Striper fishing requires a special kind of patience. They can be there one night and gone the next, and be back the night after that. You just have to keep going and you will be rewarded.
Last Monday morning I got up early, very early and head out to catch the end of the outgoing tide before sunrise. When I got to the water I was a bit disappointed to see that the current had gone slack (it was a good hour and a half to dead low). Since there was no current I decided to fish my 10wt because I was sure it was in the trunk of the car. Unfortunately it was my 4wt and the only other rod I had with me was the 13í two hander so that was the rod of choice.
Spey casting with no current is a bit of a pain. Itís not impossible, but itís less than the most efficient way to cast. Since there was no current, cast and strip was the only way to keep my fly from getting hung up on the rocks in this shallow spot. There were some herring about but there didnít seem to be any bass willing to take a fly. I stuck it out until 5:30 AM and called it quits.
Now I was not about to get discouraged by one bad outing. After all, the striper fishing so far this spring has been so good it felt like the good old days. So Tuesday I redoubled my efforts. The low tide was an hour later and I got on the water an hour earlier at 3AM. My hope was that there would be more current earlier in the tide, and I was right. I got to the water and the current was moving pretty good. ďOpen for businessĒ I thought to myself as I carefully waded over the slippery rocks to my spot. The stronger current made it easy to Spey cast and swing my fly across the channel. The herring were around, but still no bass. Eventually the current just stalled and the water was a pond like the day before. I bagged it just before sunrise even though there was still some outgoing tide left.
It was time to regroup and come up with plan B. Wednesday evening I went back to the same spot, but this time on the incoming tide. Long story short, no stripers on the incoming either.
Thursday I took the day off from fishing to rest up and get ready to hit it hard over the weekend.
Friday I did the day shift at a spot where one can catch large stripers during broad daylight during the herring run. The tide was coming in, and with, wave after wave of herring. At the first couple of spots I fished I had absolute solitude, just me and the herring. Three hours of fishing and not so much as a bite. I went to a third spot, but unfortunately there were already a half dozen anglers there. I suppose I could have squeezed in somewhere, but I decided not to, especially since somebody was already standing in the spot I wanted to fish. As I was leaving I saw a guy land a bass that was easily 40 inches. I was tempted to stay but decided not to.
Saturday I decided to fish another spot. The tide wasnít great with dead low being right around dusk. I would prefer low tide to be at least an hour after dark at this spot, but if you donít go, you donít know, and after four straight skunks I was itching to feel that tug. Well I would have to wait. Right at dead low two guys with spinning rods hooked up simultaneously but nothing for me. I stayed and fished the through the first hour of incoming without a bite.
Sunday was similarly dead, even with low being an hour after dark. Fished an hour on either side of the low. Very few bait fish around.
I was not deterred by lack of recent success. Monday at dusk I returned to the same spot I had been fishing over the weekend. At first it seemed like the magic was back. Herring were splashing about without a care because mister striper was surely not there. An hour later and still no signs of the striped ones. Then out of nowhere I felt that familiar building pressure of a bass taking the fly on the swing. I hadnít felt a bite in so long that it took me a few seconds to actually believe what was happening. I was tight to a nice keeper sized bass. The last 45 minutes of tide produced three more bass in the 28 to 29 inch range. The bass had the herring pushed up into the shallows behind where I was standing. I could see their backs as they swirled near the surface. Most of my takes were right along the drop off as the bass cruised on and off the flat.
Tuesday night I was joined by Jon, Todd, and Steve. Misery loves company. Four anglers, four skunks. There were noticeably less herring.
Last night there was a good three hours of outgoing tide after sunset. I decided to start out at a different spot. As I was rigging up several other guys were leaving. The report was all the same-dead. I gave it a go for an hour and a half. Very few herring and no bass. At 9:30 I packed up and headed elsewhere. I was in the firing position by 9:40 PM and hoping for a change of luck. I didnít see any signs of herring here either. Could this be the end? They should be leaving in the next few weeks anyway. I was on the water for a good 20 minutes and then I felt the solid whack of a good fish. I hand stripped the fish in close in short order. The bass didnít feel big, but when I got it closer to the rocks it really started to slug it out. The fish hugged the bottom in the deep cut and shook back and forth. Every so often I would get a short run. I played tug of war with this fish for a few minutes before I was able to get it up to the surface. I could tell this was a decent fish when I got my first look at it. I landed it and took a quick measure-32Ē and fat as a football.
I kept at it for a bit longer and got no other action. I moved to a spot a bit downstream and I got a short strike about a half hour before dead low. It looked like that was it. When the tide hit dead low I decided that would be my hard stop for the night. I began to carefully wade back to shore as I reeled my line in. As I was walking I saw a quick swirl on the surface about 20 feet below me and maybe three feet out. I flicked the head of my fly line out and the fly drifted about two feet after it hit the water. The bass took the fly with the subtlety of a freight train. The fish was quick to the reel. After a short battle I was able to land another beautifully fat keeper bass. After I released that last fish I was tempted to prolong my stay. I made a dozen or so more casts before deciding that I really didnít need to stay out past midnight on a work night.
So there you have it. Striper fishing is a game of numbers. Sometimes the fish are there, sometimes they are not. You just have to keep at it. It took me nine trips to get a half dozen bass. Iím guessing I spent a good 18 to 20 hours on the water over that time period. My efforts were rewarded with some good fish. Time on the water and tight lines.