t very technical. But for the first few trips, Lord is it fun.

Friend Todd with one of his 400,000 stripers. Dusk can be a magic time.

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Six of us ventured out to an old stomping ground to catch the bottom of the tide, which conveniently fell at dusk. We quickly found stripers, and the fishing was stupid good for several hours. I was using my 10 and 1/2-foot switch rod with a floating line and a 4-foot T-11 tip. Fly selection was irrelevant. I fished a Ray’s Fly-like bucktail till it was ground to kibble and a September Night. Everyone else used their own favorites. I caught them on the strip, the swing, and the dangle. Wonderfully easy to please, this lot. The only negative was a 10-15mph wind out of the northwest. But that’s the price of admission along the shore, isn’t it?

My original plan was to fish until full ebb, then seek my striper pleasures elsewhere. But the wind had picked up. And I had had my fill.

Besides, It’s good to go out on top.