In short, a lot.
I’m currently reading Dennis Zambrotta’s Surfcasting Around The Block. As you may have read a few days ago, Dennis has asked me to contribute a chapter to his upcoming followup. It’s a little crazy to me that I’ve known about Dennis’ book for years, but I’ve never read it until now. While the focus of the book is on spin fishing the Block with plugs in the surf — and frequently surf under hardcore conditions — there are plenty of secrets that the fly angler keen on building his or her knowledge base will be able to use for their next outing, whether on Block Island or elsewhere. Here are some of my thoughts.
Color matters to needlefish pluggers. The needlefish is a primary choice for pluggers when sand eels are the bait, and the most popular color is fluorescent green. On Block I fish Big Eelies the vast majority of time, in all kinds of colors, and have never found that the stripers have a preference. But now my mind is wandering in to places of color and length. The Big Eelie in L&L Special colors is one of my favorite, high-confidence Block flies. It’s got a lot of chartreuse. Hmmmm….maybe a longer version, seven inches long, with more bright greens?….one way to find out…
Or, maybe the L&L in a Soft-Hackled Flatwing, tied about 7″ long. I really like fishing this color scheme over sandy bottom structure, like Crescent Beach...or on the Cape…
Location matters…and there are so many locations. I like to think that there aren’t too many anglers that know Block Island on the fly like I do, and then I read a book like this and realize how very little I really know — especially when it comes to locations. Part of it is that I’m a creature of habit. Part of it is that I like to fish flats and skinny water more than surf. Part of it is that it can be challenging to fish certain marks with a fly rod in wind and waves (almost constant companions on Block). But I’ve really got to explore more of these boulder fields (check out Gerry Audet’s talk on boulder fields sometime) and the mysteries they hold. In a way, Dennis hasn’t written a book as much as he’s built a roadmap. Follow it to find your own secret spot.
Tides matter. Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to fish, pay attention to the tides. There are certain marks on Block that I fish on universal tides, and others that I’ll only hit at a certain tide. Pay attention to the details in Dennis’ book and you’ll have the code cracked for you on your next outing.
Put in your time. And move around. If the bass aren’t biting where you are, give them a chance to move into the area you’re fishing. If that doesn’t work, move. One of the beauties of the Block is that everything is accessible and everything is short drive from where you are.
Okay, so the days of the multiple 30, 40, and 50+ pound bass blitzes from shore are over. (Dammit! I can’t believe I missed that. Oh, to have been a striper fly fisher on Block in the early to mid 1980s…) It’s been a slow last couple years for me for slot fish and above on Block, the opportunity still exists. Here’s a very respectable double-digit pounder on the fly from two years ago. Miss you, sweetheart.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last night’s Zoom session. We’ve been averaging around 50 people, which doesn’t suck. And all those tremendous questions! Keep them coming. At some point these Zooms will end — or go on hiatus — but for now we’ll plan on another Currentseams Zoom next week.
Speaking of Zoom, if you’re in charge of lining up speakers for your fly fishing club, why not consider hiring me for a virtual meeting? That’s exactly what the Candlewood Valley Chapter of TU is doing tonight. I’ll be presenting “Trout Fishing For Stripers” in its entirely. If you’re interested in booking me, you can find my presentation menu here.
We are on a major striper tying binge. Soft hackles and flatwings. These are part of a large order for a long-time customer. Clockwise from bottom left: classic Big Eelies, then sets of Soft-Hackled Flatwings (pink/chartreuse/olive, grey/fluoro yellow, white/chartreuse.) The compleat striper angler will, of course, have a comprehensive selection of soft hackles in his or her box.
Finally, guiding. The State of Connecticut is partially re-opening today. Charter boats can take out up to five anglers. For now, though, I’m playing this one conservatively, so I’m still not guiding. I understand that outdoor transmission is rare — nonetheless, this is the decision I’ve made. I’m hoping to be taking clients out sometime in June. Thanks to everyone who has been reaching out about lessons and guiding — I truly appreciate your patience.
Stay safe and be well.
My Soft-Hackled Flatwing recently appeared in the “Guide Flies” section of On The Water magazine. I’m sorry that I don’t have a publish date, but it’s out there and of course right here. The Soft Hackled Flatwing draws from fly tying giants Abrames and Bondorew and Gartside. Play around with colors, have fun, and catch fish!
The Soft-Hackled Flatwing from On The Water‘s Guide Flies. There’s a link to a pdf just below.
An empty parking lot is can mean several things, among them: it’s a ridiculous time of day (it wasn’t). No one is hip to the spot (everyone is). There are no fish there (ding-ding-ding). So I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary with an EP Carillo corona gorda and tried to enjoy some blissful solitude. Even a constant, soaking rain couldn’t wreck my casting practice. And so it goes.
Why I like RLS Easterly colors (grey dun, silver, peacock, fluorescent yellow) during an easterly blow. Even in dingy water, this soft-hackled flatwing really pops.
Oh yeah, we’ve got some serious striper thumb going. (Bonus points if you knew the Zappa reference in the title.) The Bass-O-Matic is on. No real size to them — my larger ones were in the 20-22 inch class — but they’re eager and spirited and you’ll feel like an instant expert. The new two-hander continues to be a learning experience. I’m not close to being dialed in (the right line will help significantly with that) but it felt good to be casting a 100 foot line and seeing the backing through the remaining line on the reel. Fished a Soft-Hackled Flatwing, a Crazy Menhaden hybrid, and then for giggles a deer hair-headed beast so I could watch the hysterical antics of bass chasing on the surface. You know, I almost forgot that it was pouring.
Get in line and catch a few.
Yeah. Hard times for fly casters yesterday with a sustained 15 knot southwest blow in our faces (and an especially unfavorable quarter for lefties) with some stronger gusts mixed in. I debuted my new custom two-hander, but I don’t have the right lines for it yet and it wasn’t the synergy I know I’ll eventually enjoy. Still, some small bass were brought to hand, and they felt like giants in a ripping moon tide.
A Soft Hackled Flatwing in RLS Easterly colors (grey dun and fluorescent yellow) caught the eyes of several feisty schoolies. The colors really popped in yesterday’s conditions.
So simple, so elegant, so effective. The Soft-Hackled Flatwing borrows from many sources, all of them wonderful and good. I love this fly for early season school bass, and it makes a fine generic baitfish year-round. Just tailor the color and length to the bait you’re matching et voila! And remember: eyes on flies catch anglers. Not stripers.
Impressionism rules the day. If you’re interested in learning more about soft hackles for stripers, read “Soft Hackles for Striped Bass” from the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler.
Here’s the basic template:
Make that singular, for one bass was all I could manage. But it was, as someone once wrote, a perfect fish. Twenty-inch class, dime bright from the sea, with sharply contrasting lines and the attentive eyes of a predator on the hunt. Taken on the third cast. A sharp tug on the retrieve, then some willful bullrushing against the substantial moon tide.
I only fished for an hour (switch rod in two-hand mode, full integrated sink tip line, three-foot leader of 20# nylon) but that too was perfect: air temperatures in the mid-fifties, winds from the southwest, bottom half of the drop.
Both sky and angler were positively glowing on the walk back.
Today’s fly was a pink, olive, and chartreuse soft-hackled flatwing, just about sparse enough to read a newspaper though.