Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dark Fly or Light Fly? A Striper Conundrum

As far as night fishing for stripers goes, I have fairly minimal confidence in fishing black and purple flies. That isn't to say I haven't tried them, I have a pretty serious collection of extra dark flies for bass that go bump at night, but last year when I caught stripers at night it was never on dark flies at all. In fact, the only striper I had caught on black flies were taken in the middle of the day. Even this spring, when I was out every night for two whole weeks, sometimes all night, the key color was white, not black or purple. Well, a few nights ago some stripers feeding in a rip at the mouth of a tidal creek gave me a little lesson on that.

Before sunset Dan and I were both catching schoolies. I on poppers, he on a silverside pattern. After sunset I caught a few here and there on the popper, but after a while I thought I should change flies. I opened my box and there were the dark deceiver style flies I tied last year when I started to regularly target stripers. I thought to myself, "Ah, what the hell". Let's just say that 30 minutes and six fish later I went from someone completely anti-dark-flies at night to "huh, these thing do work".

So, in this case the black fly worked. In fact it ended up out-fishing Dan's light colored fly during the half hour of full darkness. Now, this doesn't mean you should automatically go to fishing nothing but dark flies at night. In this case, the fish were feeding on silversides which often cruise around or even sit stationary at night. There were so many around Dan was catching them in his mesh striping basket.

The skinny black deceiver had a pretty similar profile to the silversides. It was likely more visible to the fish than light colored sparse flies, and therefor got eaten more often. There's the key, a black fly will only out-fish natural colored flies if those flies aren't visible to the fish. Bait fish don't turn black at night.

Sheepshead minnow, one of the other species caught in the basket. 

Beach Skunk!
This morning I was fishing with Sonny at first light in a spot that seems to be holding a few schoolies and maybe some larger fish here and there the last couple weeks. He was fishing a black and purple gurgler, I was fishing a white and silver Bob's Banger... he caught four fish,  had a few takes and follows. There seems to be something to this dark fly stuff. I said there's a conundrum though, and here it is. White flies frequently work at night, and just because they aren't working doesn't mean a black version will. Should I really tie black and purple versions of everything I want to imitate? I don't know yet, this is something I'm very much looking forward to.


  1. Dark and light, very interesting. Here on lakes and rivers the white plastic works better during the day and dark works better at night, but I'm using large spinners with a silver spoon that is spinning and catching light. Could that the difference? A white beach Skunk, nice.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Spinners and spoons have two attracting factors. Flash and sound. It stands to reason that in low light conditions fish are hitting these lures because of the vibrations they put out, not the flash. We use castmasters a lot up here. They are deadly when it's bright out, but tend to be ineffective when there is too much cloud cover or if its night time, because the flash they put out is their chief attraction and there isn't bright light to reflect during those times.