The Graveyard Shift

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  1. I am writing a series of blog articles on this topic. I figured I would also post the information here as well. There are four articles total. The first two are done and I will post immediately. The other two I am working on finishing. I really like the blog I started writing for, but I noticed that my articles are lucky to get 200 views total. The whole point of writing the articles was to help people get information on how to fly fish at night more effectively for striped bass keeper size or better. I know that SOL is a more targeted audience and the information will be appreciated so figured I would share them here too.
  2. I sold a large portion of my older rod collection to raise funds for the two new additions which are the Thomas and Thomas Exocett Surf Two Hand Rods. Tenkara USA 12' Iwana St. Croix Avid 7' 4WT for small stream trout Sage Mod 9' 5WT which is main trout rod Orvis PowerMatrix TLS 9' 6WT which is an older rod bought for throwing streamers for bigger trout and smallmouth Orvis PowerMatrix TLS 10' 7WT has an extended butt so can serve as a good switch rod or for high stick nymphing. Was original great lakes steelhead rod. G. Loomis GLX Switch 11' 7WT is main steelhead and salmon rod (not Kings but other four species) G. Loomis Crosscurrent 9' 9WT is main bonefish/permit/striper flats rod G. Loomis Stinger Alta 12'6" 9/10WT is main king salmon spey rod and does skagit in saltwater for me as well Thomas and Thomas Exocett Surf 11'2" 10WT is main striper TH OH rod Thomas and Thomas Exocett Surf 11'2" 12WT is Cape Cod Canal TH OH rod. Want to take this to South Florida and try tarpon from beach sometime.
  3. I would love to be able to target gator blues they must fight like the devil. The 3-4 pound ones I caught in Chesapeake growing up fought like bass double their size
  4. Never caught one from shore in six season. The South Side of Cape Cod and Islands have tons of big blues. I am usually in Boston area and I have seen some small snapper blues less than 12" chasing bait, but never hooked any blues fishing.
  5. Salt Ponds: A Beginners Best Friend Salt Ponds are one of best places day or night for beginners to start their fly fishing endeavors for striped bass. They have diverse bait options and are an easily understood area for a beginner. Many fly fishermen reading this probably have a small to medium sized salt pond that they fish the outlet on a dropping tide during the day for schoolies. The problem is in your head this is a schoolie spot, but what if I told you that you’re just approaching it the wrong way for targeting big fish. My favorite salt pond near my house has fly fishermen and light tackle spin guys there frequently. Sometimes if the sunrise looks like it might be epic and I am fishing on a weekend instead of before work I will stay well past my normal stop fishing time of 5:30am and will hang out until 6-6:30am. Will put on a small gurgler and see if I can raise a few schoolies on topwater because topwater is always exciting while I wait for some awesome picture shots to reveal themselves. During that 5:30-6:30am window new guys will show up and politely ask if they can fish. I will say “go right ahead I am pretty much-done fishing anyways”. Often they will remark it’s a great spot for schoolies and my response is “Well you are showing up 3 hours later than you need to if you want a keeper”. To this day I yet to see one of them show up when I am fishing 2-5am. I am not saying they would have caught tons of big fish and in fact, they probably caught way more striped bass than I did that same day. A good night in a salt pond throwing large flies will yield 2-3 fish in the 30 inches or larger bracket and another 3-5 fish in the mid to upper twenty-inch range. A more normal success rate at night with big flies is 1-3 fish in the 28-34 inch range. A good daytime falling tide using standard striper flies might yield 15-35 school stripers with a few 23-27 inch fish mixed in, but most fish will be 16-20 inches long with a fish over 30 inches being very rare. So a daylight trip is probably going to yield 3-6 times more fish caught than a dedicated night trip hunting big fish, but out of my all my daylight trips to fish salt ponds I have personally never caught a bass over 27 inches except one time. That one exception I stumbled onto a silverside spawning event and bait density was insane creating blitz conditions in the pond’s outflow as disoriented bait fish were getting sucked out of the pond by the falling tide. In general, I have found in salt ponds night incoming tide is usually the best tide window for catching larger bass. Depending on the pond the window varies because the tide may need to reach a certain level to start moving water into the pond. Outgoing at night tends to produce higher numbers of fish, but smaller average size than the incoming tide bite. However, at night the size of stripers is usually 50% better than what I catch in the same place on the drop in daylight, example day time average fish size is 18 inches and at night the average fish size is 24-25 inches. One way to set yourself up to have the best outing is to find a salt pond that only starts to fill up in the last hour or two hours of the incoming tide. Look for a night where high tide is half an hour before listed sunrise time. Show up 2 hours before high tide and fish the night incoming tide for bigger fish, but if you strike out in the dark you will get a shot to target smaller fish on the first two hours of the outgoing tide as the sun is coming up. I will often do this myself as many big fish hunting parties end in a skunk so its nice to bend the rod before heading to work. Months like June where first light starts before 5am allow me to fish both night and first light bite window before heading to work. The other mistake I tend to see is anglers get overly focused on the inlet/outlet area of the salt pond. I have found that bigger fish tend to actively search the pond for larger baits in the dark such as American eels. So my strategy is always fish the inlet as the tide starts breaching slope and creating that peak current window, but after 2-3 fish or 30-45 minutes, I will start fishing my way progressively deeper into the salt pond. I will then fish my way back to the inlet and fish the very end of the incoming tide at the inlet. As mentioned in the previous Night Striper Fishing #3 using your hearing frequently is a good way to help identify areas where stripers are actively feeding in a Salt Pond. These areas are usually quiet and have a calm surface so stalking to fish by sound and spotting the surface activity by moonlight or afterglow reflection on waters surface will help you target feeding fish in a large area. I don’t use poppers at night very often, but one way I like to use them is at slack tide in salt ponds. I fish them with one loud or two back to back hard pops then wait 60-90 seconds before popping them again. My poppers have very long black saddles or dragon tails off the back that have a lot of movement when relatively still. I believe bass think it’s an eel that was attached by another striper that is now stunned/injured near the surface. One other observation is on the drop usually large schoolies or a few keepers will take up feeding stations out the outflow for the higher stages of the drop where there are better current and more holding water. However, my biggest fish caught on the drop are usually solo fish in the 30-34 inch class have all come at a minimum holding water point during the drop. In the dark they seem comfortable coming into the very skinny water and at this point most of the bay and mudflats are exposed, but the salt pond outflow will have a very small falls like effect and the channel snaking out to the main channel will have enough water for a big fish to still come in to pond entrance from the main channel. The bait gets disoriented by the falls and a solo large bass can be right at the base of turbulent water. Also, the small bait gets packed into a very small area and I find this super density of bait brings in the bigger fish hunting solo. In general, I don’t catch truly huge fish over 40 inches in salt ponds, but there are two exceptions to this rule. First, if the salt pond has a freshwater source it may also get a small run of herring. Any salt pond with a herring run can produce a 40-inch striper during the adult herring spawning runs. The second exception to this rule is any isolated salt pond that has direct access to the main ocean. In these scenarios really big fish will move into the salt ponds to feed only on very extreme high tides at night. For example, say the normal high tide range is 8-9 feet, but on a new moon cycle, you see three nights where high tide is going to approach the 11-12 feet height. That is a potential for a big fish to come in and feed on the food density that is usually inaccessible or too skinny for them to feel comfortable feeding there. Lastly, here is what you need to do to scout out your favorite salt pond for night time fishing: Recon of the area leading up to the salt pond for channel structure. It is important to figure out what levels of water on incoming allow striped bass to move up to the entrance to the salt pond, breach the entrance of salt pond so the bass can access it, and when peak current occurs at the entrance to salt pond. Look for key pieces of structure at the inlet that would provide an ideal ambush location for a solo large fish. Examples are a piece of sod bank that fell off and makes a current break at the base of undercut sod bank, one large rock in the middle of the current flow, a small row of old dock pilings, or a scour hole behind a mussel bed just inside pond inlet. Identify any shellfish bed areas inside the main pond. These areas attract marine worms and green crabs which attract stripers feeding on them. If you see any make sure they are part of your fishing rotation through the pond during the incoming tide. Large crab flies can be the ticket to higher quality stripers near these beds at night, but you need ponds with good water quality and not a lot of mung or weeds to fish crabs along bottom effectively. Finally, let’s talk about fly selection and presentation tactics. So the bottom line is you came out in the dark to catch big fish, which means you need to throw larger flies. I recommend a 9-12 inch herring fly patterns like a hollow fleye or beast fleye or a conomo special. There are three approaches that work well. At the inlet, you can fish these on a swing in the current. My preference is after swinging them across the inlet current I like to retrieve them as tight to the sod bank as possible pushing a wake on the surface like a spooked herring. Inside the pond try a variety of retrieves from a surface waking bulge, an erratic below surface retrieve, and a slow continuous near bottom retrieve. The other fly you should have is an eel fly in the 11-12 inch range. Rich Murphy’s RM Rattlesnake and RM Quarter Moon Special are good fly pattern options. The Quarter Moon Special is a surface fly that is waked/skated across current on the swing or retrieved as slowly as possible across the main pond surface, but fast enough to create a surface wake. The RM Rattlesnake I like to fish near the bottom on a short fast strip retrieve to activate rattles or on a swing where I hold the fly line during the swing and induce 6 inch pulls and releases to activate rattles during the swing. Rich mentions in his book he likes to fish the rattlesnake along sod banks animating the fly with five strips followed by a long pause and says most hits occur on the initiation of the strip immediately after the long pause. I somehow missed this and caught it reading the book again over the winter so will test this retrieve out as well. You also need green crab flies preferably with one or two small rattles in them. Move the fly with two short fast strips to activate rattle then let sit 10-30 seconds before doing two more strips. This painfully slow retrieve works best. Depending on the depth of the pond I may switch to a full sinking line to fish this approach or you will need a much longer leader if using a floating line with a very heavily weighted crab fly. An intermediate will really waste your time as it will take too long to get to the bottom I don’t recommend it for crabs. Lastly, you should have silverside imitations for daylight schoolie fishing and a worm fly in case you happen on a worm spawning event. In the event of a silverside or worm spawn, I recommend you use a two-fly rig with the worm or silver side as the lead dropper fly and the big herring fly as the trail fly. Fish this fly with same retrieves as the herring fly. For fishing for schoolies at first light, I like to swing the fly or dead drift it under an indicator on the current outflow. Also casting into edges of current flow and retrieving fly back through slack water eddies can produce well. I prefer a floating line with a longer leader that way I can fish a deciever high in the water column and if fish feedback is poor switch to a clouser to get closer to bottom. As mentioned earlier I like a big popper for fishing any high slack windows in the dark. I fish them with one loud or two back to back hard pops then wait 60-90 seconds before popping them again. This retrieve is even slower than the crab retrieves and takes a lot of discipline.
  6. This is helpful thank you. The reason for wanting the 100' cast is spot specific. I have three areas I need at least a 90' cast to get fly into sweet spot as I cannot get safely any closer to target structure. I found areas using spin gear and I am trying to convert to fly fishing success but distance is just outside of casting range at the moment and want to improve casting so I can specifically fish these three areas as they have produced 40" bass on gear with consistency
  7. Sounds like a plan just let me know date so I can see if I can get green light from wife to attend.
  8. This thread may have helped me get a full fly line cast. I have been stuck at 80 feet with an occasional 90'. Its dark so I can't watch my backcast and I always let line land on water to load backcast. I will find some dedicated daylight casting practice time in April and try all of this stuff out @Mike Oliver and @RedGreen The disadvantages of being self-taught are always high. I have a lesson with FFIC TH instructor in April as well.
  9. Chuck lets discuss at Tuesday meeting I will see if I can make it.
  10. HT we had to move the meeting to Tuesday next week. There was a last minute conflict at the estuary center. Its Tuesday 3/19/19 at 8pm. Honestly that whole sequence is mind blowing to me I have never thought about making a running line like that. Looking forward to seeing final product.
  11. Mike I have used just level T with a shooting mono similar to Lazer. As @titleguy said it takes getting used to the release. You can get some good distance and because it is so thin and heavy nothing gets down faster than T-17. There was a deep structure area last year I was really worried about losing fly lines so I cut my own Level T-17 heads because if I hung them up it was cheap to break them off in comparison to losing a fly line. Its a good option for getting deep the bad thing is I found I don't like the sensitivity of the mono shooting line compared to a low stretch fly line core. I am sure I missed some hits, but I also lost two heads in that area which would have been two full fly lines if I was using those instead. Every approach has positive and negative attributes.
  12. HT I will post a crab and lobster fly if I get a chance to tie. Life has been crazy. The fly weighs 3/8 oz it takes a lot to move it and I fish it on a 11' 10wt. I use a long leader that is a combo of floro and braided line for sensitivity and cutting through current with maximum strength. The approach is borderline so not for a fly purist. But it is delivered with a fly cast so still fly fishing. It uses foam to lift the rear of hook so it taps nicely along bottom when you twitch to activate rattle. The lobster seemed to be the better rattler so will make one of those and post. Its a variation of Rich Murphy's pattern. I decided for dead drifting crabs flies are superior to lobsters because green crabs tumble and cannot swim. Lobsters swim so a dead drift approach is not great. rattling a lobster tight line looks like it moving along bottom it also snags a lot. I have a crab I use for dead drifting it uses no rattles, very little weight, and is almost all mesh tubing. I sink it with split shot under a glowing strike indicator in inlet current flows. The split shot snag less than a weighted fly and keep fly close to bottom. the mesh is perfect for adding scent if one chooses. Pro-Cure Shedder Crab is the way to go. molting produced a particular scent bass cannot ignore. The larger than normal profile helps keep schoolies from taking the fly keeping it in water for big girls, but large schoolies will eat both the crab and lobster from time to time The lobster and dead drift crabs are on 7/0 owner jig hooks. it will make sense when you see the flies. I attached a picture of a medium size crab at 2.5"wide carpace. The really large ones are almost twice this size. The crabs seem to molt in size order for reproduction with largest ones in early July with the classes getting profressively smaller. I found a scientific study on green crabs that confirms my field observations. So my crab flies are 4.5" wide tip to tip of carpace and 1.5" deep.
  13. If you are going to be moving adjacent to the Potomac River area feel free to shoot me a DM. When I was growing up snakeheads had not established themselves there yet, but the same shallow water bass fishing areas I used to prowl are now snakehead territory. I keep in touch with two friends from high school who hunt snakes on a conventional gear with kayaks. I can point you in the right direction.
  14. Mike I saw those videos. I would really have to change my risk tolerance and get a wetsuit to do what you are doing. I agree your rods and the wetsuit are the only way a fly guy can stay in the game in those conditions. My biggest problem is the two areas I have found in rough surf that produce big fish near me have very dangerous rock bluffs that the current sweeps towards. Last October even staying way back in a "safe area" a few big waves caught me off guard in the pitch black and knocked me down. I fear that if I had been further out I might get caught in that sweep current and into a potentially life-threatening situation so I hung way back with the surf rod and pounded casts out with 4-5 oz loaded plugs and savage sandeel jigs. I would love to be able to get at those big fish with my fly rod, but having a family now my risk profile has really changed compared to my twenties. This season I am going to explore some of the more open beaches that have good looking structure, but no cliffs or bluffs to get pinned against. These new areas have a lower risk profile and if they start producing big fish I may re-evaluate trying to fly fish in the heavy surf again. One thing I found last year was some of my inlets also produce excellently during these big storms, but due to the nature of how an inlet is formed, I can always find a spot to make the fly fishing work in the bad weather. In discovering that it has kept me from chasing the big surf bass consistently as there can be a great bite in a location that is easier to make fly casting work. The difficulty at the inlet is during big storms you have to be scraping the bottom to hook up which is its own difficult challenge with fly gear. That said the only time in my life other than the Canal I have caught two 40 inch fish in the same trip was during my October 2018 heavy surf trips with the spinning gear. So it is clearly a great scenario to produce trophy class fish so I understand the appeal of trying to tackle it with fly gear.
  15. Buy these at lure parts online. They are rattles for skirted jigs. The slot allows easier tying to hook. You can also attach inside ez bod tube like I do or Bob P uses heat shrink tubing to attach these rattles off bend of the hook on his flies. I took example from Bobs instagram.
  16. @HillTop this is an interesting question. My most productive night fly did not have a rattle in it. But it also only produced in shallow 6' deep or less conditions where it was relatively clear and calm water, or in a light edge where fish were getting a clear look at the fly. It is a fly designed to make a massive frontal push and I am convinced that is more important than a rattle. If fished along surface with mono leader ans floating line it makes a wake similar to a redfin plug. Alewife variant of a Rich Murphy Conomo Special. But I found in other situations I know the rattle fly was more effective. But its really key that you use a retrieve that activated the rattle. For example deep fast water my version of Rich Murphy' Rattlesnake out produced the Conomo and a beast fleye from andrew custom flies. I fish a deep swing, but I tuck rod under arm and hold line with right hand. I give very short jerks to the tight line 4-6" max. This jerking action during swing activated the two rattles in fly and I found it got bit more often in deep inlets near bottom structure. The second presentation I call rattling. Its deadsticking a crab or lobster fly with rattles. You lift rod until feel tension then shake tip to activate rattle for 30 seconds then deadstick more. It was calling fish out of eel grass beds and boulder field edges. Use a full sinking line too. Lastly I was czech style nymphing big rattle crab flies. I found shaking throughout drift caught way more fish than letting it true dead drift. I use platic jig rattles from a lure making website now and they work as well as pyrex in my opion but dont break. So if you fish a rattling fly on a swing or other presentation that is not jigging or activating the rattle its a total waste of time. That is my experience last year. Now to make my night flies more effective I in corporate a head that pushes tons of water, a rattle, a tail that creates an "action", a long silhoutte and a mesh portion somwhere to add scent to the fly. The five componets together I believe will make the flies catch large bass better in the dark. What turned me on to this different design focus for a night fly pattern was Rich Murphy. Rich mentions all of these charateristics in his night fly pattern section of book and last year I exclusively fished his conomo special, two night patterns (Rattlesnake and Quarter Moon Special) and a black beast fleye. The beast and conomo hit key points of pushing water and silhouette. In addition to Rich's night flies I made these two original night fly prototypes to fish this season. The jig with curly tail is the "Skinner Special" after John Skinner whos books made me into the bucktail and jigging gear fisherman I am today. The double hook fly is called the "McKenna Special" as its designed to fish like his double rigged sluggo which is one of my all time favorite striper lures. Both flies come in at 11-14" depending on shape and size of tail. The tails come on and off with a small twist clip so they can be changed to adjust action, fall rate, and overall silhouette of the fly.
  17. @Killiefish you will find everyone's reasons for gravitating to TH differs. My main purpose is the ability to throw big flies easily (no shoulder pain) and further than I could with a SH rod. To @RedGreen point I am using a heavy head on an 11' rod to make this endeavor that much easier on me. I have experienced what he and @Mike Oliver are saying where the strong head wind ends up limiting my rods ability to cast with it being over lined and not having enough power to beat the head wind. However, by playing angles with my postion and getting wind at an angle I am usually still able to keep fishing and do fine. Sometimes I may have to move to a different piece of the structure. If its really bad I may move to a different location. Also where I fish headwinds for extended periods onto my beaches makes it too weedy to effectively fish even if I could make the fly casts. I have tried throwing completely weedless heavy soft plastic on spin gear and was also unable to fish due to weed build up. So I am not incentivized to fish beaches in strong onshore winds except right at the begining of the storm (first four hours). I have multiple spots where each wind direction creats ideal conditions without having to fight a straight on head wind the whole trip or too much weeds in water. So my point is as local angler with a deep list of potential locations and a knowledge on what winds make them unfishable I dont feel limited at all with my choice of gear. I fish pretty much all weather except lightning. When it gets super rough I will switch to spinning gear at a certain point because I actually dont want to wade for safety and still reach structure (120-160' casts) which I dont think I could reach with any fly rod let alone in strong wind. I will use loaded plugs that cast insane distances in normal conditions to get my need wind range and safely fish super rough surf. These lures and with my surf set up I can cast roughly 2/3 the way across the Canal but only get half that range in bad wind. So I may at some point invest in one of the cannons TH Rods. But I have spent more than enough money getting the 10 and 12 weight T&T rods so no more rod purchases for a few years.
  18. They are always out of stock try WTB/WTS forumn to see if someone will part with their copy. Thatnis your best bet
  19. There are several guides who do short trips and will pick up Downtown or Seaport. That is your best option. Contrary to popular belief big fish arrive pretty early. I have alway caught a keeper by May 15th in the Boston Harbor area except last tear which took me until May 20th. We had a record cold winter though so hence run was 2 weeks behind
  20. Gil, Ian Devlin made that fly. He uses a long stiff mono extension to get tail at back of fly. The tail appears to be made from putting his kinky fibers into clear silicone then cutting to shape. he does not put silicone over the middle of tail fork so he can tie those fibers onto the mono extenstion. Another option is to buy the "double tail" attractor tails. I get mine from nightmare musky. I am working on a Conomo special version with a trailer hook and the double tail off the trailer hook to simulate the herrings tail. I will post it once complete sometime next week.
  21. Gil thanks will fish this sling hard this year. If it works out well will pass on the results. Its going to be an upgrade from last seasons strategy These are big flies that I purchased to test this year in addition to my own flies. As you can see a special carrying solution was in order to scramble jetties and jump waves.
  22. Can you post a picture of what you are referring to?
  23. Its true bad things can happen no matter how good you are. If Tim had a GPS commincator with him he might have lived long enough to be found. He owned one but left it at home decided it was extra weight in his hunting pack he did not need because it was an area he knew like back of his hand. Thats why it was so sad it went down the way it did. Its invalueable and not that much money in big picture. My backcountry days are pretty much over for forseeable future but i wont go without one. Groups is the way to go. four is definitley ideal. I hope he has a great time this summer! I suggest heading up to meet him at end of climbing season in fall. Go to Kenai River and chase silvers and big rainbows with Alaska Troutfitters. September and October is amazing. My friends own and operate that guide service its top notch and very easy for a beginner fly fisherman. The fish your son will hook into may get him more interested in fly fishing
  24. That is great. Get the SPOT and insurnance. No one is perfect. My friend Tim did much harder stuff for 21 years up there. Tim got over confident and he is dead. I am not say dont do things. But for example if he would rate a climb a certain difficult in NH or VT he should add a 50% additional difficulty factor until he has been there a full season. I ran rivers if it was rater class 3 I upgraded it to a 4. I approached it with that mindset scouting things normally I would have just run in a lower 48 river. It save my life several times where the entire river was blocked by a giant strainer. There are no accurate reports things are always changing. Over confidence kills. I put a friend in the ground over pride. As a Dad myself I emplore you to make sure you son takes this seriously it could keep him alive.
  25. Have him talk to locals for more info. Tell him not to under estimate Alaska. You can be one mile from a road and if something goes wrong no one will find you. Normal risks he would take in Vermont are not worth taking up there. Bear training and moose training is very important. Its not a matter of if its a matter of when an encounter will occur. Knowing what to do keeps it from becoming a bad experience. Buying MEDIVaC insurnace and a Spot emergency sattelite communication device are critical if hitting backcountry alone. I never got in trouble because I was careful. But I had to use my SPOT to assist two rafters I found trapped out there 15 miles from any road who had lost their raft and all gear in an eddy line. The SPOT and insurnace is relatively inexpensive an emergency extraction starts at $60,000 and gets more expensive from there.