All posts by Nick

Simple Stone

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I like to fish pretty aggressively.  I have little regard for the safety of my flies while I am casting them into some tight spots.  With this in mind, I don’t want to worry about losing a fly that took ten minutes to tie up.  I need flies that are quick and easy, but will also catch fish.  I came up with this pattern two years ago while I was in Telluride, CO for the winter.  I was walking a stretch of the San Miguel River and noticed a strong presence of small black winter stoneflies crawling through the snow.  After I tied up some up simple stones, it was my most productive fly for the rest of the time I was in Telluride.  It worked great in Steamboat Springs, CO this year.  The simple stone uses minimal materials and takes no time to tie up.  I tied up a weighted version below; however, I also use un-weighted simple stones as well.  Give it a go, and mix and match colors to satisfy your local stonefly hatch.

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Recipe:

Hook: 12-16 1x Long Nymph

Weight: .025 Round Lead Wire

Thread: Black

Legs:  Black Goose Biots

Body: Black Superfine Dubbing

Step 1:

Take around 10 wraps of lead wire around the front third of the fly.  Secure the lead wire with thread wraps.

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Step 2:

Work your thread to the back of the hook shank, and tie in your first set of goose biots.  Make sure the goose biots cup away from each other.

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Step 3:

Apply dubbing and work your thread to just behind the lead wire base.

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Step 4:

Tie in your next set of goose biots, cupped away from each other.

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Step 5:

Apply dubbing to the thorax portion of the fly.  I use a little more dubbing to build up the body.

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Step 6:

Tie in your final set of goose biots, trim the excess, and whip finish.  That’s it!

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He wanted the stone
Simple Stone on the nose

Get Your Striper On

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Block Island, RI

I love stripers.  It had been almost a year since I hooked up with one, but my recent annual family trip to Block Island, RI, reminded me how fun they are.  Striped bass, stripers for short, are a migratory fish that inhabit the coastal waterways of the mid-Atlantic and northeast.  Stripers have a range from North Carolina to Maine.  They are aggressive predators who fight hard and can grow quite large.  Their annual migration pattern along the most heavily populated part of our country inspires fisherman up and down the eastern seaboard.  Strict commercial and recreational restrictions and limitations have brought the fishery back from near extinction in the 1980’s.  You can catch stripers all year long; however, the prime time is May-October.

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Pursuing stripers on the fly just might be my favorite type of fly-fishing.  I don’t think any other fishing gets my heart racing like seeing a striper blitz occur on the surface.  Any decent trout angler expects to catch trout every time they hit their favorite river; it is just a matter of size and numbers.  This is not true with stripers, and even the best are fooled and puzzled by this amazing game fish.  Chasing stripers is a great way to break into saltwater fly fishing without having to pay the big bucks needed in tropical environments pursuing bonefish, tarpon, or permit.  Other game fish, such as bluefish, flounder, false albacore, and bonito, also inhabit the same vicinity as stripers, and they are just as fun to catch.  My blog post today is intended to help the newbie saltwater fly fisherman get started chasing stripers.

Setup

Rod:  Medium to fast action 8-9 weight rods in the 9-10’ length.  You want a rod that will turn over large flies and not tire your arm out.  You will also need a stick that can mend and reach over crashing waves.

Reel:  Large arbors with a decent drag system.  A solid drag will help you tame the powerful bursts of energy that the stripers can display.  A large arbor reel will also help you pick up line more quickly when fighting a fish.

Line: Intermediate.  This line will cover 99% of all your striper fishing.  I also think this is the most important part of your setup, and I highly recommend paying top dollar on this piece.  Get a quality coldwater salt line like RIO’s Intermediate Outbound.  Also, you should have around 150-200 yards of solid 30lb. backing attached to your fly line.  All saltwater species will push the limits of your tackle.

Stripping Basket: This is the second most important piece of equipment, in my humble opinion.  It will keep your line in one place, help you easily shoot casts, and fish more efficiently.  You can buy these from any online fly fishing retailer; however, I made my own about 4 years ago with material from Walmart for a total cost of $10.

Leader: I have three different leaders I use given the conditions.

  • For the crashing surf, heavy rips, or rocky turbulent structures, I surgeon loop both ends of a 2’ strip of 50lb. mono.  Then I attach one end to my fly line, the other I will loop to loop connection to another 3’ foot section of 25lb. mono.
  • For calmer back bays, salt ponds, or tidal creeks.  I take the leader mentioned above, and then I will blood knot another 3’ section of 15lb. fluorocarbon to the end of 25lb. mono.
  • For the flats or extremely picky stripers, I will switch to a store bought 9’ 12lb. bonefish leader.

Flies:  Deceivers, Half and Half’s, Snake Flies, and Saltwater Poppers.  These flies will get you into the game and as you progress you will branch out.  However, the most important thing to keep in mind is size, color, and shape.   Use these three characteristics and then work backwards.  For example, at Block Island, the main bait or forage in the area are sand eels; moreover, this calls for slender, long, olive/green/chartreuse patterns, i.e. a skinny Half and Half.  In New Jersey, menhaden are the main bait, and this calls for large Deceiver style flies with more colors, such as blue and pink.

Match the hatch and use your brain just like you would for trout.  Also, in regards to color, the standard dark sky/ dark fly rules apply, so have some all black flies for dusk, dawn, and night.  Finally, I always use a non-slip uni-knot to connect my fly to my leader.  Lefty Kreh has called this the best way to attach a saltwater fly.

Stripping Basket: 1 Utility Belt 1 Plastic Storage Container 6 Zip-Ties
Stripping Basket:
1 Utility Belt
1 Plastic Storage Container
6 Zip-Ties
By varying colors and sizes on Lefty Kreh's Deciever, you can mimic about 99% of all bait encountered on the Northeast coastline
By varying colors and sizes on Lefty Kreh’s Deciever, you can mimic about 99% of all bait encountered on the Northeast coastline
When fishing for stripers, you will no doubt encounter bluefish.  They get a bad rap; however, they are hard fighters and will pounce on a well placed fly.
When fishing for stripers, you will no doubt encounter bluefish. They get a bad rap; however, they are hard fighters and will pounce on a well placed fly.

Approach

This might be the most intimidating thing for a freshwater fly fisherman to wrap their brain around.  When you get to the coastline, your jaw might drop and wonder how you are going to locate fish in this entire ocean, especially if you are fishing without a boat like me.  Here are some rules to help guide you and increase your chances:

  • Stripers love structure, just like any other predatory fish.  Structure creates competing currents, eddies, and rips.   This creates a natural trap for bait and easy pickings for stripers.  When you get to your coastline, look for jetties, sandbars, rocky outcrops, and tidal coves.  Anything that can create an ambush spot is game.
  • Break everything down. Attack these structures in segments like you would any trout stream.  Be methodical, and take casts on the face of a clock working from 9 to 3 o’clock.  Work the drift, and let the currents present your fly in a natural manner.
  • Know your tides.  Tides create moving water.  This adds more character to the structure you have already located.  When fishing on foot, I find the two hours before and after high tide to have the greatest chance of hooking up with stripers.
  • Dusk and Dawn.  I find these two times of day most productive.  There is less boat traffic to put fish down, and predatory fish hunt during these low light conditions.
  • Hand over hand.  After I have cast and when I am starting my retrieve, I put my rod under my armpit and do a hand over hand retrieve stripping line into my stripping basket that is around my waist.  This position will seem unnatural to most fly fisherman; however, in my mind, it is the most efficient way to fish by foot along the Northeast Coast.  It also allows for constant connection of you to your fly so you do not miss any strikes.  You don’t have to worry about your line tangling around your feet or rocks.  And it adds distance to your casts.
  • Do your homework.  There is plenty of information out there on striper fishing and spots to hit up.  These two books are my favorite and will cover you from New Jersey to Maine. Fly Fisher’s Guide to the Northeast Coast and Fly Fisher’s Guide to the New England Coast: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine
  • Stay positive.  Saltwater fly-fishing is a pure dedication.  It’s a little frustrating watching a guy a next to you cast a plug 200 feet out on a convention surf rod.  As a fly fisherman, casting distance may seem like a huge handicap; however, I view it as an opportunity.  The 20-40 foot range is where most of my hookups with stripers occur.  Conventional guys are too concerned with getting their plugs out a country mile that they never fully work the close structure.  This is where you can shine.  Your biggest pro will be that you can present a more life-like fly (besides live bait) to these fish.  Conventional guys say stripers are not picky.  I say that is bull.  I had a great view one calm morning this past week as 5 different stripers followed and then refused my fly.  These fish are not stupid.  Measure success not only in fish landed, but also in fish that you rolled on your fly or any missed strikes.  Kelly Galloup says if you can get the fish to roll on your fly, you are doing everything right.  There will be plenty of skunks, but one successful day will make up for it.
Rough seas and choppy surf are some of the best conditions when fishing for stripers.
Rough seas and choppy surf are some of the best conditions when fishing for stripers. Asbury Park, NJ
Switching to a all black Half and Half paid off near dusk this past trip to Block Island, RI.
Switching to a all black Half and Half paid off near dusk during this past trip to Block Island, RI.
Stripers can be caught throughout the year.  This on was taken the day before Thanksgiving in Asbury Park, NJ
Stripers can be caught throughout the year. This on was taken the day before Thanksgiving at Shark River Inlet, NJ.

It took me over a year to land my first striper.  Looking back, I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing that first year.  But I eventually, got my bearings and learned through the school of hard knocks.  I even had my best trip to Block Island this past week with 8 stripers and 3 bluefish landed, breaking off another 3 fish, and about a dozen and half missed swipes/rolls/refusals on my fly.  My time hitting the salt has been paying off.

This post is not the end all of fly fishing for stripers; however, it is merely intended to cut down the learning curve that I experienced.  Once you feel the power of the strike, the pull of the fight, and the joy of landing a striped bass.  I promise you will be addicted.

Bob's Banger is a great saltwater popper.
Bob’s Banger is a great saltwater popper.
This is bluefish is one of the biggest fish I have ever caught on the fly at 37" and approximately 19lbs.
This is bluefish nailed a Half and Half outside Atlantic Highlands, NJ.  It is one of the biggest fish I have ever caught on the fly at 37″ and approximately 19lbs.
The only downside to bluefish is that they will destroy a fly with their sharp teeth.
The only downside to bluefish is that they will destroy a fly with their sharp teeth.

For further inspiration, read The Blitz: Fly Fishing the Atlantic Migration.  It’s a great book of two fly fishermen who for one year followed the entire Atlantic migration from North Carolina to Maine.  They documented the places they went, the people they met, and the fish along the way.  Here is also a link to their ten-minute you tube trailer of the book.

June ADK Photo Wrap-Up

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Moose River Falls

This has been one of the rainiest June’s on record for the east coast.  In the Adirondacks, it seemed like every other day the rivers would be blown out.  Even with mother nature not cooperating, there was still some great fishing to be had.  With the constant and rapidly changing conditions this month, every type of fly fishing (streamers, nymphs, wets, and dries) had their place.  Along with my normal Schroon River fishing, I was able to get up to the West Branch of the Ausable River, again.  One of my favorite days was the last time I was on the Schroon.  I fished a size 10 Stimulator between the pockets on hot mid-afternoon.  The trout were super aggressive and continuously slammed my dry fly throughout the day.  The Adirondacks is an amazing place for fly-fishing, and I feel I have only scratched the surface.

W. Branch Ausable: 20" Rainbow
W. Branch Ausable: Very Skinny 20″ Rainbow
Size 8 Invicta Muddler
Size 8 Invicta Muddler
bass
Brant Lake

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W. Branch Ausable: Size 8 Golden Stonefly Nymph
W. Branch Ausable: Size 8 Golden Stonefly Nymph
W. Branch Ausable: Polish Woven Nymph
W. Branch Ausable: Size 10 Polish Woven Nymph
Polish Woven Nymph Hook: Curved Nymph 10-16 Body: Woven Orange and Olive Danville 4 Strand Rib: Silver Wire Thorax: Hare's Ear Dubbing Head; Tungsten Bead
Polish Woven Nymph
Hook: Curved Nymph 10-16
Body: Woven Orange and Olive Danville 4 Strand
Rib: Silver Wire
Thorax: Hare’s Ear Dubbing
Head: Tungsten Bead
W. Branch Ausable: Size 6 Vladi Worm
W. Branch Ausable: Size 6 Vladi Worm
W. Branch Ausalbe: pocket water heaven
W. Branch Ausalbe: pocket water heaven
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W. Branch Ausalbe: Size 10 Turk’s Tarantula
Rooster Comb Mt.
Rooster Comb Mt.

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Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 10 Stimulator
Schroon: Size 12 Mini-Muddler
Schroon: Size 12 Mini-Muddler
Schroon: Size 14 Picket Pinn
Schroon: Size 14 Picket Pinn
Picket Pinn Hook: 12-16 Thread: Black Tail: Red Saddle Body: Peacock Herl Hackle: Red Saddle Wing: Deer Hair Body
Picket Pinn
Hook: 12-16
Thread: Black
Tail: Red Saddle
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Red Saddle
Wing: Deer Hair Body

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skeet
A little cast and blast session with my college buddy Rich
My dad's doggie Maddie in Otter Creek
My dad’s doggie Maddie in Otter Creek
Fishing is always fun!!!!
Fishing is always fun!!!!