A Modest Proposal (Revisited)

A couple of years ago, I made the suggestion that given the current condition of striper stocks — stressed — and that their future depends greatly on smaller fish getting to be larger — breeder size — might it not benefit everyone if we didn’t try to catch a bajillion small stripers?

Once again, I’m revisiting that energy. Ask yourself this question: Do I really need to catch dozens and dozens of school bass at the mouth of the Hous (or wherever you go this time of year where striped bass congregate)?

I invite you to join me in observing this new, off-the-books reg: When it becomes apparent that it’s a small bass on just about every cast, reel up and stop fishing.

Catching another dozen dinks won’t make you a hero. But walking away will.

This session, from yesterday, went up to 11. Things were slow until the tide reached a certain window. Then a rip formed, and it was the Bass-O-Matic. I was tempted to go for 12, but I stopped after this fish. You can, too. Thank you for your consideration.

CT Striper Anglers: Amendment 7 public hearing and comment

Once again, those of us who love striped bass have a chance to make our voices heard. The ASMFC is currently conducting public hearings; Connecticut’s virtual meeting is being hosted by DEEP, and it happens on Tuesday, March 22, 6pm-8pm. As our friends at the ASGA have said: Get involved. Do what is right for the stock. Do what is right for future generations.

Contact: Justin Davis 860.447.4322

Register for the webinar here. Make sure you select the correct date/location. You can attend any meeting you would like, just make sure to include your home state in your comment.

Please note that in order to comment during virtual webinar hearings you will need to use your computer or download the GoToWebinar app for your phone. Those joining by phone only will be limited to listening to the presentation and will not be able to provide input.

Here are the main issues for Amendment 7, along with the AGSA’s thoughts on what’s best for the fishery.

Finally, if you (like me) can’t attend a hearing, the public comment period ends on April 15, 2022. Individual emails are what counts the most. Form letters count the least. Send your comment to comments@asmfc.org with the subject line “Draft Amendment 7.” ASGA will be running a raffle again this time. There will be awesome prizes from our best sponsors. Just copy stripercomments@gmail.com in your email to ASMFC and you are entered. It does not matter if you agree with our positions or not. We just want folks to participate in this process.

Don’t be bashful. Open your mouth and let your voice be heard!

RI Striper Report 9/6-7/21: Tons of bait. Ounces of bass.

I fished the last two evenings at various marks in SoCo and enjoyed….not a touch. Well, that’s not entirely true. I felt every weed that brushed against my three fly team. Last night I accidentally snagged a few small menhaden. But nothing living that could be measured in pounds came in contact with my fly.

I fished inside a breachway in moving water, incoming and outgoing; in a pond area of an inflow; off a jetty; and from the beach. Not even a courtesy tap. I saw and heard a few stripers, but they were small and their presence fleeting, and I never really had a good shot at a target. Bait, on the other hand — wow! Masses of bait everywhere. Silversides, menhaden, and mullet in mother lode Vegas jackpot numbers everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such immense, dark clouds of menhaden.

The fighting is rounds. This was round one.

I’ll take menhaden. Look for an upcoming article from me in Field & Stream on matching fall run bait with classic striper flies.

Striper Report: All you can eat (grass shrimp)!

Last week, while you were asleep — certainly some of you were, as the tide widows crept into the wee hours — I was banging around several marshes and estuaries looking for stripers feeding on grass shrimp. I found substantial numberqs of grass shrimp in every mark I visited, and varying numbers of bass. Grass shrimp are present year round, but they spawn when the water warms, and it’s getting to be that time of year. You can find grass shrimp swimming around if you shine your light in the shallows, but they mostly prefer to skulk along the bottom. They’re translucent creatures, so they’re not as easy to see as, say, a green crab. Their eyes reflect your headlamp beam, so that’s an easy way to spot them.

I see your beady little eyes. These guys are in less than six inches of water.

I almost always fish the grass shrimp swarm with a team of three. The patterns vary, and sometimes I’ll throw a clam worm like the Orange Ruthless into the mix, but last week I fished a deer-hair head on top dropper, a black General Practitioner on middle dropper, and Micro Gurgling Shrimp on point. I took fish on all three flies, although I was intrigued that I only caught bass on the black GP on the one night when I had bright moonlight. (The lessons are never-ending.) The fish weren’t very large — 20″ was the best I could manage — but I could tell from some of the feeding pops that there were bigger bass around.

My most recent three-fly grass shrimp team. L-R: Black GP, Caddis Shrimp, Micro Gurgling Shrimp. This gives you a good idea of the size of the naturals, which are the size of these flies or smaller. Note that none of these flies attempt to be a carbon-copy of the actual bait. They’re simply designed to match size and profile, to look alive, and create a favorable impression on the stripers. Ultra-realistic flies are to be admired for their craftsmanship, but not necessarily for their fish-catching ability.

Striper mini-report 4/24/21: Slow she goes

Toby Lasinski and I spent a few hours Saturday night banging around the shores of LIS looking for stripers. It was a slow night, with only one fish to hand, silvery sub-slot bass that nailed Toby’s surface swimmer. Not a touch for me, fishing a Rock Island flatwing/bucktail, and then a deer hair head whatchamacallit. There’s not much for me to tell, other than I saw some new water and got in some casting practice. (OK, the company and the cigar were pretty swell, so that counts for something.) Every day is different, and at some point this slowness will surely change. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

It felt good to taste saltwater on my fingertips. After a briny session like this, everything — rod, reel, flies — gets a good rinsing with tap water, then an air drying. Some of the water we fished reminded me of the Cape and Block Island, and I’m looking forward to fishing those places again.

Busy writing yesterday and today for “Surfcasting Around The Block” followup

As many of you know, I’ve been asked to contribute a chapter to Dennis Zambotta’s followup to “Surfcasting Around The Block.” I’d started writing back in December, then got sidetracked. First draft is done. Now comes the hard part — the editing, polishing, re-writing. So for now other creative projects will have to wait. For what it’s worth, I’m excited about what I’ve written so far.

Cannot write without coffee. Must use my favorite mug.

Striper Report 5/28/20: Slow, slower, slowest

2020 is shaping up to be my worst striper spring in 15 years. To be fair, I haven’t gone as many times in years past. But, to be fair again, it hasn’t been slightly off — it’s been disaster bad. Last evening we had two-and-a-half hours of casting practice. Conditions were great: falling barometer, outgoing tide (fishing a marshy area), dense cloud cover into dusk. I saw two bass landed among six anglers, split evenly between fly and spin. That ain’t exactly lighting it up. I saw very little bait in the water and no confirmed striper feeding activity. So it goes…

The great thing about June is that it’s prime time for trout fishing. With visions of sulphurs dancing in my head, I direct my attentions to the northwest.

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The Law of the Instrument and the Intermediate Line

I recently came across a reference to the Law of the Instrument, and it reminded me of fly fishing with an intermediate line in surf and current — especially since I recently used an intermediate line for two days on Cape Cod.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Law of the Instrument, it’s basically this: If all you have is a hammer, you see everything as a nail.

And why, you may ask, was I fishing with an intermediate line? It was the ideal taper and grain weight for my new two-hander. For test drive casting, it was aces. For fishing, it reminded me why I never choose an intermediate line for current or surf. (For more on this, read Mainly Misunderstood: Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines for Striped Bass.

“The fundamental thing about fly fishing is presentation. It means that you control what’s going on, so that you can bring your fly to the fish. You’re in control. Not the line. Not the accident.” What Ken is saying is simple: use the right tool for the job.

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Perhaps the Law of the Instrument explains so many of the misconceptions about intermediate lines: they are less affected by surf, they are good for presenting deep, they are versatile. (D: none of the above.)

Expand your toolbox with a floating line — and you’ll begin to notice all the screws and nuts and bolts around you.

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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The untriumphant return of the five weight.

I don’t think I used the five weight once last spring. Must remedy that. I knew I’d be unable to sleep after my hockey game, so at 10pm I ventured forth into the sultry darkness with a new Rio Outbound 9 weight floating line on the reel and a Crazy Menhaden flatwing to tempt Miss Piggy. I tend to want to get my money’s worth from a line, so I had forgotten how good a new one feels in the hand. The five weight did not disappoint, and conditions were perfect for casting and mending a large fly in the current. Sadly, no bass, no bait. The Meatballs were out in force, though, proudly displaying their coordinates to the world (and perhaps some low flying aircraft) with their headlamps. I must confess to having a smug sense of satisfaction when they left fishless. As did I after two hours of fighting the good fight.