Now that the cooler months are upon us most people are spending their days preparing for the fall season. Weather it is a trip to the farm to enjoy the fresh smell of apple cider, or preparing for a thanksgiving feast, a buoyant enthusiasm seems to spark our daily routine. For fly anglers in the northeast however, it is the time of year for our best opportunity to hook into a striper of truly trophy proportion. This is the time of year when the cows arrive, the female stripers as they are called, migrating south from our northerly neighbors. When targeting Stripers in the surf, there are many factors that must come into play in order to increase your chances of successfully hooking and landing these fish. The slightest mistake before or during the battle with these cows can leave you breathless as your line goes slack and your trophy swims off into the cool northeast waters.
Have the Right Gear
Nine and ten weight outfits will be the gear of choice for these cows. Besides having to cast larger flies into stiff winds, you will need a stick that will enable you to put pressure and leverage on a big fish. When targeting trophy stripers from the shore line the Coastal Quickshooter with its short, powerful front taper allows anglers to quickly turn over larger flies. This line will be your workhorse eighty percent of the time. For deeper water presentations around inlets, jetties or deeper holes; the InTouch Striper 30ft Sink Tip is front weighted to load rods quickly at close range to cast large and heavy flies. This comes in very hands when needing to quickly push bigger flies onto the wind and get your fly in the strike zone. For leaders, I prefer to use the RIO Striper Tapered Leader as it is shorter, heavier butt section allows the fly to turn over with ease. Flies should emulate the prevalent baits at the particular time you are fishing. Bunker, rainfish, sand eel and herring patterns should all be in your box. In addition to these bait fish patterns, don’t forget a hand full of top water flies that create commotion on the surface and push water. One of the greatest thrills in catching big linesiders is to actually watch the take on the surface.
Getting Hooked Up
Because stripers are now on their southerly migration, feeding patterns are different from that of the spring and summer. Throughout the day you will see large schools of fish gorging themselves on pods of bait-fish. These “blitz” situations provide the best opportunity to fish both quantity and quality of fish. When there is limited blitz activity, the shore-bound anglers will want to concentrate their efforts around deep holes and bowls located just of the ocean’s edge. This is where your InTouch Striper sinking lines comes into effect as this is where larger fish will prowl and trap baits against the beach. Don’t be surprised if the strike comes just as you are preparing to lift the fly for another cast. In many instances these linesiders will stalk their prey all the way to the beach before the attack.
The first factor in successfully landing big stripers on the fly is to get a solid hook set. When the fish hits, the run will begin immediately. It is important to drive the hook home by performing a series a sharp strip strikes. Once the hook has been set, let the fish make her initial run without interruption. It is here when you want to make sure that all of the line is cleared out of your stripping basket and quickly get the basket out of the way by spinning it behind you. During the run you will want to apply pressure to the fish by keeping your rod slightly off to one side. Once the run has ended, start gaining line immediately. Keeping the fish off balance will require you to maintain your rod position low and in the opposite direction in which she is swimming. If she turns, switch your rod angle to the other side. As the fish gets closer to your landing position be prepared for a second shorter run. Do not horse the fish in during this run or allow any slack in the line to get between you and the fish. Most big fish that are lost during the fight are done so from this point on. By the time you get her to the waters edge she will most likely be exhausted. Use precaution when landing her. Don’t try to pull her out of the wash with your rod. Rather, keep her head up and use the water washing up on the beach to guide her home. Before the release be sure to revive her by holding her tail and allowing the current to pass through her gills. Once she is ready, she will swim out of your hands and back into the sea.