By Jack Denny
April has come and gone and the fishing should only get better as the water warms up. Tactics will change to meet the conditions, the fish will be moving around and become more active. What they will eat will be changing too. Small crabs and shrimp will be part of the food chain and should be carried in your selection. Bunker will be around if they have not already been spotted in your local haunts. Big flies will take big fish but will be hard to throw with an 8 weight, so rod sizes will have to be adjusted to a heavier weight like a 9 or 10 weight. There will be many decisions to make in the coming month and no matter which way you go, fish with your head at all times.
While fishing on the front of Capt. Joe Blados’ boat I saw stripers swimming within two feet of the shoreline. Two feet! Now any flyrodder coming down to his or her favorite spot knows right where to head. Stripping out some line, tying a fly on to the tippet and then off they go right into the water. Any bass nosing up to the shore will be scattered and as they depart they will take others along with them. Bass are more skittish than bonefish in shallow water here in the Northeast; they enter skinny water with all their senses on “red alert”. In fast moving currents and deeper water off the beach they feel more at home because they can escape easier. But in shallow water up against the beach there are limited escape routes, there is no down only left, right and back. Even when they are feeding they are fully aware of what is going on around.
Instead of marching into the water quietly approach the shoreline and make your first cast 20 feet from the water’s edge and make it quietly. Choose a fly that will land softly and not startle the fish. Make your cast starting at 9 o’clock and work around to 3 o’clock, then move closer (but not getting the water just yet) and do the same thing. When you are convinced that the fish are further out then start working your way out in the water still searching as you move out. You may have to change your fly get a little deeper but that goes along with the methodology of fishing smartly.
A friend is a great fishing tool. My fishing buddies and I work hand in hand to come upon solutions faster and take more fish. We do not fish the same fly, everyone starts with something different. If sand eels are in the water we experiment with color and weight, any fly can work at any given time. Fishing last year off the Sandy Hook surf we came upon a situation that proves my point. Weakfishing was picking up in the area and there were bass and bluefish around. The bait ranged from large spearing, to bunker, to killies and so forth. So what to use? My friend Jim had taken a nice weakfish on a seven inch blue and white Deceiver but I continued to fish a chartreuse and lime green Clouser with good success. But as the fishing heated up only one fly was doing the job and a switch was in order for one of us (the Deceiver started taking bass and small bluefish so I had to make a quick change).
Floating line vs. sinking line, what to fish? A shooting head system does make a lot of sense but for some casters there are problems with casting. Carrying an extra spool is the other way to go to keep up with changing conditions. Changing the leader length and adding a weighted fly can also be an answer. Just pay attention to what is going on around you, be quiet and try everything that makes sense. And when all else fails try something completely different. Two flies tied off each other. A popper at night. A split shot added above your fly. Fish a small fly off a popper. Black flies during the daytime. You get the picture, use some imagination and who knows what will work. You have to give the fish what they want not what you think they want. Does that make sense? Some flies do double duty. A small Clouser in white can look like a small bait fish or even a shrimp to a striper or weakfish. Carry a “generic fly”, one that represents something to eat but nothing specific. All black or all white Clousers and Deceivers should be in everyone’s box.
These thoughts may seem pretty basic to some of us but it is a good idea to review just what is basic. The idea of casting from 20 feet up the beach is something we should all get use to doing. Trout flyrodders frequently fish from the bank, concealing their presence to wary fish and presenting an offering undetected. A backcast may not be possible but a cast down the shoreline is the next best thing. Sand eels being routed out by nosing stripers in shallow are one situation that demands this approach. And don’t think bluefish don’t frequent the shallows because they do. Sitting on the shore at after a morning of albacore fishing I watched some small bluefish “popping” out of the water. The fellow that was taking a break with me saw this and said it was probably a school striper and I agreed. He got up and walked over towards the action and made a cast in front of the advancing fish, two strips and he was on. But it was no striper, 13 pounds of bluefish kicked up the water like a speed boat as tore off the flats toward deeper water. What a surprise! All of this action took place in about less than 18 inches of water. You just never know.
I would like to apologize for some of the typing errors that have occurred in this column. I not saying that they will not continue because I’m sure they will. Go on reading on and if there is a “the” where a “that” should be make your own corrections, I’ll try and do better.