Wednesday, July 31, 2013

07.31.13 Out to Ambrose in the dark....and yes, I threw a spinning rod

     It has been a fun two weeks with clients and friends fishing the beaches, groins and jetties. It's been a nice mix of micro, schoolie, and just keeper sized bass and short and keeper size fluke for those venturing out with the fly rod. With bluefish season approaching (hopefully) I wanted to get the boat wet and check on things out front.
     Of course I would have to search for striped bass also so I figured I'd get out even earlier to see if I could find them at night. With an early rise I was up, the boat was in the water, and I was at the Ambrose Channel by 4am. When I first arrived the screen was empty although as I moved along the channel I picked up a few marks and went to work. The fish were low in the 70+ foot water. I rigged up the 12 wt for some dredging and had a Pulse Disc led Hollow Fleye down in the zone. I stripped it, I jigged it, I slow trolled it.....without a bump. There was some bunker around and I could hear them flipping in the dark. I went to my 10 wt and tried popping one up, but that didn't work either. In the end it was just plain fun to be fishing in the dark, watching the screen, and waiting to go tight.

     So, in addition to searching for bass and bluefish I thought while I was out there I would try for fluke. Fluke off the beach or groins is great, in 25-45 feet of water, not so great. So, I brought a SPINNING ROD!! I put on a 2 ounce bucktail with a Mister Twister tail, since I was to cheap to go for the Gulp!. I recently saw John Skinner's video on flukeing with a bucktail- woah- he's got it down.

Now, I don't know much about spin fishing, and less about using a bucktail, and about the same amount about fluke fishing in a boat. I started off in the channel and joined the armada doing the drift and drift redo dance. Only thing is, boats didn't repeat the drift, they just moved. I guess that means things were slow. I moved inc loser to shore and started a drift. I was literally falling asleep from the boredom when I fell a hit and set the hook. I thought "doormat" for sure. Nope, what is was was a (pretty) Smooth Dogfish. These shark family members are prevalent in New Jersey waters and get their name from "dog" because they travel and hunt in packs. Packs? Or schools or shoals? Not sure.

     I backed that one up with two sea robins. As the tide died so did the drift and I didn't get a bite for the next hour or so. I saw some fish breaking the surface in the distance and ready my fly rod and flew over. I found a pack, school, shoal, or gaggle of cow nose rays swimming just under the surface and their wings were creating the surface disturbance.

      And for the I-almost-busted-my-ass, or head, moment of the day. Yesterday I purchased a pair of nylon pants from Eddie Bauer over at the outlets. Since I have cut so much weight I don't have clothes that fit but I needed to get something. I love those breathable pants, however, nylon is slippery. So I am enjoying myself out on a beautiful day and the flat water. I decided to sit up on the poling platform of my boat and lazily jig my bucktail waiting for something to bite. I became so bored that I fell asleep with my eyes open.
     I didn't hear the boat pass me and just kept jigging. Then the wake came. Between a flat ass, nylon pants, and the slick poling platform there was very little friction to prevent me from sliding off. I slid from left to right with my ass checks having off the front corner of the platform, luckily I was able to get my hand cupped behind me and grab the platforms other side. It was funny, but I was lucky. Looking at it now, I could have slipped off, my head could have hit the boat, go lights out, and drowned. That is why I always wear a life jacket when I am alone. Here I am with the boat stationary and the water like glass, and I nearly got myself in a jam.

     And just because I hate beach replenishment. Below is the tug and barge passing through the Sandy Hook Channel carrying the sand to be pumped into Monmouth Beach. They are currently just north of Little Monmouth. In the picture below that is the equipment and dredging operation taking place along the Highlands on the Shrewsbury River. That is the donor site for the beach nourishment out front.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

07.30.13 Schoolies and fluke liked the popper/dropper on a beautiful morning.....


     This morning was perfect popper weather were I was. Easy gently rolling surf with plenty of flat water and a gently W wind to keep the water down and the casts go a little further. Started out of the gate in near darkness and had a fish blow up on the popper on the first few casts. The fish was right on the rocks and I started in the water working from the beach out. As the sun came up it was great to watch the popper/dropper hit the water, travel up and over the wave, and pop in the trough.

     Within a few minutes of daylight I had a pair of small bass take the sand eel dropper. Another fish hit the tandem set up as it hit the water and I wasn't ready to strip strike as I had too much slack in the line. As I fished this I realized it reminded me of a snapper bluefish popper with a plastic tube trailer. The popper gets their attention and they are drawn to the smaller "bait" that trails behind.


     I worked my way down the beach popping as I went and was surprised when a fluke rose from the bottom and hit the trailing fly. After a bit I switched to a chartreuse and white Jiggy and landed two more small fluke that were set up in exactly the same rip just on the outer edge of a sand bar. This is the out-front summer fishing I have been waiting for. Most of my fishing this time of year is done off the rocks as the fish are in the wash and sloughs chasing smaller baits. Before we know it late summer will bring the bait out of the bay and rivers, and the bluefish, bass, and albies will arrive at the start of the fall season.

Monday, July 29, 2013

07.29.13 Bass bite was elusive but the fluke made up for it....

     I was looking forward to getting out and first trying to pop up a bass or two at first light on the end of outgoing. Then on the incoming I figured I would switch over and try for some fluke. So last night I tied up a few Clousers using a product called FlyLipps. It;s new to me but has been on the market for years. It is a pre-fabricated plastic lip that is tied in to your favorite fly. Depending on how you tie it in determines the direction and action of the fly. Bob Popovics started this in the 90's with his silicon Pop Lips and I've used a newer creation in Jim Matson's Pulse Discs. Also, Marc Petitjean has his Magic Heads, but I have never used them.


     I was on the rocks before 5 am and found the surf and the frequency of waves on the outgoing not what I had in mind for a popper morning. I made casts to the backside in between the crests of the waves but didn't have any action. By 630 the water had settled to more popper friendly water but it didn't matter as no one was home, or they didn't want to answer the door, or breakfast bell.
     I got in my truck and made a move and found a few friends swinging their fly rods. It was bassless morning for them also, but one did find a short fluke, after he yesterday caught a 21" fattie on the fly.  I talked with one for a while before mugging the other. A few casts later and a keeper fluke hit the FlyLipp-ed Clouser. I finished up by myself connecting with a short fluke before heading out...for just a bit.
     Tonight it's me and the older girls for dinner so my plan was to catch two keeper fluke so I would have enough. I had to leave and drive my daughter to work by 830 but a slow and low incoming would give me time to get back for hopefully another shot at a keeper.
     The water looked great and was starting to fill in and create some great current along the beach. I started back in a rip without a bump before jumping up on the rocks. I made a few casts, misstepped on a rock and broke my ass and nearly my neck, limped back up and after two casts with a hurt shoulder I had keeper number two on the line. Mission accomplished. I stayed for a bit landing three more shorts and was home by 945 with dinner and plenty of work day left to catch up on things.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

07.28.13 Went with a dry-dropper tactic at first light.....and scored a sweet fly

     After having spent he last week fishing the same towns I took a pre-dawn drive and picked some new water to fish. With low tide at 6 am I was out early enough to catch the end of the ebbing tide. After a few casts I was met by fellow fly angler Joe who gave me a new fly that he tied up and has been using. You can see more below.

 I decided to go with a dry-dropper approach this morning, trailing a velvet sand eel pattern behind a popper. With Joe on the rocks I took the beach and battled a flurry of waves breaking at my stripping basket level. I had two fish splash and tail slap the popper and just waited for one of them to go tight on the trailer. I watched as Joe caught a pair of small bass tight to the rocks.
     After a bit we switched and continued with the combo but switched to a small chartreuse and white Deciever. Casting behind the waves and into the white water I had a good visual blow up but didn't get tight on the bass. I would have to say I would take missed bass on top rather fish that take Clousers anyday. I, like many, love the visuals of topwater action.
     By 730 the surfers and kayakers and beach walkers had started to fill beach and water which was empty just a few hours before.

     I had first seen this fly tied with sheet foam in a video made by fellow Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide Capt. Matt Thomas, HERE.  It uses graduated sheet foam discs creating a nice cupped front that moves nice water. It had flash tied in tailed with bucktail. Joe, who gave me the fly this morning, is a great tyer and has shared several of his patterns he has developed over the years. I look forward to getting this wet on another popper kind of morning.

Here is the video of the tie-

And it catching Louisiana redfish-

Saturday, July 27, 2013

07.27.13 With the wind swing and easy tides it looks like summer again....

     The last week has been great for fly fishing along the Jersey Shore. When I pulled up to the beach the temps have been fall like in the 60's, the wind has been kicking, and the sound of the surf can be heard for blocks away. Yesterday afternoon things changed a bit. This morning the air was still except for a mild SW wind, the low tide surf was flat, and first light gave way to high, bright sun.
     With the extra Saturday anglers on the beach I went to a different tactic. I went to a floating line coupled with a popper and made my way out to the end of the groin. There's nothing like watching you popper pop across the surface as the sun illuminates the top of the water. With each strip I waited for a striped bass to rise and blow up on my offering. I fished both the north and south sides without a bump. I switched over to a Clouser and worked my way to the beach before joining another fly angler who landed a small bass as he worked best rip on the incoming tide.
     With the low and slow water the floating line and Clouser slowly stripped in produced two smaller fluke that both took the barbless hook deep but were easily freed and released. With conditions changing this morning and looking the same for the next few days tomorrows fishing will take me to another location where condition there should better match up with what Mother Nature is serving up.

Friday, July 26, 2013

07.26.13 Nice morning as things laid down a bit....

     A few days removed from the full moon and the tides have settled down a bit. That coupled with the brakes hitting the N wind and the swells spaced out a little bit made for a good morning. The only downside was the water is getting a bit off color, but holding it's own, as the effects of some strong NE winds over the last 36 hours are catching up.
     This morning I was able to fish as there were no bites for a last minute "combat fly fishing" trip that I offered up for this morning. I fished with another fly fisherman and was later joined by a spin fisherman. We started just about dead low tide and watched and waited for the tide to bring the water, and fish, up and over the structure and into some good lies. Like clockwork the fish started to take Clousers, and later a spinners plug, swung into the bass' ambush waiting zones. In the mix was a nice fluke that taped out just shy of the 17-1/2 dinner plate needed length. I finished up on the rocks where I caught a nice 22" inch schoolie that I watched hit a chartreuse and white Clouser on the top of a wave.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

07.26.13 Nasty weather is turning the fish on....

     After a great morning with Chris this afternoon I fished with Richie. With good reports of micro to schoolie to just keeper sized bass moving in along the Jersey Shore shore we tried a different spot for the end of the outgoing. At first the N wind seemed to have laid down a bit but by the time we ended it was blowing hard again. Big surf even into dead low tide with big green water breaking over the bow, well, stripping basket.

     Richie had himself perched on the perfect sand mound and had a steady pick of striped bass including the above beauty that put up a great fight in the big water and current. Along with the handful of bass there was a few misses and short strikes and a healthy 16- 3/4 inch fluke to round out a nice  day.

07.25.13 What a difference a day makes....

     I met Chris at the Ramsey Outdoor Cabin Fever Day in the spring and this week he was down on vacation and gave me a call to fish. After looking at the forecast calling for a swing in the wind and a NE blow I let Chris know that I was thinking of getting out early, real early. With low tide at 350 am and a big surf coming we had a line wet by 4 am. On the beach it was around 65 degrees with a steady NE wind blowing 10-15 which went to 15-20.

     We started casting in the dark after finding a place on the beach with some water and current. Within a few casts we dropped a fish and landed a small fluke which came off as I reached for it. Chris continued to "blind cast" and hooked and landed his first striped bass on the fly. We went back at them and slowly got chased back to the beach as the tide and swells rolled in.
     We moved up to the rocks and worked the south side without a surprising bite. The water looked great and there was all the white water you wanted. In fact, there was water everywhere. We had it raining down on us while on the rocks and crashing onto our chests while we waded the beach. By the end of the morning we were both saturated.

     We worked the beach between the groins and as light came up we were joined by another fly fisher and a spin angler who caught schoolies in the wash. Through the session Chris had a few flashes behind the fly and just before we ended and after 5,000 casts he came tight but we were caught off guard and the fish spit the Clouser before he could set the hook.
     It was a great morning in fall-like conditions and not an easy go even for someone used to fishing these types of conditions. This was a great primer for Chris for the upcoming fall season as big water, waves every 1-3 seconds, and stiff winds come with baitfish and striped bass in the wash.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

07.24.13 Nice first light fly rod schoolie bass...

     I met Tom earlier this year when I did a presentation at the Coastal Fly Rodders in Bergen County. As I wrapped up he came over to me and said he would call me sometime to fish. It is something I, or anyone who presents, hear time and time again, and it's always nice when it happens.
     Tom and I met just after 430 am and quickly set up and took a nice long walk to what I hoped would be a good spot. Just as we arrived Tom realized that I had forgot the stripping basket. So we got to take another long walk and back again. We were two hours into the flood tide and the water was big. Instead of starting with a popper we went to work with a Clouser and Tom did a great job battling the waves crashing into his basket and chest. He stayed with it and after a dozen or so casts he went tight with a nice bass. It's always nice to hear early in a trip, " Okay, I can go home now."

     We stayed on the beach for a while longer talking tides and beach structure and conditions along the shore pre and post Sandy. As the water moved up and in we decided to give the rocks a go.

     Tom had recently bought a pair of Korkers with the interchangeable soles and had spikes on the bottoms that could stop a train. The W wind worked great for the southpaw and we were able to cover the south sides of the groins with ease as long as we timed the waves that broke at our feet. We went one for two on the bass from rocks watching a larger fish come unbuttoned on the crest of a wave.
     As the sun came up other anglers came out as did the surfers in force. We had caught the best time of the tide and day to fish and enjoyed a beautiful and cool July morning. I am sure Tom and I will fish again in the future and may get out in the boat for a trip in the fall. Like Tom said as we parted ways a little after 8 am, "Not a bad way to start the day."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

07.21- 07.23.13 Three day tour of New York ends on the Upper Delaware....

     After my salt trip with Dan on Sunday I packed up and headed up to the North Country. I met my friend and fellow guide Charlie Limpert in Poughkeepsie and we drove up to Ausable Forks to start to empty the houses which are now under contract. Sunday night was a bust and after a quick meal at Mad River Pizza we were down for the night.

     On Monday morning we woke to find the above lone angler fishing below the house which made me smile. I had enjoyed many mornings fishing that same stretch or watching from the deck with coffee in hand. Now, someone else will get that chance. One sight bummed me out which was a lone rocker sitting in the once living room. We had enjoyed many fun nights there and that chair was one I refinished and rocked some of my kids to sleep in. After I walked to the lawyers office to sign the contracts we packed the truck to the gills and left for Roscoe. 

     After a 25 hour, or so it seemed, drive down to Poughkeepsie (where Charlie would pick up his truck and follow me to Roscoe to unpack) we pulled into Hancock and checked into The Capra Motel. It had been a long day and before we hit the rack we dined on the best sandwiches in town, made by Sam and Sonya at the Getty station. Ask anyone up there where to get a good sandwich and they'll point you in their direction. 
     Originally Charlie and I were going to work today but that fell through so we decided since we were up there we would float. We picked a float based on water flows and temps and arranged for the shuttle. We had some good rain yesterday afternoon and into the night and the rivers had risen a bit. 

     The early part of the float was in gin clear water with an occasional bug coming off and a one a done rise here and there. After we passed a tributary which always makes the river off color following a good rain the water became heavily stained on that half, and then both sides of the river. 
     Since I had packed light and just grabbed my gear bag without looking inside I had what I had to use. I had one 5wt reel with a sink tip line. Since the water was off color and up I decided to throw a white streamer. We dropped anchor and soon I had a couple of swipes before an absolute beauty of a brown took the fly as I retrieved it off the bank. What was great was I was able to see the whole thing. Strip, strip, pause, strip, strip, pause....and on the pause....BANG! Thankfully the fish didn't run much and came to net easily in the 53 degree water. After a few quick pics it swam away with a lot of spunk. 

     It was a pretty fish that we figured went 24 inches, give or take an inch. Shortly thereafter the sun peaked through and it was high bright sun and clearer waters as we got further away from the trib. We caught a handful of small trout that were 5-9 inches which are always great to see in the river. Before we rowed out we set up on a couple of real nice fish that we watched, waited on, and worked for about an hour. In the end we could only tip our hat to them as they wouldn't take our offerings, that at times had a wake since they were set up in the outside seam of mixed current water. 

It was a busy three days but I am lucky I had a friend to help me and really lucky to have been able to catch such a great fish on a great river.