Thursday, January 31, 2013

01.31.13 Wind, rain, cold = tackle shop visit and fly tying

     Today wasn't one of the nicer winter days to fish so I stopped by Pride Fishing Tackle in Red Bank. This time of year things are slow, for tackle shops, charter boats, and guides. Unless you're on a fishery where cold is the norm, ie- The Salmon River, then things are kind of shut down. We are lucky here in New Jersey that we had the 2011 fall run that just ran right through into March 2012, and now it seems we've had the 2012 fall run go almost to February.
     Max and I talked about fishing the bays and rivers in the early spring. It can be such a fun time to exploring waters other then "out front" for bluefish and stripers. Last year was great, although we didn't have the big gator blues we had in 2011. This year will no doubt be different as Sandy has changed so much to our fishery. One, will people be ready to come out and fish, two, will anglers that have boats be back in the water, three, will the marinas and boat ramps be up and running, and then, four, will the bait and predator fish be around in good numbers.
     Before I left Max handed me a bag of clams he raked last evening. As I drove home thinking on how I would prepare them for dinner I thought how important relationships are in this business. We're all in this to keep the sport thriving, clients happy, and food on the table. My family opted to move steak night tonight so we could have a surf and turf dinner and boy were the clams fresh and good.
     I continued tying today with the SF Flash Blend and I am enjoying the learning process and balance between material, thread, and shaping after it's done.

If you're in Red Bank or need a tackle shop to call home stop by Pride Tackle and talk with Max.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

01.30.13 I know....I was done.....but I couldn't resist

     So my plan was to tie this morning before meeting a client this afternoon. After looking at a potentially mild day and good tide timing I decided that even though the S wind is 20 plus. Got down on the end of the incoming and went to work with a Steve Cooks Candy Corn Flatwing. With those crabs around I always prefer orange and white flies. It didn't take long to hook into a really nice January
fish. Now, we all know any fish in January is nice, but this one was a nice anytime of year fish.

     So last weekend I spent some time talking with Bob Popovics. We had a good long discussion about the state of the striped bass and what we can do as anglers, and more so as catch and release fly anglers,  to help keep these fish around. Bob has been a big proponent of proper catch and release techniques for striped bass, and just about any other fish. His strongest point was keeping the fish in the water, period. As he spoke I thought to myself, " Man, I gotta change my game a bit." Although it's difficult to do on the rocks I decided I was going to do a much better job. I'm calling it "Keep it in the Water".
     When I felt the heavy fish today I put my plan into action. Since most of us having been fishing for stripers in the winter months we're unaware of the dangers of lifting fish from their +/- 40 degree water onto the rocks or into the 30 degree air. It can damage the fish gill rakers if not put the fish into shock. You can see the Striper's Forever video below.....

     So there I was first crawling down, and then laying on the lowest rock I could find to keep the fish in the water for the hookout. I was able to snap a few pics with my camera that hung precariously around my neck dangerously near the water line. The high tide and strong winds didn't help. Since I wasn't going to do the gentle toss or flip back into the rocks I grabbed it by the lower lip and swam it in the water. It took off, the wrong way. Somehow it turned as the swell hit and went under the rocks I was laying on. Then it resurfaced. I got a hold of it, turned it, and then it made a beeline out into deeper waters.
     This type of release isn't easy, better for the fish, but no so for the angler. You get wet, your waders get dirty, and you crunch anything that's in your pockets, and can come close to drowning your camera- but it's worth it. We as recreational fisherman are killing (although unknown to us) striped bass that we think we're doing the right thing by releasing. I haven't seen to many dead stripers or fluke that are released.....I guess dead fish don't float.

     I hit a second spot and as I walked the beach looking for crab parts I saw a fly out of the corner of my eye. It looked familiar. I had lost that fly a week or so ago. As I got closer it looked intact, except the color of the Skull-Head had worn off. I figured that would be the go to fly. I jumped up on the rocks and tied it on knowing that this fly, unlike the other, was weighted. I though that would be good as I fishing in a deep pocket and wanted to dredge up a fish that way. By then the wind was starting to howl so it helped getting out there. I made a few casts and waited for the strike. It didn't come.
     Line management became difficult as the wind became gusty and I was out there with no protection. After a cast I noticed my sinking fly line was exiting my stripping basket in a hurry, a quick pause in my retrieve to stop the line from finding the mussel filled rocks below me, was just enough time, to get snagged. I tried my best to get it free, but in the end I had to give it back to the sea. She took it once before and I found it, I wonder if that will happen again.

Here is the last fish I caught on this fly.....January 14, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

01.29.13 A warm spell at 40....stayed in to tie with Steve Farrar's Flash Blend

     Warm a balmy day here at the Jersey Shore. Temps into the 40's! Tomorrow should be even warmer. I did go down to the beach and watch as the incoming tide pushed water up against the rocks. I spoke with a guy who had been soaking clams for 6 hours and had two shorts for his efforts.
     Since I have "unofficially" hung up my new waders I have decided to start tying flies for the spring. My first goal is to tackle the use of Steve Farrar's Flash Blend. My first fly with it weighed 9 ounces and cost me 17 dollars to make between the hook, too much material, and a big glob of epoxy. I know the idea is "less is more" and that a sparse fly gives the illusion of a real baitfish, but somehow it's hard to train your mind to pull less material to tie in. As the flies got tied, and then untied, and then tied again they became sparser and less costly. I got this magnifier clamp lamp yesterday from Staples. It is made by tensor with a 5" diameter lens with a 3x diopter lens. It was 59 dollars.

     I plan on blowing a bunch of these out after I find a formula that will work just right, then it will be on to the next pattern.

Disclaimer- the green/white bunker fly was tied by Joe Sawicki

Monday, January 28, 2013

01.28.13 Striper fishing in the snow

     Coming off the momentum of the Fly Fishing show I had to go out and give it a shot this morning. With the freeze we've had the last week or so the water temps have dropped and are holding below 40 degrees- from the sources most get temps from have it 42 - 43 but they are from offshore. Early on I had the pick of the shore to myself only sharing it with some birds and seal that was hunting right off the rocks. He was up when I went for my camera and the next time he surfaced he was to far away to get a tight shot. (Below)
     There is a lot of anticipation from anglers of the 55 degree day coming on Wednesday. I don't know if that one day pop of sun is really going to change things much, but it might turn on the fish just a bit as they forage the bottom for the crabs that have been keeping them fed and some fat.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

01.27.13 Back from the Fly Fishing Show...another great weekend

     I hope everyone that attended or worked the show had good selling, good buying, good teaching, good learning, good casting, good laughs, good drinks and most of all good fun. From the days years ago of helping set up The Fly Hatch's triple booths to breaking down the Orvis and Cross Current booths this year it is amazing how much work goes into setting up for the show and how quickly it gets taken down. I was so glad that Orvis had a booth once again this year at the show. With a new H2 (Helios 2) rod out, a new Digi Camo Guide Sling Pack, and Silver Sonic Waders it was a great opportunity for people to come and see and learn about the products. Orvis sent their


best down and I watched as future H2 owners took a rod (under escort of course!) over to the casting pond to see how great the new sticks cast. The Digi Camo Guide Sling Packs came on and off the manikin more times then I could count as people wanted to try them on and see just how much you could get inside. The Silver Sonic Waders with the convertible tops and SonicSeam technology will change any doubters minds that Orvis can make a great pair of waders. It was nice to able to hang my hat at the booth on and off over the last three days. I know all the Orvis guides, lodges, outfitters, dealers, and fans liked seeing the company represented at the show. Hopefully they'll do it again next year!


     It was great to see so many of my friends and followers of The Average Angler blog. It was also great to network with other guides and meet current and hopefully new clients. I gave out a lot of cards and talked to many people about the great opportunities of fly fishing the Jersey Shore. While at the show I had the opportunity to re-test for the FFF CI certification which I will now be able to do one more time. Met some great FFF casters and I look forward in working with them to help me meet that important goal. With the test out of the way and a busy Saturday done it was nice to unwind a little at the bar. I found an old friend and co-worker at The Fly Hatch in Capt Dick Dennis. Dick has been doing these shows for years and travels with Bob Popovics who as you know is one of my favorites in the industry. So the three of us set up camp at a table in the bar and for the next 6 hours had an absolute blast. It was a night for me to remember.

     This year I wasn't able to attend the various talks and demonstrations that I usually like to do. I was able to sit in on Bob Popvics Flye-Foil tying class where he tied up his new Squid-Foils in addition to his Fleye-Foil silversides. I picked up some tying material including some nice Keogh saddle hackle, an artic fox tail, and some hooks, thread and barbel eyes.
     I was asked several times this year if there was anything that was a must see. Well, you all know how I feel about the Pulse Disc from BrineFly Innovations. This is a really cool innovation from Jim Matson and him and his friend and wife were busy the whole weekend. I was glad a lot of clients and readers of the blog went and checked it out for themselves.

     I enjoyed watching a tyer from The Bayshore Flyrodders tie up a couple of flies using Steve Farrar's Flash Blend. Of course I stopped in on a bunch of other tyers who just crush both fresh and saltwater patterns. Brad Buzzi's poppers are getting sick looking with his airbrushed-at-the-vice paint jobs. I did buy another hat, something I said I would never do again. I figured from now on I would just wear my own hats and advertise my business. It was a Stripers Forever "Make It a Game Fish" hat. It came along with a ruler sticker for the boat. 
    I won't try to mention all the people I saw and had a good time with, but thanks to Joe D and Coz and the boys from Cross Current, of course the Orvis folks, Sherri from FUDR, Joe Sawicki - who I was glad to finally meet, all my Facebook friends that I could finally shake their hand and talk to them in "real" life, and of course.....The Jason Dapra.

Also, just to pass along an opportunity, Joe D and Coz from Cross Current Guide Service will be down in Andros in March bonefishing. If you are interested in joining them for one of the weeks for great fly fishing and fun give them a call at 914. 475.6779 or call me at 732.261.7291 and I'll get you the info you need.

It may be short notice but sometimes the best experiences we have in life start out that way!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

01.24.13 Off to the show !!

     This weekend I'll be at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset. I'll be there all three days and staying over looking to hoop it up at night. I'll be at the Orvis booth where we'll have on display the new H2 rods, the Guide Sling Pack, and the Silver Sonic Waders. Stop buy and take a rod and test it out on the casting pond. In addition I'll be over at the Jersey Shore Trout Unlimited booth on Sunday helping out the chapter with raffle sales.

Have a great show and I'll be back here on Monday with a re-cap.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

01.23.13 We hit 100,000 !!!!!!!!!

     We did it. The Average Angler blog has hit 100,000. Thanks to all who read it and more so to those that I have had the pleasure to fish with. With things settling down out front in the salt I am taking this time to get ready for the upcoming season. In the meantime I'll be at the Orvis booth at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show this weekend and speaking at some local clubs and stores over the next few months. In between I'll be working on improving my fly tying skills and going through the fresh and saltwater gear to make sure it's all in line.
     I will be starting the search for stripers the end of May and then running charters on the Upper Delaware starting the third week of April. If you are interested in a walk and wade or boat trip in the bays or rivers or a drift boat trip down the Upper Delaware please give me a call 732.261.7291 or an email

Booking a trip is a great way to show how much you appreciate reading the blog everyday.

Thanks again

01.23.13 Went down just to see if I was missing anything

     I couldn't resist going down to see if there was a blitz. Well there wasn't. No fisherman. No fish. Even the birds looked cold. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

01.22.13 I think the fat lady (or fly fisherman) has started to sing

     It's not that I'm letting a little cold weather chase me off the beach. And, unlike last year where I hung my waders up a few times, first starting December 22, 2011, and continued fishing through till March 2012, this year might be different.
     Yes there have been fish around, as of yesterday there was a good bite for bait, spin, and fly guys alike, but I think it might be "It's over Johnny" time. We are in for some real cold winter weather which includes snow. February looks like it might be a bitch. You can see the Weather Channel three month forecast HERE.
     It appears that some of the Hudson stock are wintering over here along the northern Jersey Shore. We all know they stayed last year, and they're hanging in this year. Last year we had sand eels and crabs and there were much larger fish, although I saw some 30+ inch fish caught this past week. Some early herring and currently crabs are keeping the fish that are around fed. Our water temps are from 41-45 depending on which source you follow and it's not getting any warmer.


     I went out again this afternoon picking the high tide and a balmy 18 degrees, without the wind factor, to give it a go. Hit two spots and with each cast I thought two things 1) I'm gonna catch a fish 2) It's over, and, all the while saying it's f-ing cold! On my way out I decided that I have walked the rocks for the last time till spring. On my way home I saw Al out on the rocks, braving the unprotected cold spot he has made a living at, and I figured I would go and tell him it's over.
     I took the long? walk and without my hat that I left in my truck. By the time I got to him I thought my ears were going to pop off. So as I explained that it was over, his rod twitched, and then he set the hook. A nice fat strong short fell for the clam and after a quick pic he was back in the water. No doubt he'll join up with his buddies and start heading for the Hudson in the next day or so.

Remember I said it here- "It's over Johnny"- but I said that a dozen times last year!

01.22.13 Ice on the guides and footprints in the sand

     Yesterday I started out at first light north and moved down south when I came out later in the afternoon. After talking with a few guys it seemed north was the place to be as a good afternoon bite turned at the change of the tide. You can only be in one place at a time.


     Even though we were warned that the temps were going to drop today I still wanted to get out for a bit At sunrise it was 19 degrees and the wind was at 20. It was cold no doubt. As I made my way out I liked what I saw when I looked down. The footprints from the anglers yesterday in the sand dusted with the snowfall from last night. As I stopped to take the picture I wondered which ones were coming and which going. Who was alone and who was with a friend. Who had a good trip and who didn't. And, who brought a fish to hand and who had a fish story to tell.

     I first started out mid way on the rocks, taking the full W wind on my left side. With the wind and falling tide it made it difficult to fish effectively. Not wanting to give up yet I drove to another spot one where the houses and sea wall gave enough protection from the wind. Without the wind it wasn't all that bad. I worked a slough between two groins without a bump, but one good snag that I strip striked perfectly. I had the whole Jersey Shore to myself until as I left I saw a guy walking out to end in Asbury Park, a spot that offers an angler not one bit of shelter from the cold wind. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

01.21.13 Flat, low and clear water....cold, snowy slow day

     So today I had a few shots to fish....trying to get it in before the blustery weather rolls in this week. Things have been kind of slow, and it's getting slower. Spin guys working rubber eels, slow swim baits, and bucktails have been catching, and the clam guys are in their glory. But fly wise for me the last two days have been slow. Had a nibble yesterday and not one today.
     Got out at sunrise cool 27 degrees, alright cold 27 degrees, and the outgoing water flat and gin clear. Had to hunt for white water. Tossed the fly around the rocks for about an hour as a guy out front connected on two shorts about 300 feet off the rocks. I planned my day to get out in the afternoon at high tide (which appeared to be about 6 inches higher than low tide) and see what the ocean might look like then. It looked flat and clear. It gave the birds easy pickins at the crabs that must have looked like Big Macs on the bottom of the ocean. I worked hard throwing crab flies, Clousers, and even a white Snake Fly without a bump. Then I moved, and more of the same. Saw one keeper caught on a clam.
     Before heading home for dinner I stopped by one last spot hoping to find some good current to cast into. As the sun set and as I walked out on the rocks I saw a guy throwing a fly rod. As I neared him he turned around and started talking to me. He said he saw fish jumping and was using a 5 weight rod with an Egg Sucking Leech. He was from PA and never fished the salt before. He had no stripping basket and the fancy pipe made him look like he would be more at home on the Upper Delaware. Hey, to each his own I thought, but I, "a true striper fly fisherman", had to go and get busy. I turned and took two steps and heard him say, " Oh, there he is." I turned back and he was tight.
     I told him he'd have to walk back to the beach as the 5 pound tippet wouldn't be strong enough to lift the fish. We walked back and jumped down on the sand and as soon as the fish got into the wash it flipped off. First time "striper" fishing and he hooked up on his first outing, no to shabby. I jumped back up on the rocks as he turned and left and waved good bye. I fished for another 45 minutes....not getting a bite. I wonder if I should bring and Egg Sucking Leech out tomorrow?

     Big props out to my man Rob Ceccarini from the Orvis NYC store who hooked me up with a pair of my favorite Endura bootfoot felt bottom waders. It was nice to be leak free and stick to the rocks like glue. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

01.20.13 If yesterday's wind was is was howling

     We all like the W winds. Today we had a west wind.....but is was blowing around 20 with gusts to 25. The above picture gives a little idea what the west wind did to the incoming waves and tide. Fished for about and hour and half on the end of the flood tide. Had a fish take a crab fly early on then it was quiet after that. Watched as the clammers had a steady pick of fish to 27 15/16 ths or 28 inches depending on who was reading the tape. I have to say they measured each fish.....but that one better not shrink a bit by the time it leaves the rocks.
    Word is its going to get cold this week.....might slow things down a bit with the fly....although the clammers are in all their glory right now.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

01.19.13 Love that moment at sunrise...and surprised to find them biting in the afternoon

     I love being out on the end of the rocks at sunrise. The sky radiates color while the rest of the world appears in black and white. This angler saw the beauty while no doubt feeling the sting of the cold air this morning. 30 degree air temps with a SW wind with gusts to 25. That will redden the cheeks and dry out the hands.

     I was thinking of not going fishing today. As the morning went on it seemed the SW kicked into another gear, affirming my apprehension, but it was getting warmer, which made me wonder. High tide was at 106 PM, and I already got a call from Joe that he scored a couple of fish with the fly rod is brown- off color water. So after juggling my three kids, three of their friends that slept over, and one more friend that came over after breakfast, I was good for a few hours. I got down right before high tide and within a half hour we were into fish. The SW wind was honking ad made fishing the north side of the groin ( picture below) dicey. We stayed mostly on the south side and I stayed with the orange/white beat up Clouser. I landed three to 21" and lost one, Joe landed three for the day and we called it quits by 230. On out way out we noticed a NJ DEP Conservation Officer sitting in his truck watching the anglers that were out on the rocks. I told him I caught a nice, fat 25" striper and asked if he'd like to see it.
     The "law" has been out as of late with the increased number of anglers that have been out. Just a warning - they're not only checking the size of the stripers that you keep, but also how you handle what you catch and release. "Wanton waste" means to intentionally waste something negligently or inappropriately. That means they are are watching in how you handle the sea robins, and skates that love to eat clams soaked near the bottom. "Feeding the gulls" won't get you off the hook, nor will drop kicking them back into the sea, or throwing them against the rocks or up onto the beach. You will get a ticket.

Friday, January 18, 2013

01.18.13 On a 30 degree day I got off the rocks and back in the water

     Well today was a bit nippy. Got out around 1 PM and it was 31 degrees with a stiff N-NW wind. Made my way down to the rocks and started fishing on the south side which wasn't too bad. The wind was at my back which kept it out of my face and off my hands. Worked from the beach out and then back along the other side with the wind in my face. Had a take, then it followed, then I hooked it briefing losing it as I went to get it on the reel. Slack= missed fish.
     Stayed at it for a bit but the water was on the start of the outgoing and low, it got flat, was clear, and there was a high bright sun. I moved north a bit and hit another set of rocks. Had them all to myself and found it just boring. I went to leave the rocks and looked over along the beach. There was a nice slough
or trough. I could see it from the rocks I was getting off all the way down to the next groin. I then realized that I haven't got wet, except taking waves and spray on the rocks, in a long time.
     So for the next hour I spent casting and covering the slough. It was fun waiting on each retrieve at that moment when the fly was in the kill zone.....and waiting for a take. That take never came but as the sun set and the wind turned around and pretty much died is was just nice to be out and fly fishing., especially on the 18th of January.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

01.17.13 Found a trio of bass down south

     Got out at 1PM an hour into the ebb. Found the water on the low side, and on the turbid side, and just not that interesting looking side. I made a few casts and then decided to head south and see if I could find cleaner water and some fish. My second stop stop looked better than the first....but still not good enough. Got back in the truck and made the huge detour to get south and found what I was looking for. I fished for about an hour and a half on the ending of the outgoing. Had three fish over the rocks, missed a few more, and had a real nice fish follow and study it right up to the rocks. Had some nice current tight into the rocks and swimming that orange and white fly deep was the ticket. The rest of the time I fished it like a bucktail, as evidenced that both eyes are no longer there.
     I got to talking to two guys soaking clams. I first had to step over their three keeper bass, two over 30 inches and the other just under. They had a good day......catching 51 bass. I was there for fish 49, 50, and 51. One guy caught 33, the other 18. I couldn't imagine catching 51 bass today.....or any day for that matter.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

01.16.13 Small window today....lots of debris in the water

     Had a shot to get out high tide and then the start of the outgoing. Had to pick your spots to cast to get to current and avoid tons of debris in the water. Anywhere there was water runoff or a brook or outflow made the area Yoo-Hoo colored. Hit two spots, saw a just short fish picked up on a clam. Not a bite on the fly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

01.15.13 Hit the rocks with the Pulse Disc...and if you want to know what they're eating...check the poop

     You might remember at the Somerset Fly Tying Symposium the Pulse Disc booth that was set up in the back corner. I found it on my last round of the exhibition floor. I was drawn in and soon became intrigued by the product. The inventor Jim explained how the discs works. It is tied in with the non-slip loop knot and gives the fly terrific movement in the water. I was so impressed that I purchased the discs in three sizes. You can visit their website HERE
     In December I received a mystery package that came from Jim that included various future innovations including some larger flies with matching Pulse Discs. Yesterday I got an email hinting that my fishing in turbid water might improve with the use of the Pulse Disc, so today I decided to give them a go. 
     Today was colder than yesterday, high tide a little less high, and the water green with plenty of white. The swells kept anglers on their toes, especially me with a fly rod working close to the rocks. I tied the Pulse Disc on a fly tied with a Fish-Skull head. It really moved the fly around in the water and when held in the current it, well, pulses. It no doubt helps the fly perform better. I had two good takes, with one coming unbuttoned at the rocks, and the other a missed hookset, which I didn't think much of.
     I switched flies after watching the birds coming up again, and again, and again with rocks crabs in their beaks. I went with a 2/0 Clouser in orange and white to match the color of the crabs. By this time the ebb current was in it's second hour and was starting to move. Over the next hour and a half I missed three more fish- unable to get it done. I wondered if it was me, the Pulse Disc, or maybe the smaller sized fish. I fished alongside three other anglers, one out front with a Vision Eel, and two others with Bucktails- all connecting on short bass. I had to be a little careful as I went to my old Simms waders, yes I wore Simms waders, that had the metal worn down to nubs on the soles. I almost broke my ass twice. So I couldn't fish from where I wanted to, working my way out to the front as the tide dropped. 
     When I got home I gave Jim a call and we talked about sizing the disc properly to the hook size being used, retrieve styles and fly movement, and if and how the disc might interfere with setting the hook. Jim has done his homework on this and has put them through the ringer out on the water. I will again try the Pulse Disc and this time the stripers will be brought to hand.

Jim and his Pulse Disc will be at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show- stop by and check it out and buy one to try out for yourself. 

     After fishing I stopped by another groin and took a walk out to the end. It was dead low tide and I wanted to scout the new mine-rock-field that had be created post Sandy. What I noticed here what was on the rocks. In the first picture you can almost picture a bird eating the crabs in one end and passing them out the other. The birds are on the crabs.....and so are the bass. Talk to someone who has kept one, and ask them what's in their stomachs. The bottom picture is more proof.'s what for dinner, and breakfast, and lunch.