The Graveyard Shift

What fly sizes eliminates size classes of stripers taking fly

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So the last couple mornings its been very interesting fishing herring runs.  I had a bunch of hits that were not converted both at night and the first hour of light.  When the sun came up I got to see some of the hits perfectly and it was very interesting to watch.  The bass attacked the 12 inch beast fleye from the rear and could suck about 8-9 inches of the fly into their mouth so hooking them was impossible.  I then used an 8-9 inch conomo the next day in dark same attack method as I saw the wakes coming for the fly on the surface of the water even in the dark, but they got the whole fly in so I was able to hook them.  So far fish landed have been 24-26 inches long in size and only on flies 8-10 inches long.  

Last year I had figured out that bass smaller than 20 inches long really cannot effectively eat flies over 8 inches long.  As the year progressed my flies got larger and I started to notice around the 12-inch mark the fish under 30 inches seemed to strike but never get hooked.  These last couple of days I got to get a really good look at this up close as mentioned above.  So while a huge bass can eat literally anything it wants from a cinder worm to a huge bunker it seems that you can effectively eliminate certain size class of fish from taking your fly pattern.  I have found that only a few large fish are around and often they hit after I get a hard tap I don't convert.  I believe the big fish let the more aggressive 24-29 inch fish wound herring or bunker then eat them when they are crippled as its less work for them.

 

So if you want to eliminate small schoolies under 20 inches long start throwing flies 8 inches long.  If you want to really thin the herd switch to flies 12 inches or longer and it eliminates fish under 30 inches from hooking up.  This does not in any way guarantee catching a large bass, but I believe more time in the water equals more chances for that fly to end up in front of a big fish and that they will go out of their way to eat a big meal.  These are all front single hook flies if I added a trailer hook I would probably convert most of these hits on the rear half to 2/3 of the large flies, but that is not really my goal to catch the smaller fish so I have decided against them because I worry I may hook a cow bass in the gills or gut with the trailing hook too far in the rear of a fly pattern.

 

FYI last year during May I never threw a fly over 10 inches they were all in the 8-10 inch range and I only had two skunks the entire month.  This year I have fished 5 trips so far.  On days I threw flies 12 long exclusively I got hits but no conversion and skunked three days.  two trips I threw primarily 9-10 flies and I managed two fish each trip in the 24-26 inch range and had some other missed hits that I assume were smaller fish around 20 inches or so.  So going big flies dramatically increases your skunk rate  is the only guarantee I am seeing so far from this strategy, but we will see how the year ends because I decided to dedicate my efforts solely to chasing 40-inch fish this year.  If I manage to catch only five fish all season but they are over 40 inches then my season goal was achieved.

 

Interested to hear if other anglers have similar observations on what size fly seems to cull certain sizes of striped bass from taking the pattern?  Or if you have notices a certain type of large pattern has different results than others.  One angler I have met who is not on SOL uses squid flies over 12 inches long, but his hook is in the rear third of the pattern and squid body is on a tube above the hook.  He has caught more large bass than me (he has 20 seasons more experience than me), but he says the squid fly coverts a lot of fish in the 24-28 inch range but if he uses bunker flies with a front hook he has similar results to mine.  He has not had the squid fly hook a big bass in gills so maybe I should add a trailer in a similar location on my baitfish flies.  Hard to decide but taking skunking this frequently definitely tests your resolve.

Edited by The Graveyard Shift

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I'm going to be trying much bigger flies this season to try and weed out the fish under 18-20" as I'm really looking for something bigger if possible. Thank you for sharing your findings! 

 

Danthebassman has used 10-14" beasts with success and has some knowledge of how small fish interact with such large flies. Hopefully he will weigh in with his experience. 

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It is not always a good idea to use huge flies that eliminate hooking small bass. Back in the 1980's I caught a couple of 40 pound stripers from the beach on  4" 1/0 deceivers. Yes, it was often necessary to wade through schoolies, but there are worse ways to spend time than that. When the bait is, say,  sand eels or silversides, bass of all sizes will key on it, and matching the hatch can pay off big time. Even when the predominant bait is large, a small fly can pay off handsomely as it did for this site's hipkvw when he caught a 50+inch striper on a 2/0 Clouser a few days ago.

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I can't tie or cast a fly big enough to avoid 20" bass - and I've tied a massive reverse bucktail deciever on a 14/0 Owner ballyhoo hook. They still eat it!!

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4 hours ago, RedGreen said:

I'm going to be trying much bigger flies this season to try and weed out the fish under 18-20" as I'm really looking for something bigger if possible. Thank you for sharing your findings! 

 

Danthebassman has used 10-14" beasts with success and has some knowledge of how small fish interact with such large flies. Hopefully he will weigh in with his experience. 

One key thing is this is only for night fishing or blind casting.  I often see fish hit right at edge of sod bank and this is where I am observing how bass take flies.  I feel most of my hits but having seen small fish hit at the edge and feeling what that is like on the large fly is how I judge strikes in the dark.  Just like I judge fish size by feeding sounds and how bait is acting on the surface.  With 180 night trips in last three seasons I have developed an ear and feel for judging fish size.  Its not always right of course but it helps me make decisions on water that in day time would be determined by visual clues.

 

If you are able to sight fish small flies matching natural forage on flat is the way to go because you are able to visually select the large fish as target.  Large flies are not useful in sight fishing unless the prevalent bait on the flat is large and in that case you want to match size and color as close as possible.

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17 mins ago, Tin Boat said:

It is not always a good idea to use huge flies that eliminate hooking small bass. Back in the 1980's I caught a couple of 40 pound stripers from the beach on  4" 1/0 deceivers. Yes, it was often necessary to wade through schoolies, but there are worse ways to spend time than that. When the bait is, say,  sand eels or silversides, bass of all sizes will key on it, and matching the hatch can pay off big time. Even when the predominant bait is large, a small fly can pay off handsomely as it did for this site's hipkvw when he caught a 50+inch striper on a 2/0 Clouser a few days ago.

This is good to hear that you were able to wade through schoolies and still get to big fish.  I have been unable to do this in my local spots that are infested with 14-18" fish.  I know big fish eat small bait in plenty but I never make it through the small fish without throwing large flies.  I like hearing counter points!  

 

Was this before the breeding stock crash or after?   I just wonder if lower density of bigger fish makes my more recent experiences vary.  

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14 mins ago, mtfallon88 said:

I can't tie or cast a fly big enough to avoid 20" bass - and I've tied a massive reverse bucktail deciever on a 14/0 Owner ballyhoo hook. They still eat it!!

Where there is a will there is a way I caught a 10 inch schoolie on a 9" magic swimmer plug last year.  Cant keep them all off I am just shooting for 90% of them

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Posted (edited) · Report post

@RedGreen some

more food for thought:

 

I tried making a smaller conomo last year as a "medium sized offering".  Thought was a step in between a 4" deciever and 9" fly.  My catch rate dropped only slightly and that fly took plenty of fish under 20" took it.  Pictured is the 6" conomo and one of 20+ plus fish I caught on it the first time I tested it.  The 9.75" conomo is pictured next to the smallest fish it caught all season a 24" fish.  

 

5684222D-C52C-4792-9366-733E8AD69968.jpeg

 

That beat up conomo also caught my PB best fish last season a 42" 26lber on 9/25/18 in a spot that is a go to spot for hammering schoolies 14-24" on the juvenile herring that dump out on the falling tide.  There was no larger bait present to my knowledge only the 2-3" yoy herring.  I am sure that was what this fish was eating because it puked some up while landing it

E2B80198-522D-4BCA-89F0-8A48487A3893.jpeg

Edited by The Graveyard Shift

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@Tin Boat also I am super envious of your multiple 40lb bass and @hipkvw more recent monster fish on a fly rod.  Still chasing that magic number!  Hoping to at least break the 30lb mark this season.  Have been finding 20lb class fish regularly on fly as of last season but all my 30 and 40lb fish came with surfcasting gear so far.

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I dunno if anybody said this. but add a  trailer hook on your next ties. very common technique with salmon flies.  or if you make tube flies you can adjust the location of the hook "on the fly"

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57 mins ago, Tin Boat said:

When the bait is, say,  sand eels or silversides, bass of all sizes will key on it, and matching the hatch can pay off big time. 

 

Sage advice from an old salt.

 

The famous Jimi Hendrix Trippy Acid Flash photo is a 38" fish that ate a 4.5" sparse sand eel. She was part of a school that was feeding on smaller bait. John, my fishing partner that night, caught bass in a similar size class on 11 consecutive casts. He was using a 3 1/4" sand eel fly. Of course, when the bait is large, match it likewise. Noteworthy: large flies that night produced zero strikes for me.

 

5cd49559547c7_Block3822eronBruiser.jpg.46b87329fd6635e9c8f8cae770366e06.jpg

 

Steve Culton

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48 mins ago, The Graveyard Shift said:

@RedGreen some

more food for thought:

 

I tried making a smaller conomo last year as a "medium sized offering".  Thought was a step in between a 4" deciever and 9" fly.  My catch rate dropped only slightly and that fly took plenty of fish under 20" took it.  Pictured is the 6" conomo and one of 20+ plus fish I caught on it the first time I tested it.  The 9.75" conomo is pictured next to the smallest fish it caught all season a 24" fish.  

 

5684222D-C52C-4792-9366-733E8AD69968.jpeg

 

That beat up conomo also caught my PB best fish last season a 42" 26lber on 9/25/18 in a spot that is a go to spot for hammering schoolies 14-24" on the juvenile herring that dump out on the falling tide.  There was no larger bait present to my knowledge only the 2-3" yoy herring.  I am sure that was what this fish was eating because it puked some up while landing it

 

That is very interesting! I have some 8" flies that have never touched water for fear they'd be too big to catch the fish around. This was last season when I was more concerned with numbers as I'd never caught a striper before. 

 

I'll be sure to use lots of bigger flies. Last spring I was fishing with Mike Oliver and we were just bailing fish on every cast but the best of which was maybe 18-19". Mike swapped to a big deciever and caught less but hooked up with two much bigger fish in the mix. One broke him off the other had to have been around 30". Lesson learned. 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

1 hour ago, The Graveyard Shift said:

This is good to hear that you were able to wade through schoolies and still get to big fish.  I have been unable to do this in my local spots that are infested with 14-18" fish.  I know big fish eat small bait in plenty but I never make it through the small fish without throwing large flies.  I like hearing counter points!  

 

Was this before the breeding stock crash or after?   I just wonder if lower density of bigger fish makes my more recent experiences vary.  

 

Edited by Tin Boat

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Just now, Tin Boat said:

 

It was before the breeding stock crash. and there were FAR fewer small bass to contend with. 

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