squammer

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

43 posts in this topic

TGS

 

With you 100%. It is rewarding when someone listens and gets it.

 

In many ways I am glad when they don’t. Or there would be precious room at night.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are some guides operating in your area, some of whom I know get big fish for their clients. You can learn a lot from them, and if you describe your boat to them they can probably show you some water that may be both productive and safe for you to explore later. Probably worth the price of admission. A lot of people have fished a lot of years without hitting that 40' mark, so set your expectations accordingly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, The Graveyard Shift said:

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.
 

Graveyard Shift excellent post and thanks for sharing. OP, bookmark this post!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Calander  year 2016 landed close too 50 keeper bass, with a few dozen 26 and 27 inches. Fishing was stupid, warm winter the bunker must have spawned early , there were Montauk style  blitzes every day from the Throgs neck bridge to Manhasset Bay. Peanuts were on the menu.  I took a lot of time off from work and was a year to remember.

  That year was an anomaly for fly fishing, while most others I catch a large quantity in the western sound of Long Island with an average of 5 to 10 keepers. 2018 I have landed 4. I have noticed I have caught more after I switched over to a full sink 300 grain line and have  used lager hollow ties and very large closures and flat wings.  Still find myself fishing spots where I know I can bend the rod (had a dozen schoolies along with some cocktails this morning), rather than fishing spots where large fish dwell I know I can bait at the same location. Want bigger fish, put your time in at rock piles with current, broken up docks, etc. Pictured  Fish was caugh under the birds so not a spot burn in 35 ft H2O. 

666B26C5-C2FE-488A-99AF-B59846F4CA17.jpeg

Edited by Flybyme

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you want big fish, find big bait

 

no 26" fish is gonna eat 2-3 lb bunker or mackerel, and yes you'll probably want to throw 12" plus flies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, scooleen74 said:

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!

This is great! To answer your question, I've gone out casting on the water maybe 10 times total. Caught a bunch of small stripers, though they were jumping all around me so I could have just been using hand line and still caught some.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

More than anything, it's about being where the bigger fish are, and under what circumstances.

 

I think I've got a perfect example from today. I was at a harbor doing my large pelagic survey part-time job. Three charter boats return in quick succession, and are tied up at the dock before their boats go on trailers. All of them had been livelining macks, but didn't land any tuna , But they hung onto their bait, because they knew that sizable bass were in the harbor.  At the dock, all of them start pitching out macks  20 ft max, even though it was dead low in a shallow harbor. There was no sign of any fish there. But every time a mack hit the water, a bass hit within bout 15 seconds. I never saw anything quite like it, and thought it was a riot and couldn't stop laughing. A dozen fish were caught in about 15 mins, three of which were keepers. I think  any flyfisherman with the right mack pattern would've hooked up with a 40-50' cast.

Edited by patchyfog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I caught this one over the weekend live-lining a mackerel with spin gear, anchored my boat off the rocks near Halibut Point in Gloucester. A nice area that has deep water right up to the shoreline and scattered submerged rocks all around this hole. Not a monster but a nice 30-31" fish which has been my largest of the season -- my first real fishing season. I don't usually keep fish but this one was gut-hooked deep and bled out through the gills (I cleaned it up for the pic). It fed a lot of people that night though.

Now I know where the "bigger" fish are and plan on taking my fly rod down to those same rocks and cast from land (or by boat again). 

IMG_8634.JPG

IMG_8633.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Not sure it's been mentioned yet - but I carry one rod, and three lines..I almost always change lines as the location,  current and tide will dictate which i believe are most appropriate at any given time. Yes, I will change spools in the middle of the night , on a bar up to my waist in fast water.. I prefer changing out the spools(line), rather than only applying weighted flys , sink tips, and adjusting the leader length and material to adjust for depth and action. 

Edited by phishallways

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/2/2018 at 2:30 PM, okisutch said:

Graveyard Shift excellent post and thanks for sharing. OP, bookmark this post!

It was a great one!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've caught several 40"+ bass on the fly over the years and the ticket has been big flies, as big as you can cast. I've gone as far as tying 10" 12/0 herring/pogie imitations using Farrar fibers or reverse tied bucktail. I've caught most of them in shallower water (sub 8') and use a heavy shooting head (10wt with 450gr) to shoot them out fast with minimal back casts and one hand strip pretty much as fast as you can with a couple random pauses. The big ones seem to be smart and if you give them too long to look at it, they will nose it and turn away at the last minute! Biggest thing is you can't catch big fish if big fish aren't present! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
59 mins ago, mtfallon88 said:

I've caught several 40"+ bass on the fly over the years and the ticket has been big flies, as big as you can cast. I've gone as far as tying 10" 12/0 herring/pogie imitations using Farrar fibers or reverse tied bucktail. I've caught most of them in shallower water (sub 8') and use a heavy shooting head (10wt with 450gr) to shoot them out fast with minimal back casts and one hand strip pretty much as fast as you can with a couple random pauses. The big ones seem to be smart and if you give them too long to look at it, they will nose it and turn away at the last minute! Biggest thing is you can't catch big fish if big fish aren't present! 

Were most of these during daytime or at night?  I have seen the same thing on fly size and other than this crab night bite I found this year I have been throwing 8-14 inch flies since July.  I have been catching both in sub 8 foot water and in water around 20-25 feet deep at some inlets.  Not a lot of places you can cast into with a fly and get down to 25 feet deep anyways but if you can find them and figure them out it is paying off.  My first 40 inch fish this year were both at night one on a 9" herring fly the other on a crab fly.  I lost a very nice one on a 7 inch lobster fly too.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I stopped flyfishing at night several years ago : ) All of these were during the day! The key for me is finding big fish actively feeding on big bait. You could certainly pull a slob bass off a flat with a crab fly in the right environment! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mtfallon88 said:

I stopped flyfishing at night several years ago : ) All of these were during the day! The key for me is finding big fish actively feeding on big bait. You could certainly pull a slob bass off a flat with a crab fly in the right environment! 

I cannot seem to find big fish during the day on foot.  But a lot of my areas are very urban so I think that really impacts big fish coming into shore accessible spots during the daytime.  Are you in a boat or on foot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to register here in order to participate.

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.