The holdover striper game is all about getting down right in the fish's faces Since we were fishing relatively shallow water with little to no currant whatsoever, I was using a floating line with a ten foot level 20lb leader (these fish aren't picky and I'd rather horse them than preserve a light leader) and, at first, clouser minnows with lead eyes. Later I discovered these fish were hungry enough to come up for an unweighted slow swimming flat-wing, so the fly weight wasn't quite as important as the retrieve. Slow, long strips with substantial pauses won out today. A substantial number of fish also took on the initial fall. I would cast, count to 5 then make an initial long, slow strip. If I had cast right into a school, more often than not that first strip just served as a hookset for some greedy schoolie that had eaten on the fall.
|My first striped bass of 2017|
Noah and I worked the shore of our salt pond together and were able to track the schools so as to avoid fishing dead water. I don't think I ever came close to 8 minutes without landing a fish, and it wasn't terribly difficult to get two or three fish to hand withing a couple minutes when the were particularly active. This was clearly a particularly special day, the fish were coming in droves and were often even boiling and rolling on the surface. Noah and I were often doubled up.
Not only did we get two person doubles, when I rigged a Ray's Fly behind a Clouser I got a few double hookups.
And in case you are wondering, that surface disturbance in the background of the photo above is not from wind or currant, its stipers boiling. There were moments were fish were jumping like it was an October blitz. I'm not sure whether they were actually rolling on bait or just getting active in the warmth of the day, but it sure was crazy to see surface activity this early in the year.
Now that I've gotten all that out of the way...
Boy did we ever catch a lot of fish today. Careful guesswork done at Five Guys after our fishing had ended resulted in a safe estimate of over 450 fish caught between the two of us, my total being somewhere close to 300 and Noah's being over 200. He had lost count at 70 and that was fairly early in the day. I stopped counting at 4. I hate counting fish. These are some of the better ones I caught:
Any time I'm getting huge numbers of fish I like to tr to push the envelope, see what the will or will not take. Today, they wouldn't hit anything on the surface, but they would eat a 10 inch bunker pattern fished just below the surface. The few takes I did get on that big fly were obscenely violent. It was awesome.
As the sun started to set I realized that the inlet of the pond was almost like a flat, and I was able to wade out a long was. This was a relief after having to do 50 foot roll casts with heavy flies for hours on end. I really love making a long, double hauled cast, tucking the rod under my arm, and strip setting... every single cast. It was a really good way to end the day of fishing. I think I most likely beat my previous "big numbers day", and I'm certain I've never caught that many schoolies in one day. It was just too cool to be able to do it with the fly in February.
I was sincerely hurting when we walked out of there. My hands were cut and scraped and stiff from the cold water, my feet were cramping, and both arms were in quitter mode. We could have stayed another hour, or even come back after eating. But we really sincerely did not need to. We had caught a stupid number of fish.
So, that's that. It may be a little while before I get back after stripers. Snow and colder temps will probably slow the bite for a few days, then who knows. We could go again. All I can say is, it is SO awesome to have my first case of bass thumb this early in the year.