sgtbones

How to fish a bunker fly

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Frustrated.  Can not get get bigger stripers interested in large bunker flies.  A salt marsh near my house fills in nicely at the end of April with schoolies. I have pretty good success fishing them-it's a small area that sometimes gets packed with schoolies in the 18-26" range, it can be lights out sometimes.  Yesterday, right on time, schools of bunker moved in and as a result bigger bass.  My problem is I just can't get them interested in my fly.  I throw big jointed bunker flies with a 10wt on a full sink line.  I've tried every strip I can think of, quick strips with a pause, sink to the bottom and retrieve, long slow pulls, stripping it as soon as it hits the water, dumping out the whole line and backing up the kayak until it comes tight. I've tried different colors, pink, chartreuse, olive, black, nada.  As soon as I switch to my 9 or 8wt and throw smaller flies, it's back to schoolies. Thoughts or ideas?

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Beast Fleyes have always gotten interest from larger fish, does it always convert into a strike? Absolutely not, but do they follow it in enough for me to see them before they turn off, definitely.  I’m not sure a better and more lively imitation exists to match these massive baitfish, and matching menhaden is a hard thing to do, they’re very large baits with a tall profile, and I know no other fly that imitates these baits as accurately while being easy to cast. 
 

Think like a bunker, they’re often grouped together and travel in the upper water column. They’re often either packed densely together and/or moving in a unit, milling about on the surface, or sometimes circling around. When I’m imitating these baits, I commonly use an under the arm two hand retrieve of various speeds. First, it makes the beasts kick just right (the rear third of almost all fish is where the motion comes from, notice how stable the front two thirds are of a bunker while it’s swimming), and second, to me at least, pogies aren’t erratic swimmers but instead, when they’re moving, it’s done consistently without any random stops, pauses, or drops. I think most fish that eat a bunker fly do it when the fly is outside of the school by a couple feet or deep below it, essentially, make your fly look like the outlier or the bait that’s most vulnerable. Knowing your bait and its behaviors is probably 60% of the battle. While the northeast certainly has some bunker these days, it’s not as common as it should be to find fish on them, which is a bummer but also does decrease your success. 

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Thanks Ftyer.  The Beast Fleye is one of the few flies I haven't tried.  I'm a bit intimidated by that tie, don't know why as I've had reasonable success with every other pattern I've tied.

 

As far as bunker schools, one of the great things about the spot I fish is that once the bunker move in, they're there every day until the end of June, early July.  Takes the guesswork out of where to fish for the day. 

 

Has anyone purchased a Beast Fleye and been satisfied with the tie?

 

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They’re not as bad as they seem, but require patience and a lot of time, but they’re worth it if you know how to hollow tie and have access to decent tail. Here are a few ties for this season should you want the inspiration. 

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two things that worked for me,1)tie an upside down lip,a long triangle w/ the longest point tied down, at the front of the fly of craft foam before you tie your fly and then finish so it's neat.Then, every time you pull ,the fly rises up like a struggling fish ,the lip will make it wobble and rise,and, 2)go dark,even though they are yellowy in tone a darker fly below a school seems to get bit more often,ymmv...

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Getting stripers over 25lbs to eat a fly during the day typically isn’t easy, bottom line. I believe the reason these fish will more readily eat a lure is because the lure causes more disturbance and generates sound, triggering the fishes predatory instinct. Flies will get their attention, but refusals are common. Either that, or smaller fish (or worse, bluefish) outcompete the larger, more skeptical ones. The most consistent technique for hooking very big bass on the fly (that aren’t blitz feeding) is by using the bait and switch technique. A second angler throws a large, hookless topwater plug to draw the fish to the surface and get them chubbed up, then the fly angler presents the fly directly in the path of the lure. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve personally hooked more trophy sized stripers in far fewer attempts than if I were “unassisted”. Some people knock the technique, but to really be successful at it requires excellent timing and accuracy, since the target is moving at a very quick pace. If you can’t put the fly in the right spot it’s not getting eaten. You also need good line management skills and the ability to deliver a powerful hook set. Do I get more satisfaction from hooking a 30+ pounder unassisted? Hell yea, but fun is fun. 
 

These are some of my ties, about 10  inches. 

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Edited by Seadogg

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16 mins ago, Seadogg said:

These are some of my ties, about 10  inches. 

 

 

 

Damn seadogg, those are beautiful. Are they simply hollow-tied yak?

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Just now, Sngl2th said:

Damn seadogg, those are beautiful. Are they simply hollow-tied yak?

Thanks very much. For those I use 12” slinky fiber with flashabou blended in. It’s actually very similar to yak. The technique is similar to a hollow tie, but rather than securing forward facing hairs at the butts and folding them back, I secure the hair near the middle of each hank, then fold the front portion back and secure. 

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Big fish didn’t get that way by eating a pile of hair/feathers.
 

For the situation that you mention - lots of time on the water and a bit of luck will be needed to fool those fish.  

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29 mins ago, Seadogg said:

Thanks very much. For those I use 12” slinky fiber with flashabou blended in. It’s actually very similar to yak. The technique is similar to a hollow tie, but rather than securing forward facing hairs at the butts and folding them back, I secure the hair near the middle of each hank, then fold the front portion back and secure. 

Thanks--the more I looked at it the more I figured it was kinky fiber. I've seen some very good yak before though with very consistent crimp.

 

I've had a lot of follows from very big fish off the rocks during the day, far bigger than any I've caught. There are guys in Maine I see on instagram who somehow hook these fish in daylight--I haven't got it figured out. 

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Just now, Sngl2th said:

There are guys in Maine I see on instagram who somehow hook these fish in daylight--I haven't got it figured out. 

It’s doable, absolutely. It’s just not easy. Every June I target fish of this size in my area. Some days the fish are more cooperative than others. Sometimes it’s about timing. Also, if you can find a school of big stripers with few smaller ones mixed in your odds go way up. If there aren’t any bluefish your odds go way up. In Maine, they don’t get blues often so that helps. 

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If it were me I would fish the lower light periods, either early morning or dusk.  Also any overcast day would be good as well.  Not sure I would fish a full sink line, but rather an intermediate.  Bass will push the bait to the surface.  I would fish the edges of the bait.  I would fish the fly with an erratic retrieve and long pauses to let it flutter and sink.  I might fish one with a rattle...

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Seadogg, those hollow ties are beautiful.  I will use them as a template to gauge my success in trying to duplicate them. 

 

Just a bit of context, the area I fish is approximately the size of a pond.  I fish it every day, weather permitting from mid-May to the end of June.  I know the bass are there as i'll frequently mark a wall of bunker with a mark(s) swimming behind it.  Other times, especially on flat days, I'll see bunker pushing a V shaped wake where you know bass are on them waiting for one to separate from the school.  Many days, when I get frustrated,  I'll  grab the spinning rod and snag and drop a bunker and almost always get on.  Throwing flies during the day certainly brings lowered expectations, but I've been fishing this area hard for 3 years and don't remember even getting a follow or a tail whack.  I'm definitely going to give the Beast and hollow ties a shot. Kicking myself for not spending the winter tying them up. 

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