Friday, March 31, 2023

03.31.23 Stayed home and jumped on a boat...

    Sometimes you can't pass up on an offer. This evening I had just made my way out onto a rock on a dropping tide when I spotted Captain Karl Hoelpler from Bass Chasers Charters on the hunt for striped bass. There was enough water in the tub that I had to watch where I walked. Its brutal down there.

Maybe that's why my Simms waders took such a beating. Not only is it rough on the waders, but your ankles and your core as well. You need to stick to some kind of balance or you'll be listing over until you fall it. 

     I think Karl has pity on me. He sees me up to my nipples in the water struggling to get my fly to where I want. He's the most knowledgeable guide on the river and his catch numbers confirm that. The look above says it all about Karl and fly fishing..... he's a guy who know what is needed to get it done, a lot. I think last year he put his clients on and landed over 850 striped bass. When he made his way over and made the offer I was all in. 

     We moved upriver and hit all the spots. He knows each rock, every seam, and safely maneuvers that boat in the big currents on a dropping tide. Last night when I was out I counted 8 boats, and I can say, at times, they don't look like they know how to handle the big river, and it's not even big. Karl's concern is that this year someone is going to put themselves in harms way, or worse

     While not fish were found, I learned something, they're just not here. I was lucky to have a caught a few starting about a week and half ago. The weather's playing games up and down and now we are ready to get big rain this weekend, I think that can only help. Right now were running 15,250 cfs, still below the average. By Sunday night I predict we will be looking at over 30,000 cfs. 

03.31.23 "God finally gave me that day..."

     Imagine your fishing out front in late March. You don't expect much but this very water was where you wanted to be in the fall 2022. Fish left and right and up and down the beach. It's close to home, easily assessable except for the near cliffs that have been formed from failed beach replenishment. There has been so much sand loss that the stratified layers of shells are now exposed like a paleontological dig. On one of your casts you feel a bump and can feel your fly is riding weird in the water column and when you retrieve it in there's a quarter sized scale stuck on the tip of your hook. 

     That's part of the story I got from Bill Sistad regarding an outing he had last week. He waited several days to share "The best big fish day I've ever had". I have seen Bill at the Atlantic Saltwater Flyrodder meetings but we've never talked. I see him from now and again on social media. And I see whenever there's a one-fly tournament or some other kind of club outing he's always comes in first, and if not a close second. I had to reach out and get his story. Now wait, Bill, it's the last week of March and you're waving a fly rod on the ocean side, really? Bill's an Ocean County guy and that's his local water. I won't mention where he was but it's one of those places, unless you're in the know, where the split highway drives you mad trying to get over to the water. But let's get back.

     This isn't an incredible story of a one and done outing of a lifetime. He caught a beautiful fish on day one plus a few other that were small, you know, 34-38". No photos needed there of course. But he then backed that day up with another, and better banner day. He states he was walking looking for some sign of life. The waters clear and there's enough liquid in the trough that even a passing lady without a fishy eye could pick out big fish swimming by. Well, that's all she wrote. Just to add, no birds, no bait, no one. 

     As Bill talked and I had to focus on taking notes down so I could get the numbers correct. It was something to the effect of "two on the high end of the bracket (slot) and four fish over to 46 inches", with his biggest flirting with the 40 pound mark. Yes Bill, God did give you some day(s). 

     Bill said he caught all his fish on a pattern he calls the "Fishmaker". He modeled it after what I think is a Red Fin chicken scratch lure. Looking at his fly box below and the consistency and the numbers he throws up I'd say he has a winner there.

     And then there will be the internet detectives and haters. "Can't be true". "He was fishing in Maryland". "That doesn't happen". Believe what you may. The game has changed. No longer is March

the go-to time for the clam and bloodworm soakers perched on a chair, sinking deep into the sand I mind you, waiting for early season schoolies to bite. There are fish everywhere and they are active. You can, and will, drive yourself mad trying to chase reports and hot bites. What happened last night over here was last night and these fish are on the move and things change with the moon, tide and wind. If Bill didn't have pictures no one would believe him, and you what, he could care less, he fishes for himself and the fun of the game. 

     Remember unicorns do appear from time to time. Remember in May 2019 when Keith "HipFish" Allonardo was casually walking the beach with his girl and dog and decided to make a few casts? That's a 50 on a small Clouser with nothing showing in the air or water. Doubt the 50? Keith goes about 6'5" and around 300. 

     So congrats to Bill for a hand well played. Why are there big bass down in Ocean County and on the beach? Who knows. The game has changed and we are left trying to figure these striped bass out. Hopefully with the start of April we will have some warmer and more consistent weather. I'm hating getting skunked and cold. I need one of those God-given Sistad days. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

03.29.23 I must have a thing for older men....

      I don't know why old men fascinate me. Especially those that fish, or used to fish, hardcore. There's Al, Delaware Joe, the Martha's Vineyard crew, Bob, Steve and Dick...and well Gerry you're getting close too. Well today I met Art. Art wheels, well he is just hard on the brakes and his feet, as he makes his way down the ramp to the dock where he gets an aisle seat and sends monster seated casts out into the channel. He fishes here just about everyday, and not 

only fishes, but catches. I was impressed and then I saw his departure routine. He stays seated and backs his way up the ramp, which on a dropping tide is a tough angle. He asks for no help but as I saw this I made a move to assist but another younger guy beat me to it. There's something about fishing. And there's something about older fishermen that just won't quite. Powerful. 

     I had a frustrating day at the school today so I jetted out as soon as I could. Made my way down and while driving calculated the tide and wind and spots unknown. I wasn't going to do the same old thing. I found a nice spot and fished it for about an hour and half without a tap. Incoming tide, wind from the 

ESE. Saw a bunch of yakers and boats but didn't see anyone hook up, but they may have on an earlier tide. I'm digging this spot, but like any spot, I (you) didn't invent it or find it. It's already blown up but I won't add to the explosion. On my way out and on my way home I was thinking of getting a bite of something to eat and I found 

a super solid dirty water dog truck nearby. Fantastic. Hit the spot. Fueled up and ready to go. So I jumped across the water and found the next spot. No location name needed. Do your home work. And be a loser trying to find out where spots are. When I 

walked up there was a bunch of guys doing their thing on the dropping tide. Plenty of room for everyone to play nice and the cops there must have been taking a break from patrolling the bay. I 

watched the guy below hook up and land this measured "Right at 28 inches fish" that went on to hook his sneaker for a bit with the tailing treble hook (Why?) while he danced the fish flopped as it tried to catch it's last breath. This one was going in the frying pan so who cares. A few guys left and I saw 

an opening so why not. It was cast and retrieve without a tap but I did see another nicer fish caught. It's just like other place, put your time in and eventually the stars will line up. You could tell there's a regular bunch at this fishing hole which makes it kinda cool that most know each other. Tom, who I met through Joe, snapped and sent me a few images and one of them is below. Sometimes it's nice to just

to be able to cast into fishy water without the whole get-up on. On the way home I stopped and chatted with a few guys sitting in their car shooting the shit while the bells kept watch over soaking clams. This 

was a tributary of the main river and "Oh, yes, the bass come up here". He went on to tell me that, and looks over at his friend, "Remember two years could just walk up and catch 20", adding, "Even with that trout rod you got there". The other guy chuckled. Now mind you, I'm holding my 12 wt with a 10 inch fly. I just had to show him the pic from last year. The demeanor changed...."Dam", he said. It was a great half a day. The skunk continues. Only two days left before the Delaware shuts down.

03.29.23 Been the same story for the last five outings....


     It's been a little frustrating the last few times out. I would say the only thing I've seen the last 4-5 times out is in the picture above. At least last night I had a fish on briefly, which made me stay 45 minutes longer than I wanted to. Been hitting rivers close and far, same results. 

     The weather, wind, water temps, bait or lack of, and catching the right tides really, really comes into play in the spring. And then there's always the question, "Are there any fish here?". And for some places that is a legit question. These spring fish arrive and position themselves in places that offer three things.

     Balmy, bait, and booty. Striped bass have a preferred temperature range. Some say its 55-65. Others use that 50 degree benchmark as go time. But if you are a bass and can find waters say 4-8 degrees warmer on the flats, or in a channel, or up a river, then when you're ready to thaw out from the winter they'll take the ride. And then there's the bait. As they wake up they love to root around lazily for things like worms, crabs, and shrimp. They may even position themselves in a current to pick off mummichogs 

or spearing. There's big baits as well, bunker, shad, and herring. While anglers are catching them on casts, I wonder if it's more of a reaction strike then being on an all out eat. And for the drop and reel shad and spoon anglers fishing longs and lats and the electronics dropping them in front of their faces can get a bite. And then there's booty, or pre-spawn, spawn, or post spawn fish. These early fish are making their way into places before they either follow the bait or the pheromones from the opposite sex. The Hudson River anglers are salivating at the mouth watching all of the reports of the Raritan Bay action now, as theses fish will soon head north. 

     It's right on the cusp of getting good. Yes the boats have been sitting over them but I'm talking for the anglers on foot. You know the places, Keyport, Rumson, Carteret, Moonachie, and Bound Brook. Great now go catch a fish. Funny thing is, you hear like, "Keyport's on fire". The other day when I was talking with Mark Sedotti, who's from another state, he mentioned Keyport. So take you're 10 weight and your Beast Fleyes and go down when there when you can. As soon as you pull up you'll be able to witness the bass blowing bunker out of the water, and if you wade you can hand catch. Well, that's not the way it goes. 

     These spots, for the most part, require being dialed in. You may even be a sharpie and be dialed into a few different spots. Now if you're on a 6 hour soak through a tide or split tide, it doesn't matter, you're good, but for the fly angler, or the spin angler also, you really need to work, hard, at the right time, tide and conditions to be doing it. If you took that drive today to say the Keyport area you'd find cold air, brisk wind, flat water, a few guys freezing their arses off, maybe a dead bunker, and no signs of life except for the boats out a mile and birds picking and fighting over a half dead bunker. You, would then be doing it. You'd catch no fish and it might be a one and done trip. But if you come back on the smae tide at night, each day, for say a week, and then get lucky and catch, then you'd be dialed in, kinda.

     Tomorrow, with a NW wind and dropping air temps I'll be "dropping" in to a spot I'm dialed into hoping that I get lucky, because I've never stepped into the water there. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

03.28.23 Spill raises concerns on the Delaware....

     While I was away a large chemical spill occurred in Bristol PA. Sitting on a tributary of the Delaware River Otter Creek was contaminated with over 8,000 gallons of an acrylic polymer solution. The source of the spill was from the chemical plant Trinseco. This created widespread fear in Philadelphia and surrounding areas because the Delaware is the source of drinking water for over 14 million people living in the four states that line the river, Pa, NJ, Del., and Md. 

     While officials have stated the drinking water is safe the spill created panic causing just about every retailer in the city of brotherly love to sell out of bottled water in hours. This isn't good for humans as this spill is being compared to the one that occurred in Ohio. 

     Now about the environment. 8,000+ plus gallons of the stuff that is used to make the striper tank spilled into a tributary that spilled into the Delaware, 8 thousand gallons is a drop in the Delaware bucket. I am sure Mill Creek and then Otter Creek has been affected, as has anything that swims in it's waters. The tribs come in on the west side of the river, river right if you will, so the flow keeps it pinned along the PA side, although on a tide that water could spread out into the main channel. 

     Will affect the striped bass? Those migratory fish are still moving. I would suspect they are still, in the bigger biomass, below Philadelphia, which is 25 miles south of Bristol where the spill occurred. I don't think we would see this years spawn hampered by this event. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

03.27.23 We gotta do better than this....

    I don't know everything but I do know this isn't how you hold an over 38" pre-spawn female striped bass that you plan on releasing. Yes, there a boatload, no pun intended, of striped bass in the Raritan Bay right now, and not all of them are between 28-38", those are hitting the deck and then the cooler, at least the ones caught on the first drop, like the ones below. It's funny this fishing thing. There's the meat

eaters that look, legally so, at the striped bass as table fare. Drop, cast, soak, however, the goal is to catch and kill and eat it. Then there's the other side, those who would catch that above larger fish, hold it with reverence, and then ensure they've done everything they can to reduce it's chance of mortality, and watch as it swims away. 

     At the end of each of these coming days imagine if all of the harvested fish, from the New York and New Jersey boats and surfcasters were put into one central pile....guys it's not sustainable. Something has to change. We are short sighted. One day the moratorium will return. 


Sunday, March 26, 2023

03.26.23 Nice weekend out in Long Island....

    I've wanted to hit the Long Island Fly Fishing Expo for a few years. This year we made the trip out and not only hit the show but stayed at Theresa's friend house which was nice. The girls did their thing, thankfully, and me and think-he's-gonna-like-it soon-to-be fly fisherman Neil. The show was held at the Radison in Hauppauge Long Island. Not a place you'd pick for a romantic weekend get-a-way, but more the hide your boyfriend or girlfriend kinda place or a place you need to crash after a bender of a night.  

    When I got their the show was underway and the early presentations were underway. I popped in to see John McMurray talking about the state of striped bass and Bob Lindquist tying up some Catskill Upper Delaware flies. I saw Anita Coulton had a Upper Delaware talk later in the day but I was heading out and didn't catch her. There was a big draw in speaker unknown talking about Long Island striper fishing. 

     The show room was nice, fit all the booth owners and attendees, but it was tight, and I can see this show growing in the future. There was a mix of fresh and saltwater tyers, a lot of vendors selling specific things, but no large fly tying shops or big name vendors there, and that may be good. Rise fishing, Steve Bechard's company, is a locally Long Island fly rod company, was there and always had people at his booth. During one of my walk arounds I found a tyer that was using Peak Vices, and 

I'm a Peak guy now, and he had the Jurassic Series LIRS vice. He uses it for tying bucktails, spin fishing bucktails, and I can see how this vice is needed as they are tying on 8/0 and + up. The thing is a tank and the base must weigh 10 pounds. Of course I stopped by my boy Brad Buzzi, aka Buzfly, and 

picked up some bucktail, some hackles, hooks, popper heads and eyes. If you're in the need of bucktail, Brad is THE source, all of the arrived or up and coming hot-shot tyers get their tails from him, and that goes from USA and international tyers. He's also the guy I send new fly fishers to because he ties all you need to get going, and reps for most of the fly tying materials manufacturers. Then I stopped by and 

found Michael Perechinsky. His booth looks like it belonged at some Tiki bar down in the Bahamas but he hails from Scranton and supplies flies to the big outfitters and guides down in the south and tropics. If you're looking for those small sight fishing flies like crabs, shrimp, Crazy Charlies and Gotchas then 

     So you may say to yourself, 'I'll just tie my own". Okay, good luck with that. If I'm going for a DIY bonefish, permit, tarpon or snook trip I'd just as well call Mike up and tell him to give your the Grand Slam assortment, he doesn't call it that, I did. It'll be money worth spent. And then, there's the striped bass sight fishing, these I am sure will serve you well. Very cool niche tyer. 

     Then I went outside and met casting extraordinaire Mark Sedotti. You know that guy, big flies, like the Sedotti Slammer and big casts, like 100 + foot without effort. Well, this day was a little chilly, stiff wind, and he bought what looked like his first 5 weight rod. He pulled off just about all the line, made some backcasts, and it was all leader, fly line and backing making it's way to the road. Effortless. If you tie flies, and want to learn about proper balance between fly rod, fly line, and flies, weighing and keeling them, to maximize distance, then check out Sedotti's presentations. Afterwards I made my way over to introduce myself and say hello. Gentle, soft spoken, engaged, real approachable guy. 

     There were some clubs there and I bumped into Michael Gallart who has fished with me in the past on the Upper Delaware. He's the president of the Salty Fly Rodder's of New York. One thing that caught 

was the info on their Salty Flyrodders of New York Conclave LIV. Basically it's a weekend in late October that includes food, talks, room and fishing for $550 per angler for a double occupancy. It's held in Greenpoint , NY on the North Shore. Know that Montauk is on the South Shore. There's talks and demos and casting and prizes, lots of them. Check it out, HERE. Remember, there's that October lull in the action in New Jersey in October so it might be a good go to. 

     I hit the one booth that was fund raising and it looked like members had donated lots of stuff to pick through. I went past it a few times but got sucked in on the way out. This is like 130ish, so the good picking was done I thought. What I pulled out of that booth was an impressive haul. I got a Rodmount SUV/truck fly rod mounting system....for $10. Then they had several bags of marabou. All sealed. I wasn't sure what to think. So I took a shot. When I got home I opened it up and they are gorgeous. A fly wallet finished that off...until I saw the books. Now truth be told, who reads books anymore. I have more than I can count. All of my Upper Delaware/Catskill books will soon be up for sale. But striped bass fishing and tying books I'm still reading and collecting. So when I saw a few of Jack Gartside's books I took interest. 'A dollar a piece", the older gentlemen said, "Everything has to go". I looked 

inside and it was signed, Jack Gartside, #1. Very, very cool. 

       So as we headed out I saw a familiar face. A fine older gentlemen sitting alone eating his lunch in front of his photographs. It was none other than Jim Levison. Ex NYC cop, Montauk guide, photographer. Now I look over to Neil and say "Oh I have to say hello to that guy". So I go over like were buds and say "Hey Jimmy", and he looks at me, like, um, "Who are you". But then I introduced myself and we were on track. Jim had taken super blitz fishing pics below the lighthouse in Montauk and they are well known and have been in a lot of publications. As we talked he stated he's closing in on retirement, again, and will be concentrating on landscape photography. For years, everytime I would see him, with these same old photos, I would jokingly say, "Not these again Jim, can't you take a new photograph". But these are timeless. Beautiful, and the framing is so complimentary. The one in the upper left hand corner is called "Five Horsemen". I have always loved that image. You can see Jim's work and order prints, HERE. They come in a variety of sizes with frames or not.

     As time and people move on we are left to create new impressions, or rely on our memories to keep the fire about this thing of ours burning. I can say that that image would be one of the embers that fueled my continued fascination about striped bass. So, I think I'm going to pull the trigger on that. It's that good and I want it, so Theresa if you're reading, and Jim if you are also, a payment plan needs to be established. 

       And that's my take on the expo. I think it's going to grow. I think it needs to grow as far as as fly tying vendors, and picky vendors, is concerned. Folks have been less than enthused about what The (big) Fly Fishing Show has become, and this one could be just want the average angler's out there need and want. Local, smallish, affordable, and the kind of show where you can go home with something. I'll be back nex t year as long as our room is available at Theresa's friends house just 10 minutes away.