Wednesday, June 22, 2016


It’s good to get back to basics sometimes. Slowing down and stepping back once in a while can remind one of experiences forgotten, places overlooked and things taken for granted.

Jill started casting the fly rod at the end of last season. This season we’ve spent a lot of time on the water working on her casting and learning the basics of reading the water. Because my casting technique is, um…well, it sucks, I’m not sure I’m a lot of help to her. But it has been a good refresher for me. It’s caused me to focus on and think more about the fishing rather than the catching. Turns out the more you think about the fishing part, the more catching you do. Ain’t that something?

And it’s been helpful at the vise. Because we’ve needed a fly that can be cast easily and will cover a wide range of situations, I took a fly I worked on last year for albies and tinkered on it a bit. The end result is a little all purpose baitfish pattern that I have fished exclusively for the last month. It’s caught a lot of fish and we’ve started calling it the Jilly Bean. There’s still some more water to cover with it and species to put on it, but I think it will go on the menu.

The whole point of getting back to basics was reinforced last weekend. My niece Jenn and her boyfriend Max made the trek down from Maine for a quick visit and as much time on the water as possible. Max is a solid trout guy but has limited experience with stripers in the surf or skinny water. I had heard through the grapevine he was really pumped up to fish the salt and catch a striper on the flats. I wanted to make that happen.

I gave them some caffeine and a few minutes to stretch their legs after they got out of the car and then we hit the water. I rigged all four rods with fresh Jilly Bean’s and looked for a place to set Jenn and Max up. The tide had just turned and we had some time to wait for the water to ebb enough to get to a couple of spots I was confident we would find fish in. I put them in a rock garden that sets up a narrow rip with a back eddy as the tide drops. I’ve caught some pretty nice fish out of the backside of this rip in the past but it’s intermittent and requires devoting some time to that one area. I gave them a pep talk, tried to explain what a single or a pair of striped bass would look like swimming across the flat and told them to have patience and keep casting.

I went off with Jill to work on her casting a little and then took a walk to check a few cuts and channels for signs of life. Halfway back to where our gear was situated I looked up and saw Max’s rod with a bend in it and a smile on his face. By the time I got to him he had the fish in and was holding it in the water. For his first linesider in skinny water he had done well. The look on his face said it all. It was kind of like that moment in “Castaway” when Tom Hanks finally got a fire going.

We watched the fish swim away and I asked him, “Tug a little when he hit?”

He just looked at me and nodded. Enough said.
Max and I kept pounding the surf while the ladies took a break in the sun. We both saw a few fish but they were spooky and moving fast. We moved along the flat with the retreating water until we got to the edge of a bank where I hoped I could get everyone hooked up on some rat stripes. Max picked one up with about fifteen minutes to go before we had to head back to distract my daughter while her surprise birthday party was being set up. It was the perfect way to end the day.

I grabbed Abby under the guise of going to dinner with Jenn and Max which was an easy sell because she and Jenn share the same birthday. We sat on the deck at Roht Marine and talked fishing and family while we celebrated birthdays and striped bass.

After a long day and pulling off a successful surprise party everyone crashed so we could get out early for a few more hours on the water before Jenn and Max had to leave. We fished the reverse of the previous day, working our way with the incoming back to the spot Max had scored the big fish at.  I had pulled in a couple of rats but the others were striking out. I was staring at the water thinking about stopping at one more place on the way home that I was pretty sure would be holding fish when I looked up and saw Max with a stripe nearly identical to his first.

After we released the fish Jill and I sat on the rocks watching Jenn and Max cast, hoping for one more fish before we had to go. I thought about the dozen times over the last month and a half I’ve rushed past that spot to get to pieces of water I know I’m going to hook up in without having to think about it. As I looked up along the rocks and the beach I realized there are several spots I’ve hurried by that I used to spend hours patiently working the water for one nice sized fish. I wondered how many fish I’ve just plain walked past because I was focused on catching and not fishing.

I learned something.

My next time out, I’ll be fishing.

North River, MA
22 June 2016

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mike! We all can learn from looking at familiar water with fresh eyes. We had a similar experience getting my son, who got me addicted to fly fishing, into his first stripes this spring after 3 years of trying. It's a rewarding experience.