squammer

Catching Big Stripers on the Fly -- I'm Only Catching Sub-26" Fish

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Okay, granted I have only been fishing one season and am still learning, I am still eager to catch a big fish. I've caught plenty of 20-26" striped bass this year using deceivers, clouser minnows, and Tabory black snake at night. I do however have access to some of the best fishing grounds in the MA area -- Annisquam Gloucester, Ipswich, Marblehead, Essex, Chatham, Brewster, Orleans, etc. I have small boats at my disposal, etc. I just have not landed that big fish yet...

 

People who catch big fish on the fly -- what are some things I can do to help my chances? Bigger flies? If so, which ones? Sinking lines to get my fly deeper in the water column? Also for tackle, 9 WT enough for rod? Knots correct (I use double surgeon to tie 16lb fluro tippet to tapered fluro leader with super glue)?

 

I wonder if the bigger fish are just deeper in the water and I am not getting down there... Any other tips would be great!

Edited by squammer

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Posted (edited) · Report post

As they say “time on the water” it’s a learning process, it’s a million little bits of information.

JC

from this AM, size 4 fly, eight wt, knee deep water

B1DA27C3-1F1D-4BE0-BF00-B1355531AC1F.jpeg.8e27933c837da971a765f4e8df094a80.jpeg

Edited by JonC

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18 mins ago, JonC said:

As they say “time on the water” it’s a learning process, it’s a million little bits of information.

JC

from this AM, size 4 fly, eight wt, knee deep water

B1DA27C3-1F1D-4BE0-BF00-B1355531AC1F.jpeg.8e27933c837da971a765f4e8df094a80.jpeg

Nice fish!

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Agree with JonC. You can increase your odds by fishing dawn and dusk and as you find your feet at night .

Big flies don’t do not necessarily  equate to big fish. 

Big Bass are not always caught deep. We have to find the depth  they are  eating at.

 

It takes some time to find where big Bass are more likely to be found.

 

large Bass are not so common as some would have you believe especially for shore  based fly guys.

 

Mike

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I’m Fishing some of your home waters. I too catch a lot of schoolies but keep putting your time in and you will learn where the bigger fish feed. My best fish this season came in the middle of the day in 25 mph winds..34” on a 8” deciever..

B7EDCDB2-2FEF-4A6F-A19A-DFD8FFD517AA.jpeg

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I think what you're catching is going to be the norm for a long time to come. I don't want to sound like a pessimist but that is what we have now. 

 

I know you want to target bigger fish and that will only come if you broaden your horizons and start fishing different places and at certain times of the year.

 

I started fishing stripers a long time ago and I was always happy with what I caught, I never targeted big fish but I caught my share. Today the the legal keeper size fish is 28 inches. and the limit now is one instead of two, that in of itself is telling. When I started the legal limit was 36 inches and it was common to catch more than a dozen from shore just fishing the same places now that might give up a few 28 inch fish. My biggest  that do much better than what I have d shore on a fly was 53 inches, I have more than 6 over 4o inches and hundreds of fish from 30 to 40 inches. I'm not bragging, I'm just one guy wh fishes from shore, there are so many out there that have done much better than me but I was happy with what I did and thats all I wanted.

 

Things have changed, just the change in bait is what we have now for inshore bait has hanged the fishery. It's very depleted now compared to what it use to be.

 

I now tell my friends to put your time in and the big fish will come along, just not as often, it could happen in the same waters you're fishing today, all it will take is being in the right place at the right time with the right fly and the right fish.

 

I don't know were you live or fish, it's always good to mention that in a post because sometimes you will be surprised by how people may reach out to you with some words of wisdom. 

 

If you have only been at this for one season what you will find is you will meet other people who will help broaden your knowledge about places you might want to fish and offer to take you along some day.

 

You will get your big fish over the years, they just may not be that common in today's fishery.  

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7 hours ago, JonC said:

As they say “time on the water” it’s a learning process, it’s a million little bits of information.

JC

from this AM, size 4 fly, eight wt, knee deep water

B1DA27C3-1F1D-4BE0-BF00-B1355531AC1F.jpeg.8e27933c837da971a765f4e8df094a80.jpeg

How big is that JonC? I doubt that would top out past 26"...but did it?

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I don't really have answer eventually you'll stumble onto larger fish. But if you have boat maybe you can go find them somewhere. I have just stumbled onto them. 

 

One thing: check your knots by pulling on them. Try to break 'em and make sure you tie 'em strong each time. 

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

18 hours ago, squammer said:

Okay, granted I have only been fishing one season and am still learning, I am still eager to catch a big fish. I've caught plenty of 20-26" striped bass this year using deceivers, clouser minnows, and Tabory black snake at night. I do however have access to some of the best fishing grounds in the MA area -- Annisquam Gloucester, Ipswich, Marblehead, Essex, Chatham, Brewster, Orleans, etc. I have small boats at my disposal, etc. I just have not landed that big fish yet...

 

People who catch big fish on the fly -- what are some things I can do to help my chances? Bigger flies? If so, which ones? Sinking lines to get my fly deeper in the water column? Also for tackle, 9 WT enough for rod? Knots correct (I use double surgeon to tie 16lb fluro tippet to tapered fluro leader with super glue)?

 

I wonder if the bigger fish are just deeper in the water and I am not getting down there... Any other tips would be great!

First of all its great you are near lots of great water, but you are not going to catch big fish chasing too many different locations.  I highly recommend you pick the areas closest to your home and fish there three to four days a week.  I generally fish 10-25 mins from my house from 3-6am on weekdays before work.  Occasionally I got to Canal (1-2 trips a month) and more rare is a trip to Cape which is every other month.  This season I have 58 trips logged fly fishing and surfcasting with 36 of them split between only two areas.  Both areas have produced 40"+ stripers on fly and both are less than 20 mins from home.  These are not destination spots but by putting a ton of time in my friends and I have identified patterns of big fish activity.  Pick one estuary and pick one area that is ocean front.  Take those two areas and work the hell out of them and eventually you will figure out big fish patterns.  Consistency is key to figuring it out.  Feel free to DM me to discuss location specific details but do not burn your spots publicly here!!!!  What follows is some general guidance I wrote of a different forum earlier this year.

 


I am a pragmatic fly fisherman not a purist so some of this advice may shock you.

 

My first shocking statement is you should use surfcasting as your method for scouting areas for big fish. When developing a new area for big striped bass on fly rod I will fish it exclusively with an appropriate surfcasting setup for the first 3 weeks (Mon, Wed, Fri from 3:30-6 am before work). Fish one area until you have hit it 15 trips before trying a new area. It takes a lot of time to develop big fish patterns thoroughly. I apply topwater, plugging and jigging/bucktailing to cover the three major areas of water column quickly which I find allows me to fish 1 mile of water per hour a rate that is impossible on a fly rod. Once I have identified specific areas with those methods that are producing keeper bass I then go in and hit those areas with live eels to figure out which spots hold true trophy fish (Got this method from John Skinner's Striper Pursuit book). Once I identify the good areas I then set about figuring out how I can make that pattern to work on fly fishing gear (Example: 10" herring flies worked waking under surface during nights of in migration by herring early season).

 

1. Wade fishing I have yet to catch a striper over 30" after 6 am in the morning except in three scenario’s:
a. Sight fishing flats in May through end of June.
b. Fall daytime blitzes.

c. Cape Cod Canal first light blitzes
FISH AT NIGHT 90% OF THE TIME IF YOU WANT BIG BASS.

Daytime trips are great for scouting to learn how current works and how tide height impacts structure the bonus is catching schoolies on these trips but main purpose is learning area for night trips.


2. Differences in the night fly game are:
a. Distance is less critical you can catch lots of fish 60 foot or shorter casts, but accuracy and line control is very important.  Also stealth and field craft is critical move slowly and quietly.  Avoid wading if possible fish are shallower than you think.  When wading move one foot at time and try to minimize any ripples or wake disturbances.  Only use headlamp if necessary for safety wading near drop offs/sod banks or knot tying and use one that has a single red led dim light (princeton tec remix with red LED is my go to currently).  Never ever use white light unless it is the flash of a camera taking a picture of your new personal best striper on the fly before a quick release.

b. Move a lot and listen a lot for feeding activity. Only blind cast specific areas you know are productive through your surfcasting scouting forays. If I hear feeding while moving between know blind casting areas I stop and fish that area until activity stops.  Remember if windy sound is carried down wind so stalk into wind when possible.
c. You need to be able to identify where a fish is by sound hearing the feeding activity and be able to immediately cast within in 3 feet of the boil/splash with one false cast or less. This take a lot of practice. You also need to identify fish size by the sound characteristics of feeding sound. 12-18 lb fish sound like a five gallon bucket getting pulled under water empty.
d. You need large flies that produce ratting noise, push a lot of water, and if it gets really tough add scent (My experience has been sometimes bass are so keyed in on bunker or herring if it does not smell right they ignore it at night if I add procure gel menhaden or herring in this scenario I immediately start hooking fish. I use it as a last resort).

     (i) The reason I say large flies is to minimize the amount of time you hook small fish, not because large fish only eat large flies.  I find 8 inch or longer flies seems to really keep schoolies from biting (occasionally it will still happen even on 14 inch flies) which keeps my fly in the water more.  The goal is large fish so you want to eliminate hooking schoolies.  Because of this you catch a lot less fish in general.

     (ii) If your goal is to catch more fish and have a shot at big fish then by switching to nights you are achieving that goal and if that is your goal I highly recommend going to @The Fisherman website he has great articles on how to use multi fly rigs.  You can then fish one large fly and two small flies giving you ability to really cover a lot of different bait options and figure out what fish are key in on.  I just found this approach out this year and it has been very helpful for my searching efforts on new areas thanks to Steve for sharing it with everyone!!

     (iii) if using smaller flies and you tie your own add rattles to the patterns.  There are several ways to look this up.  I have found just adding rattles with no other changes to my sandeel and deceiver flies have definitely increased those flies catch ratios at night.  
e. Get a 11 foot two hand beach rod in 10 weight or a 9 foot 11/12 weight as you will need it to throw big flies if there is wind.


3. Patterning large food sources is critical:
a. Herring in spring
b. Bunker are often elusive wading, but after storms when water gets murky on beach tends to bring them into beach as they are filter feeders.
c. Eels in estuaries and inlets of estuaries.
d. Lobster/Pollack/Bergal in rocky areas with deep water access.

e. Green crabs around rocks and shellfish beds.
e. Squid around areas adjacent to lit docks or any artificial light source that brings in the bait squid feed on.


4. Move around a lot: I average 3 miles of walking in my normal 3:30 am to 5:45 am fishing sessions either in open beach or estuary/salt marsh. I tend to find fish over 30" seem to hunt solo or in very small pods at night and I will pick up 1-2 fish in each good spot. I will often find fish moving between spots by sound and catch one fish from that activity as well. The exception to this is bridges and inlets!!


5. Fish Inlets regularly: All of my personal record striped bass both surfcasting and fly fishing have been caught in bridges/inlets or the cape cod canal which is also an inlet.
 

Edited by The Graveyard Shift
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Posted (edited) · Report post

TGS

Yea . Great reply. But precious few will do that. It’s why the precious few catch the biggest fish.

 

Average guy wading is on a par with a hippo.

 

Man through so much button pushing has lost track with nature.

 

Mike

Edited by Mike Oliver

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20 mins ago, Mike Oliver said:

TGS

Yea . Great reply. But precious few will do that. It’s why the precious few catch the biggest fish.

 

Average guy wading is on a par with a hippo.

 

Man through so much button pushing has lost track with nature.

 

Mike

Mike the information is there and they can choose to take it or not.  I hope it shortens the learning curve as I did not have that information when I was starting out.  It took me two season to get my first 30 inch striped bass and six years to get a fish over 40 inches on the fly.  I am not advocating an easy process, but at least its clear what the process should be.  But I agree I have given similar advice to probably 20 anglers on a personal one to one level at this point in time and I knew that most of them would not follow it.  However, so far two of them did and I was really excited when they reached out let me know they finally caught 30"+ fish this year.  The old adage of you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink is very true.  However, I feel its my duty to keep showing the way and its the individual's responsibility to decide what they want to do with that information.

 

That said I think until you have fished 25 full tides cycles at a location you really cannot figure out predictably when your opportunity for truly large bass will occur at that location.  That is why I preach picking two areas as close as possible so they have easiest logistics to put the time necessary to learn the area.  As a policy though I am happy to help discuss privately a person's area and give them some feedback, but I will never publicly discuss their locations or my own.  You have to put so much time into an area to figure it out it is not fair to give that information away, techniques and tactics are fine because people will still have to devote the time to learn an area.  In the days of the internet report chasers its very important to keep locations extremely vague such as Boston or Mid-Cape.

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Thank you to everyone who took the time to chime in here. Great knowledge on this forum.

 

I am going to take the general consensus advice and focus on the area right outside my house which is waters accessible by boat from the Annisquam River (Gloucester MA). 

 

Fly fishing at night is tough for me as a beginner but I’ve done it and I did catch fish. 

 

Thanks again everyone and I will be sure to post a pic here of my first big striper on the fly. 

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Once you learn the cadence of fly fishing, night is just muscle memory, turn your back to the water and use the red light to make adjustments.

 

Inlets are great, cast, upstream mend rinse and repeat, bring a casting basket if the line is difficult to manage in the current.

 

Learn the double haul practice the cast and learn to feel when the rod is loading.

 

Big flies certainly dont mean bigger fish, pressured fish often prefer smaller offerings, look up Ray's fly, learn about hopper dropper presentations, my biggest fish in Maine are on eel fly imitations swung, its rare ive had the opportunity to get them on top water, only right before dusk and dawn, its a tight window.

 

For the boat, I had a boat and fished off it for Stripers for a long time, a few things.  

 

1. Drift drift drift drift drift....Set up a drift , usually the wind moves the boat more than the current test a drift out before you want to get to a spot, sometimes the current and the wind wont move the boat sometimes it will be working together and move you like a freight train, and sometimes it will be perfect and slowly move you through the spot you want.

 

2. If you fish with people who let the hatches fall making that god awful loud sound, throw em off, those googans dont deserve you but we do so offer to take us out on your boat :)

 

3.  If you cant cast on the back cast learn how, sometimes if the wind is against you thats your best option.

 

Not sure how much fly fishing youve done so if you know all this, sorry for all that.

4. Oh, and when you fish off the boat, if your using floating line, maybe fish off the back or use a basket on the bow, Ive had my line wrap around the prop because it 4a. was in neutral and spinning slowly in the water slowly wrapping my line around the prop.

 

Good luck!

Edited by scooleen74

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