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