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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

seven days of stripers

If you've read my last post, you may recall I was heading to Cape Cod for an extended trip of fly fishing and guiding for stripers and bluefish. I fly casted for stripers from shore for seven days in row in conditions varying from gale force winds and some rain to gale force winds and blue skies. Windy conditions and drastically changing water temperatures were the norm. I worked hard for fish and some days were an extreme struggle to garner any kind of bite, but in the end, stubborn perseverance paid off. I was fortunate to be able to have some fun with stripers and have a few find the net each day.

The first part of September was difficult. It was a continuation of hot summer temperatures and sunny skies. Shore fly fishing was not great and I wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament. However, a few days before heading out, a powerful cold front pushed through and started to drop inshore water temperatures. Peanut bunker were already abundant and it just took the water temp to drop and weather pattern to change to get a few stripers to start moving. Several cool nights in a row during our first few nights was encouraging and small schoolies were quick to descend upon the schools of peanut bunker. With the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament on Saturday, the 19th, numbers of fish around for the weekend was encouraging, but the size of fish was not. The wind was not encouraging either. We found scoring sized fish (20”+) prior to the tournament, but they were few and far between.

Tournament day was upon us and we were standing in the water at 5:30am. It was dark, chilly, the wind was howling already, and I was sure I hadn’t consumed enough coffee yet. Is there really such thing as consuming too much coffee? We were all cautiously optimistic about our chances and confident we had a game plan to be on fish, but were skeptical on how many scoring fish we’d find. Ten minutes into fishing, I was tight with what felt like a heavy fish. I didn’t stick it well and it was off with the first headshake.

Karma. It will get you and it will eat you. Earlier in the summer, my brother lost a few nice stripers. I mocked him pretty relentlessly, even into the latest trip. Truthfully, he really hadn’t lost that many fish earlier in the year, but I like pushing buttons and threatened to keep a running tally of fish lost. The tables turned for this trip, and quickly at that. I had already lost a couple fish in the days prior to the tournament, but now I was losing fish in the tournament. Heckling ensued. I suppose I had it coming. Even my Wife joined in the jousting. Losing fish on tournament day stings a little bit more.

Our largest scoring striper from the tournament at 25.5"
Our largest scoring striper from the tournament at 25.5"

Because losing one fish during the tournament wasn’t good enough, I proceeded to lose another fish shortly after the first. Brandon, meanwhile, was having no issue with lost fish. He brought a few in without stumbling in previous days and brought a few in without losing any on tournament day as well. I did, finally, land my first fish of the tournament and scored it. I scored a second fish at 25.5” later on as well. We enjoyed a hearty laugh as my two-year old nephew decided to cast his practice casting plug into the net with the fish and claim it as his own. The damage was done and I’m confident at least my first lost fish of the tournament was a scoring fish. Bright sun the remainder of the day brought the bite to a screeching halt. The final six hours of the tournament was fishless. We didn’t finish where we wanted to, but we had fun as we always do. We caught plenty of stripers, but most were short. With the tournament over, we retreated back to the house we rented, had a nice dinner, checked out a local brewery, and enjoyed some beers. Better luck next year.

As always, Cheeky did a pretty nice job running the tournament and putting it together on a virtual platform. I hope to see the measuring system changed for next year. Trying to measure fish over the water with a flimsy folding ruler and trying to make sure the numbers on the ruler and your team number are showing proved challenging. A PVC tray with a ruler in the bottom is the easiest and safest way to score fish quickly and get them back into the water.

The following day was windy once again. With a sore shoulder from casting like a mad man a day prior during the tournament, I resorted to light tackle spin gear. I put the wind at my back and let ‘er rip. My cousin, Alan, and I casted off some familiar jetties and found a striper willing to play that would have been a welcomed addition to our scorecards during the tournament a day a prior. We moved onto another location new to us and caught a few more nice stripers. We also encountered a severely decayed dead whale, which was one of the most putrid smells I’ve come across. It was beyond terrible. It was the kind of terrible you could breathe in and taste.

two striped bass
bookend stripers for me and Alan

My next few days were dedicated to guiding and scouting, with some fishing with Alan thrown in there. Alan and were able to double up at one point. The wind was ripping, but we found some places sheltered from the wind. As I mentioned previously, water temperatures were changing with each tide. Within two days, many of the areas I had been confidently finding fish and bait had the water temperature drop by ten degrees. Bait scattered and so did the stripers. Pinpointing fish was difficult. On the first half day, my guest worked his butt off, but came away with just one hookup and one other bite. The incoming high tide brought very cold water with it and the fish and bait that were there in the morning and even in the early afternoon hours had scattered. The seals didn’t help our cause either. I really dislike seeing them around. I knew I needed to work harder the next day.

morning striped bass
One of the morning stripers we were into.

My guest worked just as hard the next day. We met at our first location and he continued to fish hard. With no sign of life, we made a quick move to another area with a favorable tide. Very quickly, we were on fish. The remainder of the morning, we were on a steady pick of schoolies. It was a great morning, landing 6 or 7 fish and coming tight with several others. We had to work hard for them and the wind changed our plans quite a bit as some areas I planned to fish were not fly fishable with 20-30mph winds and gusts to 50. When winds are so brutal, options are certainly limited.

It was time to return home as I had trips planned and anglers waiting for some Central New York fly fishing. I couldn’t leave without trying to play with a few linesiders myself. I had a couple hours to kill before I needed to get on the road so I headed to the water. I found a few schoolies willing to play. They are always such a fun fish. I never get tired of them. I headed back to Syracuse shortly thereafter.

Parker with his first brown trout on the fly.
Parker with his first brown trout on the fly.

Arriving back to Central New York, I checked out the streams in preparation for the upcoming trips. Options are limited as we need rain, very badly (it's raining now!). The options available, however, are in good shape and fishing well. I had the pleasure of sharing the stream for a day with an angler who was completely new to the sport, but was very eager and enthusiastic about learning. We jumped right into casting basics and were throwing caddis to rising trout. Working hard and picking up fly casting quickly, Parker was able to get a few trout to cooperate and land his first brown trout on the fly. We had a few refusals from some bigger fish after that, but the surface activity dwindled as the sun got higher. It was time to introduce nymphing. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon nymphing and picked up a couple more trout. It was a beautiful early fall day on the river.

What’s ahead? We need rain! Luckily there is some in the forecast and fall trout fishing is sure to pick up quickly as increased flows move trout around. You may still see some action on top on warmer days, but nymphing and streamers are the main course meals moving forward. In my opinion, there isn’t much better in trout fishing than watching/feeling a big fish annihilate your giant streamer. Salmon fishing is a little slow to get going as the river is running low as well. Rain will light that fishery up. It’s still a bit early, but I’ll start chasing walleye in the shallows on the lake as the sun goes down in the next couple weeks. Cooler temperatures will fire up the shore bite sooner rather than later. I also put my duck blind in the water as the season fast approaches. It’s been so warm that I’ve been slow to start getting things ready for hunting season.

Playoff baseball has arrived! Let’s go Yankees! Until next time, stay safe and good luck on the water.

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