Salt Season - Striper Trip No. 1
I’m a big fan of cool salty breezes, the smell of changing tides, and the cool water providing relief on my sunburnt legs as I wet wade searching and fly casting for stripers and bluefish. It’s the middle of June and saltwater fly fishing season is in full swing in the Northeast. In all fairness, it has been for a couple months now, but… ‘Rona…
Until recently, I had not been able to make any trips to the coast. The Cheeky Schoolie Tournament I look forward to each May was postponed until September. Now, as the world begins to open slowly and cautiously, it’s salt season for me and I look forward to my trips. I look forward to stripers and bluefish devouring flies. I look forward to “striper thumb”. Hopefully nobody ever gets bluefish thumb. That would be horrible. I look forward to line cuts and burns on my salt crusted fingers. I look forward to tailgate lunches and fried seafood feasts alongside cold beer after a long day. I look forward to a sore shoulder from wiggling a 9, 10, or even 12 weight rod all day. I look forward to schoolies. I look forward to diaper stripers and I look forward to big fish. I look forward to blitzes. Heck, I look forward to heartbreaking refusals from 25 pound fish, which happened on my latest trip.
You see the fish follow, but you’re out of real estate to keep working the fly and the fish. You stop, leaving the fly suspended. You see the gills flare and mouth open. You hold your breath and everything slows down. The striper sees things differently. Something isn’t quite right and its mouth closes, with your fly still hanging in limbo. The fish drifts slowly back to the depths until it’s out of sight. You finally exhale and groan like you’ve been shot, while your fly still hangs suspended. Refusal. It’s the worst, yet comforting, if that's even possible, to know you were in the right ballpark and in position for success. That’s fishing.
The bite has been fair. Finding fish is always the biggest challenge, followed by getting them to eat your offering. The schoolie sized stripers are, generally, fairly eager to play, while the larger fish have been a bit more focused on specific offerings. A few bigger fish could be spotted along the south side shore sporadically, but generally well outside of casting range, even for a surf casting stick. Bait has been abundant, but not every school of bait has been shadowed by a predator. We keep hoping for larger fish to show with each tide. Some of the bycatches have been fun. Shad in the 15”-18” range take small flies commonly and provide tarpon like acrobatics and a surprisingly strong fight while sea robins are always an interesting creature to see. I always look to see if a cow striper is chasing the shad around, but I have not seen it yet.
My recent trip was a great way to start the season. While there was that one big, fat, giant refusal, there was another fish landed in the 28”-30” range, a couple in the mid-20s range and plenty of schoolies and diaper stripers. Diaper stripers need love too, all of our love. They are the future trophies that refuse our flies. I’m looking forward to another trip to the salt next week.
Until next time, keep the skunkings to a minimum.