There are quite a few legendary saltwater fisherman who I idolize, and Jose Wejebe is up there, rest his soul. I very much enjoy his TV show "Spanish Fly", and one my favorite shots from any saltwater fly fishing video ever is a clip from that show. It's kinda hard to describe, so here it is:
That hookup and initial madness is just so cool, I could watch that over and over. On Monday, I had a take, freak-out, run sequence very much like that with big striper. It was one of those moments that just kept me on the edge of sanity for a little while, mind racing. Heart beating. Little beads of sweat forming over my eye.
Monday, May 1st. 4:45 P.M.
I made tracks to the spot. This was a warm day, so I expected river herring 'en masse' and when I got to the water that's what I found. It was a very surprisingly short time before I saw stripers. It's something I'll probably never forget. At first all I saw was a wake. Then they came out of the reflection. Four stripers, three over 30 inches and one schoolie. I watched them very quickly shoot up and over a shallow sandbar. I knew, when I saw them slow down, turn into the rocks, and split up that they were going top eat. First one that moved for my fly was the schoolie. I wasn't able to see the fish over the dark rocks, so I didn't exactly choose it as my target. Frankly I'm really glad it missed the fly, it probably would have screwed my shot at the bigger fish. After I retrieved the fly from that fish I saw bait spray against the bank downstream. Clearly spot tail shiners, not herring, but I knew these fish would eat my 11 inch long all white fly. I made my shot just short of where I had seen the activity, knowing they would be working upstream. It was still a long cast, probably 80 feet. Mid retrieve I spotted the blue-grey back of a 30 inch fish following my fly. What I did not see was it's partner in crime. A 34 inch striper slammer the fly in a visually and audibly stunning display that stopped my heart, In the span of three seconds I had to strip-set, clear the line, and give chase. No time to think, this fish was in complete control of the situation and I was just along for the ride. It was pretty unexpected, every fish before had fought well but this one was bucking harder then the rest. The power of a striper is incredible. The don't run as far and fast as a bluefish, not even close to a false albacore, but the brute strength they have if unreal. Rod breaking, leader snapping, hook bending strength. But quick thinking and a fair bit of experience meant I had the upper hand after the initial chaos.
Darkness fell and I kept hunting my fly. I'd discovered the previous night the stripers tended to stack up in a particular run where they would pick off herring as they drifted down, so an unweighted white deceiver drifting in that run was an effective way to ensure a getting a fish's attention rather than covering water and fishing the fly aggressively. At about 8:00 I nailed into another good fish and immediately upon setting the hook it went skyward. A large striper jumping clean out of the water is not a common sight. It took of swiftly and this time I was unable to clear the line. A loop got locked around the reel seat and I wasted no time chasing the fish to avoid the break off. Fortunately, though this one was similarly sized to the first one it was not as hot. I was able to get it into the shallows and grab the leader. At that point the fly came free and off swam the fish. Fine by me, I don't need a picture of every one.
A half hour passed and I got another hit. I suspected this one was a "bump kill" hit. Predatory fish often hit bait with their mouth closed just to stun it before going in for the kill. The fly was re-cast and allowed to dead drift and sure enough, fish on. This one was about 28 inches. The final fish of the night.
Tuesday, May 2nd. 6:00 P.M.
Noah and I left a little bit late than would have been preferred. That's OK, the optimal two hours would still be there. The herring were there. So were game fish, but for a while it wasn't the target species. For some reason smallmouth bass were jumping all over my big herring flies.
At one point I unhooked one of the smallmouth and held it and the fly vertically. The fish was only two inches longer than the fly. These things can be so darn aggressive.
Just after the sun fell and darkness began to encroach, I did catch a striper. It wasn't a beast, but punched above his weight class as far as fighting goes. This was only the second fish in six night to take backing.
I had one other take that night which was unfortunately missed. With the time frame in which I could catch these fish being so short it is hard to miss opportunities and take it in stride. The next two nights would prove just how special these larger fresh stripers are. We got home at 10:30.