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

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

~

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

~

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 

~

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

Curl up baby. Curl up tight.

Back to the night shift. Dozing on the couch at 10:45, taking care to not really fall asleep because the bus is leaving at 11:30. On the road, JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Esplendido ceremoniously lit at the appropriate landmark. Now past midnight, and it’s raining. Maybe it will keep the yahoos away. Only a few cars in the lot. That’s good. The weather people said showers, but this is more like a fine mist. Three other guys out fishing, more than I expected, but better than Monday’s daytime lineup. There are fish around — the spin guy to my left just hooked up. Now it’s really raining. I didn’t order this wetness. Everyone is leaving, and I’m all by myself. Thirty minutes in. The rain stops. A few stars try to wink through the parting clouds. There it is, a sharp pull at the end of the greased line swing. My first keeper of the year? No way. It feels like a short. And it is. Not why I came out tonight, but the stink is off. Working the stretch of water down, then backing up the pool, even though there is no true pool to be backed up. Over an hour of meditative casting, mending, swinging, repeating. Alone. Magnificently alone. Let’s try up there. I haven’t caught a striper up there in a long time. The answer is no. Until the answer is yes. A better fish, struck on the second mend, but still a short. I can see Scorpio and the Summer Triangle and it makes me dream of being out alone on Block Island in July. There’ll be some keepers there for sure. There probably are a few here, but not for me or my Crazy Menhaden. Perhaps when next I return. Big girls. Ready to eat.

Undercover of the night.

That’s AM, people. Very AM.

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