Striper Report 9/15/22: On the hunt for big bass with Toby Lapinski

Last night I was treated to a few hours of striper fishing with surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski. We fished a top-secret mark on Long Island Sound where there’s no public access (Toby has permission from the landowner, God bless him). Conditions were perfect, with a very light breeze out of the northwest. The air temp was decidedly cooler than the water, which was about 75 degrees.

Right away, I liked the spot. It’s a rocky reef where the incoming tide sweeps over the cobble and boulders from left to right. The tide was already moving when we arrived, and it wasn’t long before the current became quite pronounced. I started off with a team of two JV menhaden patterns, and about a half dozen casts in I had my first hit of the evening. It was a quick bump that felt like a small fish. Unfortunately, this was to become a pattern; I had dozens and dozens of these quick tugs, but was unable to get a hook set.

To make matters worse, my two-handed casting was rusty and I discovered that my two fly team had become irreparably tangled. Since I was feeling lazy, I clipped the dropper section and tied on a larger fly on the now 4-foot leader.

I had a few more bumps, but meanwhile, Toby was slaying them on plugs, especially his needlefish. I swapped out the deer-hair head contraption I was fishing for a “Sand Eel Punt” (basically an Eel Punt with sand eel-thin saddles) in Block Island Green. Finally, I connected with an 8-pound bass. That was my only fish landed of the evening. As my action slowed, Toby continued to pound up bass, albeit not in the size range we were hoping for. As the moon rose, the bite began to taper off.

The winning fly from last night, the “Sand Eel Punt.” I’m going to try this with some more substantial saddles.

Some observations: I can’t remember the last time I had so many hits that didn’t convert to hooksets. It was almost as if the stripers were afraid to commit to the fly; certainly some of those nips were from smaller bass. I can’t blame it stripping the fly right out of their mouths; any movement I was creating was no faster than about 1 foot-per-two-seconds, and I was doing plenty of greased line swinging. With the two-hander, I was able to cover far more water; however, when the bite was on, I had many hits when I only made casts of 50 feet or so. Lastly, why did Toby catch so many more fish than me? Was he covering more water? Was it the action or shape of his plugs? The depth he was fishing? Did my shorter leader have an influence? Why were Toby’s hits more demonstrative than mine? All stuff I’m trying to figure out today.

Currently on the vise: Squirmy Wormy Jiggy Thingy

It’s a Squirmy Worm. It’s a jig nymph. It’s a shameful fly. It’s all of the above, and I love it.

This fly comes from Toby Lapinski — who first showed it to me on a small stream outing in December. The brookies went nuts for it. Toby tells me he riffed off similar patterns, added a collar for added contrast, et voila! You have this horrible wonderfulness. I’m going to try jigging this with a soft hackle dropper above it on some small streams this spring. I would also think this pattern will drive steelhead out of their tiny minds.

This is a simple tie. You need a jig hook (12-14), chartreuse tungsten bead (1/8″), pink worm material (Toby uses Hareline Caster’s Squirmito) and some black peacock Ice Dub.

“Early Season Tactics: Hunting Transition Trout” in the current issue of The Fisherman

Like the title says, you can find my latest piece in the March 2021 issue of The Fisherman magazine. Early Season Tactics: Hunting Transition Trout is about the rough patch of fishing we face in the next month or so. It’s loaded with useful strategies and tactics to help you catch more fish, and includes a guest appearance from UpCountry Sportfishing‘s Torrey Collins. You can read the article here.

Quality content like this usually isn’t free; The Fisherman is kind enough to allow public access to the article. Why not support them with a subscription? You can do that here. Many thanks to my editor, Toby Lapinski, for giving me the opportunity to write about fly fishing subjects that matter.

You can read about how I caught this gorgeous creature in the article. Photo by Toby Lapinski.

“Stacking The Deck: The Little Things” in the current issue of The Fisherman magazine.

Many thanks to The Fisherman magazine New England Region Editor Toby Lapinski for giving this piece a home. This was originally intended to be part of my series of “Little Things” articles in American Angler. But with that pub’s demise, I’m happy to call The Fisherman its new home. “Stacking the Deck: The Little Things” continues the theme of seemingly insignificant things that can have a huge impact on your fishing success. Stay tuned as there will be more from me in future issues of The Fisherman.

“Stacking The Deck: The Little Things” can be found in the February 2021 issue of The Fisherman or online here.

Best of 2020 #9: Contributing to DZ’s upcoming Block Island book

As more and more fly fishing magazines wither and die, I find myself looking for new ways to contribute to the ancient art of print. (I have some exciting ideas that I may announce in 2021.) Sometimes those opportunities materialize seemingly out of nowhere. Like when Toby Lapinski asked me to contribute to The Fisherman magazine (new articles coming in 2021). Or when Dennis Zambrotta asked me to write a fly fishing chapter for his followup to Surfcasting Around The Block. As it turns out, I may be writing a couple pieces. I love Block. I love Dennis’ first book. And I’m loving writing for the followup. (Here’s the original post in case you missed it.)

I love all striped bass, but there is something wondrous about holding one in the sacred waters of Block Island.

A (Fairly) Good Day for the Five-Weight

Today was tidal creek stomping day with Toby Lapinski, he armed with his light spinning gear and me with my trusty five-weight. The wind was a bit of an issue for me — as was casting room — but once I reacquainted myself with the nuances of casting a three-fly team with a 9-weight line on the 5-weight rod, everything was jake. We hit two marks on the incoming tide. One was a total blank, and the other produced for both of us. Nothing large, but enough to put a nice bend in our rods. It sure didn’t feel like December.

In these politically charged times, here’s something we can all agree on.

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This one didn’t make it. We saw scores of dead bunker, especially at the second mark. Many had bird wounds (post mortem?). Apparently there was a substantial fall invasion of these crazy menhaden.

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You’ll experience fewer tangles with a three-fly team if you slow down your stroke and open your loop a bit. Photo courtesy of Toby Lapinski.

Mini striper report 9/25/20: spotty but promising

I fished with Toby Lapinski last night — make that very early this morning — at a top secret location in eastern CT. (Toby is the Managing Editor of the New England Edition of The Fisherman magazine. Look for some stuff from yours truly in that pub coming soon!) Toby was spinning and I was flying. I love that combination because of the instant feedback it provides both anglers, and last night the response was: up the spin guy, down the long rod. I didn’t get a touch. Toby, who was fishing a variety of surface plugs and soft plastics, had a few bumps, an unfortunate bluefish lure removal, and a nice 20-pounder. The action was sporadic and sparse, leading us to conclude that Toby’s encounters were with lone wolves rather than any pods of fish moving through. To be continued this fall…

I pride myself in my photography, but let’s face it: this shot sucks. In the heat of the moment, both photographer and camera screwed the pooch. As always, we strive for a quick, striper friendly release, photo op be damned, so by the time I figured out the issue we could only manage this blurry disaster. Try to imagine 30-something inches of piggy striper swimming away. Please.