Cape Crusaders

Got back yesterday from a 36-hour Cape Cod stripers on the fly trip. I met a friend from England who fishes out there several weeks this time of year, and a couple other guys I knew from the SOL forum.  Tuesday night we fished an outflow. I took a 20″ bass on my first cast, and I supposed that it was going to be one of those lose-track-of-the-count-after-a-dozen nights. Or not. That was my only striper of the evening.

Wednesday AM we fished the mouth of an estuary. I could sense almost right away that it wasn’t going to happen, and it didn’t. The most fun I had that morning was casting Mike’s (the Englishman who is also a rod maker) cannon of a two-hander. (Good Lord, I need one of those for windy days.) Or maybe it was breakfast. It was pretty tasty. I think I’ll go with breakfast. We headed for a bay to catch the last of outgoing, but with the wind in my face, a tired body, and the only bass around being in the stocked trout size range, I decided to save my chips for later.

Good call. The Wednesday dusk and night bite was off-the-charts good for numbers (not so much for size) but you take what the striper gods give you and offer thanks. Mike and I started by working a beach, and we ran into a good old-fashioned classic blitz, with terns dive bombing the bait and a striper on just about every cast-and-strip. We were fishing about 25 feet off the beach, walking down current, casting parallel to the shore. This went on until dark, and we fairly giggled about it on our walk over to where Chris and Chuck were fishing.

I loved this second spot: an outflow with stripers holding on station, unwilling to chase, feeding on something small. I was feeling lazy, but after Chris mentioned the deer hair grass shrimp he’d seen in my box the night before, I realized that the standard baitfish fly was going to be nothing but casting practice. While bass popped around me, some within a rod length away, I tied up a three fly dropper team with the shrimp on top, a 1.5″ saltwater Hornburg, and a Gurgler on point to suspend the rig. I generally avoid the phrase “that was the ticket,” but I beg to report that that was, indeed, the ticket. For the next hour, the skunk turned into a touch or multiple touches on just about every cast. The fish were small and hard to hook, and with the action winding down, I decided to end on a high note after I took a double.

 

Mike demonstrates the proper technique for serving tea in the field, taken directly from the pages of the British Commando manual. Tea and milk on the beach after a night’s fishing. How civilized! Yes, the weather was October cold.

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Chris with the best fish of our 36 hours, taken in an outflow on a Big Eelie. A fine demo of proper catch-and-release.

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Thank you SE Mass TU!

I had a lot of fun last night. What a good crowd to present to — not only did you laugh at all my jokes, you laughed a lot at all my jokes. That’s a sure way to get me to come back.

This summer I began upgrading my presentations: more video elements, animation, and better transitions. Last night was the first go of the new and improved “Little Things,” and I was very happy with the result.

Speaking of presentations, “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass” is almost done. That will make its debut at the Cape Cod Fly Rodders, Thursday, October 19, Hearth and Kettle, Rt 28, Yarmouth, MA, 6:30pm. I understand that’s a members only meeting, so if you’re a CCFR member I’ll see you there.

As soon as I hear from the DEEP, I’ll update you on the 2017 broodstock collection.

Banging around the Cape in the dark

At dinner at the Chatham Squire Friday night, Gordo asked me, “Are you going fishing tonight, dad?” My stock reply for such questions is: “Have we met?”

I spent 90 minutes fishing a mark on Pleasant Bay toward the bottom of the tide. Not a breath of wind. The current was good and my drifts were true, but it was one of those nights where the bass were elsewhere. I cycled through some basic patterns, and the only bump came on a black deer hair head fly about 5″ long. I did see a shooting star, and that helped take my mind off the fact that I was standing in the water in the dark near white shark central. I did note silversides on the wade out.

Saturday I headed to Steve’s Secret Spot (I’ve seen one other angler there in 10 years). It’s a nondescript mid-Cape creek mouth that is either on or off. Tonight it was infested with silversides and a few striped brigands. But unfortunately, it’s an outgoing tide spot only, a fact drilled home to me while I waited almost an hour for the tide to go from slack to incoming to find that the silversides were still there but the bass had skedaddled. I had had only a half hour of outgoing, and could manage only one bump.

So I hightailed it back to Friday’s spot and gave myself 15 minutes to catch a bass. Midnight, second-to-last-cast, bump on the swing, then bang on the dangle. Our Blessed Lady of the Ray’s Fly Flatwing comes through again.

Four-oh. A perfect fish at a perfect time on a perfect fly. 

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Cape Stripahs

Up at the Cape this weekend for my son’s soccer tournament, but they don’t play at night…so I did.

Saturday I hit two spots. The tides weren’t ideal, but I wanted to see how one in particular looked on the incoming (I’ve only fished it on the outgoing). Last year, same time, it was lit up like a Christmas tree. This year it was dead as Julius Caesar. I gave it 45 minutes of due diligence, then headed to a second mark. First cast, my line got all discombobulated. After I straighten things out, I pulled it in for a re-cast. Wait. Was that pressure a fish or some weeds? The answer was fish. I proceeded to get into a batch of micro bass, and one of their bigger brothers. Fished a three fly team and took fish on all three flies. Both the air and the water on the incoming tide were cold! I wished I’d brought my neoprenes.

Sunday met old UK pal Mike who got the outing off to a proper start by taking a bass on his first cast. We had schools of stripers, mostly 1-2 year-olds, come through in waves, so the action was either red hot or non-existent. There were a few larger — by that I mean sub-20″ers — in the mix. To cull these pipsqueaks, I tied on a 7″ Eel Punt on a 3/0 hook. (I should mention at this point that I’d forgotten my headlamp, so I did all this dancing in the dark). So while I still had bumps, I was spared the tedium of stripping in trout-sized bass. Meantime, the Meatballs showed up with their 40,000 watt headlamps lighting up the ocean, and — my personal favorite — into my face when I was playing a fish. I’d like to tell you I was sorry when they left, but that would be a lie.

I finally connected with a sub-legal fish that had aspirations of going on the reel, but I had other plans. A catch, a photo, a release, and a good way to end the festivities.

I haven’t fished an Eel Punt in years. This striper reminded me why it’s such a good fly, especially on the swing on a dark, mysterious night.

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Cape Cod striper mini-report (and a good lesson learned)

Up at the Cape this weekend for a soccer tournament, and after family duties were fulfilled I got the chance to wander out. Saturday night at my secret spot was a bust. The good news was twofold: I now have some intel on how the channel has shifted, and I did not sit on that big driftwood log that turned out to be a seal carcass (always confirm your landing zone before you park your butt).

Last night I met up with some people I know from Stripersonline.com. We fished a spot that was new for me, and I liked it for its moving tide and structure. The action wasn’t anything to get excited about, but most of the group managed to touch a fish. I’m quite sure my second striper will be the smallest one I will catch this year. How he managed to eat a 3/0 hook is a question for marine biologists to ponder.

I hope you had a good holiday weekend, and please be sure to pause a moment and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our great nation.

Hello, old friend

Spring began as a promise and summer as a dream. Winter would relent at some point (God, it was long and cold!) and the water temperature would rise a few precious degrees and the stripers would begin to stir. We’d have the spring run – or not, as it turned out – but at least the sun would be warm on your face and you could feel your fingers and you would feel alive standing in the brackish water as it raced past your feet to meet the sea.

The herring would be in in a few weeks – or not, as it turned out – and with them would come the big bass (see previous “or not” statements). Worms would hatch, and anglers would mutter about picky fish, but all would be as it should. After that would come summer and sand eels and silvery Block Island bass covered in sea lice and eager to act twice their size. It all happened, and it was extraordinary, as each year is in its own way.

And now, it is fall.

The calendar won’t proclaim it so for another six weeks. Football is still in training camp. The warning track of meaningful September baseball is many strides away. But the first leaves have already fallen (you can find them in your yard right now). A few weeks ago your deck was in bright sunshine at 3pm. Now it’s in deep shade. The Dog Days (which have less to do with heat and humidity than with the position of Sirius, the Dog Star, relative to the sun) are nearly over. And so begins fall.

Last night I stood in a Cape Cod creek amid an assembled multitude of silversides. Against the far bank, stripers were feeding in earnest. They know it’s time to bulk up in preparation for that long journey home.

Welcome, old friend.

Don’t even get me started about steelhead. Big Steel 11:14