Lockjaw trout, ravenous stripers

First, Happy Easter!

Next, a few late mini reports. Last week they bumped up the flow from the Hogsback dam. I fished the Farmington below and in the permanent TMA on Thursday. The results were poor: I hit five spots and found fish that wanted to eat in only one of them. Could have been a combination of higher water, cold water, high pressure, or just not my day. But when I guided Joe and Wayne on Friday, the fishing wasn’t any better. The weather was glorious and there was plenty of hatch activity, but we had a tough day. Both Joe and Wayne fished well and hard — in the end, the river won. We’re already looking forward to the re-match.

Third cast on Thursday. And that was it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good Friday is my traditional striper outing in honor of the greatest fisherman ever, Simon Peter. The Bass-O-Matic was humming along at full tilt — fishing partner Bob Griswold and I caught dozens and dozens of stripers. If you’re a glass is half full kind of person, the good news was that these 14″ fish represent a strong local showing of the class of 2015. There were a few low 2o-inchers in the mix to keep things interesting. The bite shut down at dusk, and we called it a good striper thumb day.

Representing the Class of 2015, Mr. I-Can’t-Keep-Away-From-Your-Fly. Very aggressive feeders, and legions of them. Where’s my five weight?

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No stripers. Nonetheless, a Good Friday.

Good Friday means it’s time for the traditional, annual currentseams striped basstravaganza. Simon Peter was, after all, a big fisherman. Absent any finned cooperation, one still has the comfort of reacquainting with Ye Olde Striper Emporium. Rust is scraped off the two-handed casting form. And if there’s an EP Carrillo Golossus sending plumes of savory smoke across the water, so much the better.

So, I fished for 90 minutes without a touch. It was a little early in the tide, but in the last half hour I was able to reach the edges of what was a very nice seam along the main current. Water was lightly stained and 47 degrees. Mostly overcast, and only the slightest of breezes. Three other anglers. We all blanked.

Hopefully, this year will be better than last.

 

Coastal Flyrodders awarded the Order of the Burrito with Negra Modelo clusters

Many thanks to the Coastal Flyrodders of Wyckoff, New Jersey for their hospitality last night. The pre-game Mexican dinner was terrific, as were the libations. I presented  The Little Things, and I’m pretty sure we all had a swell time. Not only do the Coastal Flyrodders understand that a fed presenter is a happy presenter — they have also set the questions bar at a new height. I don’t remember ever getting so many good questions, or having such engaging post-presentation discussions. Well done, all!

A beer for breakfast after a night of striper fishing doesn’t suck. But it doesn’t beat a beer with dinner.

Block Island All-Nighter Beer

Later this week: The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. I will be appearing at the Destination Theater on Friday, January 22 and Saturday, January 23 and presenting “Wet Flies 101.” This is one of my more popular presentations, and as the title suggests, it serves as a wet fly primer. Presentation times are as follows: Friday, January 22, 2:00pm, Destination Theater Room A. Saturday, January 23, 10:00am, Destination Theater Room A. The show takes place at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough. For more information, visit http://flyfishingshow.com/marlborough-ma/

Date change: my tying demo at The Compleat Angler in Darien has been moved from March 5 to February 27. It will focus on flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles for striped bass.

Take the Stripers Forever 2015 Angler Survey

The following (within quotes) is a cut-and-paste from  Stripers Forever:

“If you have not filled out your 2015 Angler Survey please do it right now.  We are going to stop taking responses on January 7. This survey is the largest and longest-running gauge of striped bass angler sentiment. It is important for fishery managers to know how the angling public perceives the quality of striped bass fishing. We’re using an online survey from SurveyMonkey to make it easy to complete. The link below will take you directly to the survey. It will only take you a couple of minutes to fill in and submit your answers.
Your input is more valuable than ever. Please take the time to take the survey; your response plays an important role in the protection of Striped Bass. The more completed surveys we receive the better. This year we’ve added an important new question to gauge your perception if the 2011 year class lives up to what is supposed to be the third largest year class in history.”
`
Who’s got her back?
Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

Even if you don’t fly fish for stripers, you should read this

Ken Abrames taught me how to fly fish for stripers. (He taught me a lot more than that, but those are stories for another day.) He would tell you that it all came from within me, but clearly the striper angler I am today was formed by Ken’s hand. That stuff I post about striper fishing with five weight rods and three-fly teams and flies that are not much more than a few strands of bucktail and the hint of a suggestion of what the bait might look like? That’s all Ken’s influence. He recently wrote something on his website (stripermoon.com) that I liked so much, I wanted to share it with you. Even if you don’t fish for stripers, there are many pearls within. So, enough from me. Here it is:

“The tiny crabs are coming down the rivers
One-eighth to three-sixteenths across
They are translucent gold
And Fish eat them one at a time
no matter what you may have heard, they do not take them in mouthfulls
even though our reason says they must.
They are not burdened by reason as we are.
Size sixteen hooks and tiny goldish flies work
trout tackle

Also:
Isopods, tiny crustaceans that look like fresh water shrimp are swarming on the rock bars in the open ocean
The bass gorge on them
again, about a half- to three-quarters of an inch long
Dont be afraid of trout tackle.
Heavy leaders wont go throuugh the eyes of the trout hooks.
and
There is a major clam worm hatch going on in the open ocean too
These worms are of several kinds
One is yellow another is red
and another is red and yellow
They are thin from three quarter to two inches long and move like speed boats
and the squid and the bass are feeding on them.

So now you know
There are other ways to fish in the ocean than with standard gear…
it is always good to think outside of the box that marketing presents.
It doesn’t ever know how to lead
It follows
and when it leads it likes to control opinion
sales
that is business
but it is not fishing.
Fish do not read magazines or blogs.
Fishing is discovery not formula.”

Thirty-pounder on the fly. All because someone took the time to teach me how present a flatwing on a greased line swing.

Thirty pounder

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.

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Block Island All-Nighter IX: It’s Father’s Day…and I got my cake!

We dip into the obscure 80s movie vault for that opening. But if you remember the first segment of Creepshow, you know from whence I quote. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The first day of summer comes riding in on a white charger to banish the memories of the miserable spring that was striper fishing from the shore in Connecticut.

This was my first-ever solo BIAN (Block Island All-Nighter, for the uninitiated). A couple last-minute cancellations saw to that, and I couldn’t take Cam this year because he’s recuperating from an injury. You never know what you’re going to get on the BIAN. But there’s only one way to find out.

Getting ready. Big Eelies are a high-confidence pattern for me on the Block in June and July. The bass don’t have a color preference — it’s a profile and presentation fly — so I like to play around with different palettes. Crazy Menhaden colors on the paper, False Dawn on the cork. The entire top row left of the box is assorted other Big Eelies.

Block Island All-Nighter Flies Big Eelies

~

I was sitting in my Jeep in the ferry lot. It was tropical for a June in Point Judith, so I had the door open. A squadron of passing gulls (if you’ll pardon the expression) evacuated their bowels over my position; most of it ended up on the truck, but a good tablespoonful got me square on the left leg. I took this as a sign. Yep. It was going to be a good night’s fishing.

Block Island All-Nighter bird poop

~

Over the course of the night, I bounced around to several spots and found sand eels and stripers everywhere. I started fishing at 8:30; by midnight I had caught more bass than I had the entire spring in Connecticut. Plus, it was Father’s Day. That called for a celebration. A wee drap of Highland Park 12 year-old paired with a Gispert Churchill. (Sold separately.)

Block Island All-Nighter Wee Drop

~

My first encounter of the night was with bluefish — it did not end favorably for my leader or my fly. After that, it was bass after bass after bass. The vast majority were scrappy pugs in the 20-24″ class, but there were a few keepers in the mix. It took me until June 22 this year (my longest stretch since I started fishing for stripers) to catch a legal fish. He she is, about to dash off to freedom. Note the curious observer to the right of her gill plate.

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

~

My best fish of the night, twenty pounds, just shy of 37″. She surprised me when I started hand stripping her in. The next thing I knew, line was hurtling through my fingertips and noisily chattering off the reel. The power of these larger bass is almost irrational, although they have a distinctive flight pattern: head for deeper water, and, failing at that, swim at attack speed in a broad half-moon arc. I’m trying to be as photo-friendly as I can with fish these days, and that translates to keeping them in the water as much as possible, even if it means not getting a classic hero shot. I encourage you to do the same.

Block Island All-Nighter 20 pounds

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Stripers often feed like like trout taking emergers or sipping spinners. I witnessed both rise forms. Here’s the back end of a spinner sip. Look in the foreground for worried water and a caddis-like leap by a sand eel. That spot erupted moments after I took this photo.

Block Island All-Nighter tailer

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The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad. But I did not have another for dessert. That was reserved for Ernie’s. Scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and toast, my first real food since those sublime fried scallops at Finn’s twelve hours earlier. 

Block Island All-Nighter Beer 

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You know the fishing is good when your fly ends up like this. In it’s heyday it was an L&L Big Eelie. Now it’s a testament to the potential of primal carnage and a top-ten-ever night of fly fishing for striped bass.

Block Island All-Nighter destroyed fly

~

BIAN IX is awarded the official Currentseams seal of approval.

Block Island All-Nighter striper thumb