Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Halloween Horror Story

Ok, not really. But it was halloween a half hour ago, and now it's November (Slow down fall, I've only just gotten ready for you!). And though Alec Mejias and I had an interesting outing today it was a bit of a horror story, because the ghost of the beastly noreaster that just hammered New England and NY Sunday and Monday is still haunting Long Island Sound. The waters were creepily murky in the dying light, and life that had just been so rich along the shoreline had been sucked away. The seas were also a bit angry as the wind had persisted after the passage of the storm, and though it was slowly dying it was not letting the sea calm down.

Indeed, LIS was a heaving, unyielding, angry monster tonight. Completely unwilling, though we found some spots that had activity, to give up a striped bass. Woooo, spoooooky. Not catching fish is a scary proposition, but luckily there are hickory shad.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It Exploded

I've had a handful of really incredible trips this year fishing for striped bass, but yesterday, I think, was that one trip that was completely indescribable. I got a couple really great nights during the herring run, and one that was really spectacular. The first trip with Mike Roy in late summer was incredible too. But this one. My God, this one was unreal. I think Alec and I both expected some fireworks, but we actually got something better. That rarely happens. 

We started out at a spot where there was clearly some action earlier in the tide; birds and blues were working a long way from shore when we got there, some hickories were working through schools of bait, short stretches of shore were littered with bait, and there were some schoolies around. But we were looking for something more than signs of what had happened earlier. We went to take a look at a spot that I knew had a tendency to fish well during the fall but had never put much time into. As we were gearing up I looked east and spotted a tight grouping of 20-30 gulls a fair distance away. I couldn't see exactly what was under them but I knew they had to be on a blitz. I grabbed the rod, strapped on my stripping basket, and ran. I got to a small point near which the birds had been, battled my way out to a rock in the moderate surf, and began working the wash. Alec got his waders on and began working his way down the rough shoreline. After a little while I had noticed that, although there was a lot of rain bait in the water there didn't seem to be any bass, not right where I was. I looked back towards Alec to see where he was, just as I got off my rock, then I looked back east, and saw that chaos had ensued 100 yards away behind a small jetty. peanuts were spraying and bass were slashing through the surf. I ran, not realizing that this blitz was an unusual one. It wouldn't last just a few minutes, like most blitzes. This one lasted four hours. I got into the melee and caught three bass, not big ones but much better than most I've caught this fall, before Alec even got to where I was. In the wind and with the steep course rubble beech behind me, I could only fish the first trough. But Alec was fishing a heavy surf rod and a big wooden topwater plug, and with that he was able to reach the second trough. That was where most of the big ones were hiding. There were whales in the first trough too, and I had a number of the real cows follow the beast fly and slash at it, but where I had an incredible numbers day Alec got the bigger fish. To be exact, 4 over 40 inches, the biggest being about 35 pounds.

When I saw the blitz lasted 4 hours, I'm not exaggerating. Bass were blitzing on peanuts and rain bait in the little cove we were fishing constantly for the vast majority of the time we were there. Peanuts were literally beaching themselves. I even had two in my stripping basket after a wave washed over it. I could see bass right in the curl of the waves. They were not all small, and there is nothing like watching a 40 inch bass cruise in and t-bone the schoolie you have hooked.

I've fished for striped bass regularly the last two falls, and I've caught them in a lot of settings, but there was always something that appealed to me about rocky beaches and heavy surf, and although I had fished these areas a lot this is the first time I have experienced this. There is something special about it, because you know that these fish are not going to be there forever. In a river, or tidal creek, or on the flat, it doesn't feel like the surf. You don't get to see what Alec and I saw today, hundreds of thousands of stripers from 16-50 inches coming in to feed on schools of bunker that must have covered 200 square feet, possibly more. Seeing schoolie bass coming to the inside of the breakers, damn near washing up on shore, and huge fish gulping down bait by the mouthful just 30 feet out... it was incredible.

This was the kind of day I dream about. The wind, the tide, and the air pressure were right, and the cove exploded with life. If you haven't seen it, you don't fully understand. Most people only ever see a striper as a filet on a dinner plate. They don't get it. They don't understand how it feels to watch these fish do what they are meant to do, or how it feels watch a big one swim off after a hard battle. These fish are special.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Fish Called Sasquatch

I made a few hours today to visit my home river. I knew with the water being back up and still stained would give me a fair chance of fooling a bigger fish if I could find it. I also know how weird this stream behaves just before spawning time. In years past I have fished one mile of river in a day and caught as little as 10 fish, and all of those would be in one short section or even just one pool. They don't seem to spawn in the same places year to year either, I've only seen redds in the same spot twice, that being in November of 2012 and October of 2014 at the tail of a pool I call the Last Chance pool. I years when I've fished regularly in the fall I was able to pinpoint areas where fish had congregated. Today I'm not sure I quite found them, though I did catch a good number of wild and holdover browns spread out throughout the water I fished. No giants, but some fairly solid fish.

I ended my outing in a short stretch of water that has given me some special memories during this time of year. In 2014 I caught six gorgeous wild browns in one pool during a surprise blue wing olive hatch. But most memorable of all were a handful of encounters in 2012 with a giant fish that came to be called Sasquatch. Partly because it as so big, and partly because though I was convinced it existed, I just could not catch the darn thing. It as too smart and way to strong. Where it came from is a mystery, as is its true identity. Was it just a really big resident brown, like Grandfather, ho I eventually did catch, or could it have been a big sea run fish? Maybe even an Atlantic Salmon? 

My first encounter with Sasquatch happened in the eddy behind that big boulder. I carefully waded up to that particular little stretch knowing it often held sizable fish. When I got into casting position and looked up to that I could see that something as making a commotion up there. I had on an Edson Tiger, which had already brought two beautiful wild browns to had that day. I can still remember both of those fish vividly. I flicked that fly into the eddy on the right side, and very quickly a big fish came over and grabbed it making a tremendous wake. I set the hook and the fish took of upstream, showing me it had absolute control over the situation. It suddenly turned and did the longest run I had experienced at that point in my fishing career. I chased that fish down through a long run, the next pool, and into the pocket water below where I was dealt the final blow as my tippet was rubbed against a rock. I came back to that stretch of water three times in the coming weeks hoping to find Sasquatch, going there straight after getting home from school, and though I encountered it two more times I as outsmarted. I still have yet to hook another fish in that stream that fought so strongly. Though I'm sure Sasquatch is long gone, the memory of that fish that I never even got a look at will stick with me forever. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Striking Sight on a Thin Blue Line

People who fish 100 days or more a year tend to get to see things that other people never will. Today I got to see one of those things, and it completely overshadowed everything else that occurred
during my outing so I'm going to start with it rather than starting from the beginning.

I had worked my way up to a natural waterfall that is very much a fish migration barrier, I have never caught brook trout above it. That isn't to say there are none, I just haven't caught or seen them. Bellow the little waterfall, however, I have caught lots of brookies and a few quite large ones. I fished the plunge pool for a little wile without a take when something shot into the air and caught my attention. I couldn't believe it, a little five inch brook trout had just attempted to clear the waterfall. Though it was not successful, the distance it attained was fairly startling. I decided to just sit and watch to see if it would happen again. Over the next three hours I watched a bunch of wild brook trout flinging themselves at the waterfall in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the waters above to colonize them. I stayed three hours because I wanted to get some good photos of them, and I did not leave unsatisfied.

I had fairly slow fishing, and this fish clearly migrating upriver kind of clarified why. They weren't in the mood to eat, they were on the move. Spawning time is coming and the increase in the flow from yesterday's rain told them it was time to go. The extremely dark stain to the water undoubtedly hurt my odds as well. I did catch trout and char, just not that many and not the big colored up males I was looking for.