Bigfish25

Fly Selection Progression

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I always struggle a bit in fly selections when fishing for stripers.  The area I fish is a small estuary near home. I have two rods set up, one with a floating line and one intermediate sinking line. I start  early in the morning and cast along the rocky shore of the bay.I always tie on a gurgler or popper first, I like the top water action and these flies usually work best early and then I switch to a green and white clouser. I fish out of a small boat and rarely see fish chasing bait so its hit or miss and it takes awhile to find fish. I have a good selection of flies in different sizes and colors, clousers, deceivers, surf candy, crabs, poppers, crease flies ect. For some reason I rarely change flies, most of the flies in my box I've never used. I think I could increase my catch if I understood more about fly selection. So how do you work through your fly box and why? Color, size, pattern, time of day, time of year, type of water? How often should I move the boat? What role does the tide play if any? Lots of questions I know. Thanks

BF

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Your fly selection seems reasonable but hard to explore this without considering the type of location, time of year and tide. But sounds like you prefer to be an early morning person 

 

there has to be bait of some sort or the best you’ll do is just catch random fish

 

if you are going for a string of days and never seeing fish feeding I would switch it up and go much earlier and or new spots 

 

FWIW I organize my flies by what I’m trying to imitate as opposed to the name of a pattern   

 

But you you have to figure out what they are eating

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I fish estuaries near Boston.  I will list my suggestion but if you know certain species are not in your area take that into consideration.  This is from a presentation I am building for my fly fishing club I am presenting at the March meeting.  If you are having marginal success you need to start identifying bait densities I suggest taking time throwing a cast net in your area.  I try to match my flies to the predominant forage when fishing during the day.

 

May: adult river herring (both in and out migrations), marine worms, mummichogs, juvenile winter flounder, grass shrimp, and adult silversides

June: adult river herring (out migrating only), marine worms, adult silversides, juvenile winter flounder, and mackerel (near the mouth of estuary only and not every year).

July: european green crabs, american eels, adult silversides (only first 10 days then they are gone), cunner, lobster, baby silversides (end of the month they show up 1.5-2" long)

August: european green crabs, american eels, baby silver sides (2 inches), first push of baby river herring (2 inches), cunner, bunker, and lobster

September: large pushes of juvenile herring and silversides (now 3 inches long as they have grown since summer).  American eels, and sea hearring are available.

October: large pushes of juvenile herring and silversides as well as tomcod and rainbow smelt (towards end of the month)

 

So you could carry deciever and clouser verison of a silverside to fish high and low in water column, but don't waste too much time on different patterns that ultimately represent the same baitfish.  Make sure the profile is correct for time of year. May through first week of July silversides are 4-6 inches long, July-August they are 1.5-2 inches long, September-October they are 3-3.5 inches long.  So group your flies by size and style so 5 inch olive/white clouser for early, 2 inch olive/white clouser for mid summer, 3 inch olive/white clouser for fall.  Fish can be very picky on length and profile in daylight.

 

So it is worth carrying and fishing different types of forage flies like crabs for example.  One of my biggest mistakes was not fishing crabs very often.  A guy I met on the Cape visiting from Maine is the one who finally convinced me of my error and I started using crabs a lot more.  They are very effective though somewhat boring to fish.  I would recommend having adult herring/bunker hollow flies, silverside flies in correct sizing, crabs, and juvenile herring flies.  That allows you to match different bait types throughout season.

Edited by The Graveyard Shift

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BigFish,

 

I'm kind of in the same boat.    Only been SW FF for 3 years and if I'm lucky get on the water around 20 days a year so my experience is limited.  Lots of good advice from experienced folks on this board so I try to pay close attention.  As like anything take what you think is useful and go from there.

 

If you have a local fly shop that sells Umpqua Flies you might want to ask if they have, or can get you one of the Cowen's bait calculator wheels.    At least for your area and your time of year it would narrow the selection of what might be available for bait so you can concentrate on only bring flies that match the hatch so to speak.    First side of the wheel has geographic area selector and then broken into different months that baits are prevalent.   You can then look at the backside of the wheel for those baits in season to get an idea what size presentations you should be making. In the spring to the shorter limit and in the fall to the longer limit.    Seems like a great tool to get you started on the right track when tying flies to bring along for a scheduled trip.

 

HT

 

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Don’t overthink it. One of the issues faced with fly casters is what can be a dizzying array of fly options. A 4 to 6-inch, white baitfish fly is going to be your workhorse when casting blind, regardless of where you are. Other colors to consider would be chartreuse for overcast days, black for turbid water, and pink as an attractor. Those 4 colors (and you could probably leave out pink) are going to get the job done 95% of the time. Tiny little flies that represent bait items to a tee are typically presented to super spooky fish that you’ve sighted, which won’t be a common occurrence. Ask a few spin fishermen what their favorite backwater lures are. I bet you’re going to hear a list something like this: jumpin’ minnow, storm/tsunami shad, stickbait, slug-go. All are 4-6” generic baitfish representations, and they work very well. There’s a reason they’re so popular. 

As far as boat positioning goes, that’s something you need to figure out. Spending time in a spot will reveal its secrets. Where do the fish hold most often? Which tide fishes best, and at which stage? Eventually, when you can answer these questions, you’ll develop confidence in a spot, and you’ll know how to fish it most effectively. 

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Just to stir the pot a bit and engender some discussion, I disagree with the idea you should try to match the hatch when fishing for striped bass by day in rocks unless you find fish blitzing on a particular small bait.   Sure, at night (when silhouette can be important and fish feed in a more leisurely steady pace) size and shape can be critical.  Likewise, by day over sand and in shallow water where fish know the prey can't get away and they have time to examine it then, yes, matching the hatch matters.  By day over rocks, however, bass (particularly large ones) are most often opportunistic, ambush and reaction feeders.   If you focus on structure and give them something they find hard to refuse (i.e., big) you will do better then if you try to match the small bait in the vicinity.  In my experience large and slow with lots of commotion (easy pickings better get it before another fish does) or large and very fast with brief pauses (lots of calories about to get away better act fast) is the ticket to quality fish.  Unfortunately, fishing this way with a fly rod can quickly become more work than fun, particularly when the going gets tough.   You can, however, cheat a bit by using length rather than bulk.  Back in the day we used to throw clousers...... tied sparse (pencil thick) with about 7-8" of nylon fishhair and a little flash........on fast sinking 250gr lines retrieved with fast long strips  (creating a lot of deep up and down action) when blind casting with 9wt rods along rocky shores.   These flies didn't look like anything in nature but bass love long and skinny and they worked well.      

 

       

 

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A lot of baitfish patterns overlap with each other, so I don't try to exactly imitate all of them. Instead I vary shades of a basic pattern. I use a lot of craft fur and bunny patterns, I think movement is more important than anything else. I usually tie them in a couple configurations, olive over white, grey over white and all white, ranging from 2-5". These 3 combos alone could actually get me through most of the season but what fun is that? So I tie some larger SF blend hollows for when the stripers are chasing under the local dam, some peanuts, some Hoos and some crabs which I don't use enough. I range from N. Shore Mass to Maine and have developed a feel for what is best for each locale, for me olive over white in Mass and moving towards grey over white as I move north. I don't know why. If the craft fur 3" works so will the bunny or Hoo flies stripers don't really seem to care. My only deviation is I like to bounce crabs off the banks in marshes cos I've seen stripers picking them off the mud there. Aside from worm hatches I think if a striper sees something that looks and swims like food it's going to eat so worrying too much about patterns isn't necessary..

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Forget about matching the bait fish, that's way over rated.  Figure out if the fish are feeding up or feeding down, use your best guess as to size and shape of fly is good enough.  If you're in Maine, I'm gonna guess the main bait up there is sand eels which are long and thin, since you dont see them feed, they are probably way down in the water column, also you're in moving water so I'm also thinking maybe your fly is not getting deep enough. I'd try a spinning rod with a bucktail, bounce it off the bottom, if that produces try some real heavy lines and flies.  Just my 2 cents

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57 mins ago, numbskull said:

Just to stir the pot a bit and engender some discussion, I disagree with the idea you should try to match the hatch when fishing for striped bass by day in rocks unless you find fish blitzing on a particular small bait.   Sure, at night (when silhouette can be important and fish feed in a more leisurely steady pace) size and shape can be critical.  Likewise, by day over sand and in shallow water where fish know the prey can't get away and they have time to examine it then, yes, matching the hatch matters.  By day over rocks, however, bass (particularly large ones) are most often opportunistic, ambush and reaction feeders.   If you focus on structure and give them something they find hard to refuse (i.e., big) you will do better then if you try to match the small bait in the vicinity.  In my experience large and slow with lots of commotion (easy pickings better get it before another fish does) or large and very fast with brief pauses (lots of calories about to get away better act fast) is the ticket to quality fish.  Unfortunately, fishing this way with a fly rod can quickly become more work than fun, particularly when the going gets tough.   You can, however, cheat a bit by using length rather than bulk.  Back in the day we used to throw clousers...... tied sparse (pencil thick) with about 7-8" of nylon fishhair and a little flash........on fast sinking 250gr lines retrieved with fast long strips  (creating a lot of deep up and down action) when blind casting with 9wt rods along rocky shores.   These flies didn't look like anything in nature but bass love long and skinny and they worked well.      

 

       

 

Don't disagree on big flies near rocks or boulders on the main ocean.  I thought he was referencing estuaries specifically.  Where I am they get very picky on bait size in the backwaters similar to flats scenarios in daylight.

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35 mins ago, ferret said:

Forget about matching the bait fish, that's way over rated.  Figure out if the fish are feeding up or feeding down, use your best guess as to size and shape of fly is good enough.  If you're in Maine, I'm gonna guess the main bait up there is sand eels which are long and thin, since you dont see them feed, they are probably way down in the water column, also you're in moving water so I'm also thinking maybe your fly is not getting deep enough. I'd try a spinning rod with a bucktail, bounce it off the bottom, if that produces try some real heavy lines and flies.  Just my 2 cents

Not being near the bottom is the cardinal sin of the fly fisherman.  You probably nit the nail on the head with this assessment.

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Some background about where I fish. I live in a small town in mid coast Maine. The beauty of it is its a pretty little harbor and the launch is less than a mile form my house. So when I leave in the morning around 5 AM I'm fishing 15 minutes later. At high tide the maximum water depth in the channel is about 25 feet as the water recedes the head of the bay pretty much empties out. To be fair I do think the fish density is small here. As I mentioned in my earlier post I rarely see fish busting or birds diving for bait. Although I have seen pogies and mackerel at various time during the summer. I have never caught a fish over 25 inches. On a good day I'll catch 6-8 schoolies most days less but I think I can do better. Along with better fly selections I'm upgrading my fly lines. I do not have a good intermediate line or a good full sink line so I know I'm not getting down. As mentioned above I now understand this can be critical. I'm also going to change some of my fishing times go out a little earlier or try some late evening fishing which I have yet to do. After reading some of the posts I will start fishing some larger flies as well, most of my patterns are less than 5 inches. Similar to HillTop i'm new to striper fishing so all thjis is very helpful.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

BF

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48 mins ago, Bigfish25 said:

At high tide the maximum water depth in the channel is about 25 feet as the water recedes the head of the bay pretty much empties out.

I fish a spot like that, when that water is receding probably makes a decent rip? That's one of the only places I use my Orvis depth charge line with a short leader and a big fly...

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48 mins ago, Bigfish25 said:
51 mins ago, Bigfish25 said:

 

51 mins ago, Bigfish25 said:

 I do not have a good intermediate line or a good full sink line so I know I'm not getting down. As mentioned above I now understand this can be critical.

Hi Bigfish. You can buy the best intermediate line in the world, and it will still be a poor choice for achieving depth, especially in current. If getting deep is your goal, a floating line with a longer leader, or a full sink line with a shorter leader are better choices. I'd also place an emphasis on "can be." Understand that none of us have seen where you're fishing, so it's hard to armchair QB these situations. Just for perspective, I fly fish from the shore, and of the dozens of stripers I caught last year over 28", all of them took close to the surface. Depth may or may not be key. But there's one way to find out.

 

51 mins ago, Bigfish25 said:

 After reading some of the posts I will start fishing some larger flies as well, most of my patterns are less than 5 inches.

Careful. Bigger flies are indeed a way to cull smaller fish -- it's called the protein payoff -- but that doesn't mean bigger bass won't eat smaller flies. One of the biggest, fattest stripers I ever caught came on a sand eel that was under 5". Again, one way to find out.

 

Nothing beats time on the water. Experiment, play around, test theories, and have fun with the puzzle.

 

Steve Culton

 

 

 

 

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Steve if you never used a sinking line there you can't make any argument about it being worse or better than a floater because you never tried it. 

 

In one spot I fished last year I know I simply wasn't getting deep enough like my partner next to me was. The result: I caught two bass, he caught 12 or 15. I had a line which didn't sink as fast as his and our flies were the same. A floater no chance in this spot. Current way way too fast to get down unless you had a straight up jig on your leader. You needed a sinking line and to shove your rod down into the water to get it deep enough for the fish to smack the fly. 

 

A floating line is an asset but is not the best or even the appropriate option in most scenarios.

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