Saturday, April 27, 2024

Morning Blitz

 Fall 2023 was a struggle in most of my normal striped bass haunts, and I stubbornly stuck to my guns in those places working under the incorrect assessment that if I kept going, eventually the fish had to show up. Meanwhile, friends were having much better fishing just a short bit further away from home. Not only were the encountering good stripers but big bluefish as well. I stuck to my guns on my home turf for a while before finally seeing reason and venturing out further. It was desperately necessary at that point, as I the season looked to be about to wind down.

Fall is when I basically live out of my car. Really, that could happen any time of year. But it's definitely more likely from September through November. The same clothes may not come off for days on end, the interior of the vehicle starts to smell dank and musty, and I consistently look both manic and tired. Loved ones say "you should get some rest", I say "when I'm dead". Pushing even just a little further from home and learning a relatively new to me area demands even more than the usual effort, and when a bite is in progress that means methodically fishing different structure in the new area, drawing knowledge of how similar spots in areas I already know fish at different tides, winds, and times of day. Some may require a significant number of visits at different times and tides to really dial in. I look or bait and make educated guesses as to where it may go next if it is liable to leave- always a factor in the fall -and watch for concentrations of fish eating birds or even seals. This often mean spending the majority of a week in the same general area, catching naps here and there and eating when I can and what I can between tides. But I always feel the pressure of the approaching cold season and the inevitable departure of the fish. 

On the first day of my exploratory I found a spot in daylight with very promising structure and bait activity. I made careful note of the tide level and current speed at the time of that visit and came back later that night on a different tide. There were fish feeding heavily and some very large ones in the mix. The next night, same thing but on the opposite tide. This was an ideal setup, and a spot I'd throw into the rotation for a while. Unfortunately it ended up serving up absurdly fickle fish. Though there was near constant and hellacious surface action I struggled to get bit. I tricked just a couple into taking very large Hollow Fleyes, but nothing else seemed to draw any attention and that just barely worked as it was. I fell asleep in my waders in a park and ride that night a bit dejected and frustrated but with intrigue as to the following morning. I hoped that bait might dump out into the adjacent bay and start a blitz.

The next morning, a huge blitz was in progress in a spot I couldn't get to as I drove to where the fish had been the night before. I pulled off for a bit to watch the birds dipping down to catch juvenile menhaden as stripers and blues churned the water underneath them. It was a fun show for a bit, but I wanted to feel a tight line. Things were quiet over by the mouth of the creek that had been loaded with bass the previous few nights. There were a bunch of cormorants hanging out up the beach though, and they seemed expectant. I decided to take their lead. I made some blind casts while I waited and picked up a few errant schoolies. 

It was more than an hour without much change before some of the cormorants began to take off confidently, fly across the bay, then land and swim around a point that was obscuring another small cove. Soon the whole flock- perhaps more than a hundred birds -were following their lead. I did the same. Rounding the corner, diving gulls and a few swirls marked the school. Eagerly I hopped out, dropping a camera in my waders pocket and grabbing the rod. I doubted tis would last very long and didn't expect I'd need to perform any fly changes. Twenty minutes, a dozen fish up to about 20 pounds, and a bit of sitting and basking in the chaos later the action departed and so did I. 

Short though that may have been, and utterly underwhelming compared to the blitzes the previous fall, that was the peak of my fall daytime fishing for bass. Had I adapted earlier and looked for greener grass further afield, it may have looked quite a bit different. That's how the game works sometimes though. You can get rewarded handsomely for sticking to your guns or you could miss out on the bite happening where you aren't.  

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