Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stripers for Mike

One of the most exciting things in fly fishing in New England is catching your first striped bass. Only slightly less exciting is getting to see a friend get their first. I was privileged enough to help fellow fish head Mike Andrews get his first striped bass on the fly this morning, and then his second, and third, and fourth, and fifth... and then some. We nailed it in conditions that would keep most guys off the water! Howling wind, pouring rain, and a rapidly dropping temperature failed to effect or success and we racked up some serious numbers!

I had some concerns, especially after fishing this spot yesterday and seeing very few signs of life. Those concerns when we came around the corner and there were lots of birds and a substantial blitz going. After a few hiccups (Mike is a trout guy. "STRIP SET") he nailed his first ever striper on the fly, and my God was it a stud! 

The blitz was going hard. In one of my photos I actually caught a good sized fish jumping clean out of the water!

(Mike Andrews Photo)
When the fish were working near us in that tidal creek, we almost always got double hookups. We needn't use anything but poppers and the takes were savage as usual

(Mike Andrews Photo)

(Mike Andrews Photo)

We got a whole lot of fish on the west side of the road, and when we went over to the east side of the road we found a lot of younger fish and we were pretty much constantly hooked up. Eventually I knew the tide was low enough to work the beach, and even though there were still fish working in the creek we had caught plenty there and I wanted Mike to get some experience in reading the subtle structure of the sand flat. There was a storm coming in, and the clouds were very ominous. I knew it was about to start pouring.

The surface was choppy and when it is like that it makes it hard to see fish working from a distance. However, it negates the need to sneak up on fish. We would spook fish and they were still brave enough to come back and chase the popper. After missing a few fish in tight rips we found a whole bunch of nice stripers cruising along a bar edge. Mike got the first good hookup, a true giant that ended up bending out the hook and popping off. I caught two of the smaller fish there, one of which took while I was walking and dragging the fly next to me.

These fish were in shallow water. We could see them and the takes and ensuing battles were impressive. My best fish of the day, easily reaching 30 inches, took in less then a foot of water and made a wicked commotion after I set the hook. It truly does not get any better than that!  

I should point out that at this point the it was raining like it had never rained before and the wind had picked up to well over 20mph. I mean it was howling! Fortunately we had no need to make long casts!

Like a switch the fishing slowed when the sun came out. A rainbow and one last striper made a good bookend to one of the most enjoyable days on the water I have ever had. I'm glad it came together as well as it did, I don't think it could have been any more incredible. Every day on the salt is like my first, so Mike and I were both pretty much over the moon. We must have hookec in excess of 60 stripers all together. Some days, my friends, some days....

Friday, October 21, 2016

Gorilla Blues From the Beach

Mark and I made the gamble to fish this morning despite a fairly bleak forecast. And that gamble payed off in a big way. I could tell you in accurate detail all of the interesting events that occurred during the time we were out, but in my honest opinion that is not worth sharing. What made today a special day was the events that transpired on one stretch of beach for a couple of hours at most. We rolled up on that fishy looking stretch of sand and saw this:

Birds were lined up along a large stretch of sand, watching the small breakers intently. They knew better then we did that something was about to go down on that lonely beach. As we approached we saw what we thought were fish breaking very close to shore. Mark cut the engine and we made our first casts. Five minutes later Mark got a big eat from what could be nothing other than a gorilla blue. That fish went right under the boat, right under the prop and trolling motor and yet Mark managed to keep his rod in one piece. Around that time my popper got eaten too, but by a schoolie striper. As small bass tend not to fight as hard as massive blues I made quick work of that fish. Mark had to do a risky dance to keep the boat out of the rocks and maintain pressure on the fish. I managed to net the beast and we made the quick decision to beach the boat and fish from shore. We did it very quickly so as to get some photos of the big blue and get it back in the water. 

Minutes after we got out of the boat there were stripers busting just off the transom! I put my popper in the boil and was into my backing only a couple minutes later.

For a little while it was pretty much just stripers, and there were a few real beasts. Mark hooked and lost one that was probably mid thirties and I had a take from a real cow. I got a good look at the fish and it was definitely over 40 inches. 

Then the blues came in. Big ones. They were absolutely hammering peanut bunker, in some cases throwing them high into the air on the hit. A small blitz started to my right and I got my popper just on the outside of it. I didn't even need to do anything, a gorilla bluefish came over and destroyed my fly. I strip set and started what at first seemed like it would be a short battle. Then the fish figured out something needed to be done and took off, and fast. At around the same time Mark was into another monster blue as well, and for a while our fish were sticking fairly close together. Mine jumped maybe 70 yards out, shaking its head like a tarpon. What amazed me most was to see the fish's tale out of the water so far away, and my line coming out a few feet in front of that. Mark and my fish then decided to go separate ways and we followed. Mark landed his fish without much trouble. Make no mistake, his was a beast of a fish, over thirty inches. Mine was just that little bit bigger and that made it a pain to fight in the breakers close to shore. 
Photo Courtesy Mark Alpert 

After Mark had released his fish I was still in the heat of battle. He came down the beach to give me a hand. Soon the battle was won. I was able to admire what is truly one of the greatest fish I have ever caught. I mean WOW. What a beast. Measuring the rod at home gives a good estimate at 36 inches. That is a three foot long bluefish.... I was over the moon. 

Mark noticed our rods, laying next to each other on the sand after being worked hard on big fish. That blue was my last fish of the day, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  What a fish. 
Someday soon I'll go back to that beach and see if I can re-live that couple of hours of mayhem. 

Getting Spontaneous Luck... Not as Good as Getting it Right!

I went striper/bluefish hunting with fellow salt addict Mark Steiner this evening. The conditions were just garbage, and for that spot the tide was completely wrong. And yet Mark somehow managed to get lucky and got his popper eaten by the only hungry fish around!

That was a nice fish to make up for the generally crummy conditions, but I would rather we had gotten it right and found a lot of actively feeding fish. That just makes things better all around.