Striper Report 8/29/22: Of dropper rigs, sparse flies, and slot bass

I fished Monday late night into Tuesday early morning in Estuary X in Rhode Island. When I arrived there were clear signs of bait and stripers on the feed. Here’s what happened, in the form of observations and lessons learned and re-learned.

This time of year, the SoCo estuaries are loaded with silversides. In case you didn’t know, silversides go nuts when you shine a light on them. They form tight schools and they congregate in shallows near the shore. There are also juvenile Atlantic Menhaden around, from 2-4″ or so, but silversides are the dominant bait. When there’s that much bait in the water, a dropper rig is your best friend. Droppers are the fastest way to find out what the fish want. They also raise your chances for a hookup because you have more targets in the water.

My first casts were made with a three fly team consisting of a sparse, generic bucktail about 3″ long on top dropper, Mark Gustavson’s Lil’ Bunky in the middle, and a Magog Smelt bucktail on point. There was a substantial current and my presentation was a greased line swing. I had action on every single cast, sometimes on all three flies — except it wasn’t bass. It was weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. When it became clear that flora was all I’d be hooking, I decided to search for fauna elsewhere.

This juvenile menhaden pattern is sparse, simple, and — as you’ll see — highly effective.

At the next mark I switched to a suspension dropper rig — one with a floating fly on point (in this case a Gurgler) — because I was fishing in shallower water with a much slower current. What’s more, there were several rocks in my presentation zone topped with bubble weed. So this rig helped keep my flies away from trouble. While there was an enormous amount of bait, there was not a corresponding number of stripers in the mix. I was having one of those nights where no matter where I moved, the stripers would shift to just out of casting range. By the turn of the tide I was a wee bit frustrated.

But sometimes persistence pays off. I moved to a different location where I’ve had some success before. I spent a few minutes sitting on a rock, savoring the calm of a cigar in the middle of a cloudy, humid night. I could hear the silverside schools working; every once in a while, they’d get agitated. But I wasn’t hearing any slashes or pops that would indicate stripers feeding. Still, they weren’t getting restless for no reason. I was standing upstream of two bait balls; my logic was that bass would be looking for strays to pick off. If I could dangle my rig near the edges of the bait balls, or even equidistant from them, perhaps my fly would get seen.

There are two ways at impact to determine that you’ve hooked a good bass. The first is sheer power of the hit. The second is sound the water makes as the bass rolls on the fly. I got both. I set the hook — never with the tip, always a sharp rearward thrust back toward my hips. Once the bass realized it was hooked, she bolted for deeper water, another positive sign that you’ve got a good ‘un (bigger bass love to sound). Because the night was damp, my old Scientific Anglers System 2’s drag wasn’t at its powerful-run-stopping best. She peeled off 75 feet of line in a jiffy. I managed to stop her run by palming the reel. From then it was a matter of cranking the reel and not letting her breathe. And before too long, I was admiring her substantial flanks and alien-creature mouth. You beautiful striper, you.

I had a rough night with the camera, so please believe me when I tell you that this shot doesn’t do her justice. 32″ and faaaat. Easily 15 pounds. I was truly impressed with her girth. She’s been eating well! The other thing to note is the silversides in the water. There weren’t any bait schools nearby — these are all random silversides, which gives you an indication of how much bait was in the water. As you’ve probably guessed by now, she ate the Lil’ Bunky.

Last Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom of the spring, 3/30/21, 8pm: “Traditional Striper Flies”

I’ve got stripers on the brain, and so we’ll be talking about the traditional-style striper flies I like to tie and fish: sparse bucktails, soft-hackles, and flatwings. The discussion will include materials and hooks I use, and I’ll throw in a tying demo of something tbd. If you haven’t been getting the Zoom links — I send them out Tuesday late afternoon — please check your spam box. If you’re sending a request to get on the list, please don’t wait until 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night…I won’t be checking my email that late. Thanks!

TU 225 awarded the Order of the Triple JalapeƱo 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.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Striper Report: Too stupid? Or just stupid enough?

I woke up at 7:20am yesterday, took Cam to soccer camp, fished the Farmy for 90 minutes, picked him up, did some work, took Gordo to hockey camp, drove us home, made supper, hung out with the family…then got in the car at 10:40pm and drove to Rhode Island.

It poured on the way down, but SoCo was mostly just fog and dense clouds bracketing the universe’s attempt to shine through. Spot A was an estuary; there were bass and bait (silversides and peanuts), but the bass were 80 feet out, sporadically ambushing bait from below, unwilling to chase a fly, and I couldn’t present the way I wanted to. Spot B was the open beach. I didn’t like the easterly breeze, some of the surf was sketchy big, and I decided that absent ay signs of bait or bass, it was too much work. Spot C was some skinny water like the kind you can find around the edges of Narragansett Bay. Second cast, three fly team, on the dangle, BANG! A good fish, 10 pounds, on the peanut bunker bucktail top dropper. Hooked two more then called it a night — or is that a very long day, since I didn’t get into bed until after 3am.

That’s eight consecutive months of a striper on the fly from the shore. Last night’s winning entry was this small bucktail, 2″ long and so sparse you can read the newspaper through it. I love catching bigger bass on smaller flies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA