Fly fishing has consumed you and you understand it for all the right reasons, but there's been something niggling you since your so-called friends introduced you to salt water. It's the one aspect of fly fishing that's been slow burning all this time and is as inevitable as the need to go fishing at all: that we know, in all likelihood, that we won't ever catch a really big fish, or even one of over 40" if we like to fish for striped bass.
I like to fish for stripers. Since I got the boat I've had my gaze averted by the ocean. May I compare thee to a trout stream? Aside from its other-worldly allure - those gentle waves removing sand beneath your boots in a way that resonates beyond the average - the sea is an attractively risky place. Safety equipment is required, and I've already made a simple Death Prevention Rule to never paddle in open ocean alone. Saturday the swell was big enough to make me think of Dramamine as I chased the dark blotches of bunker-colored ocean. And I do so because, just two weeks ago, a fish of 75lb was captured off the Connecticut coast - a truly magnificent animal with white scales the size of nickels, its head as big as mine. And that's a pretty big measure. Until the genetic chicken farmers start growing fish (and Heaven forfend), you're as likely to catch a 20 or 30 or 75lb trout as you are a 20lb bass if you restrict yourself to the fly rod.
Restrict Yourself to The Fly Rod. There is the truth we all know. It's a feather and a hook. We romance that it isn't meant to work, because when it does it's better than most other things we'll do in a lifetime of trying. I love catching 6" brook trout as I love catching schoolies on the fly - perhaps even a brace that run to the mid thirties of inches over a long season, if we're lucky. It's the exact same satisfaction from fishing the right fly to trout on the Upper Housie. But they said I should fish for stripers in the same way they sold me steelhead. The steel are big and fight like confined bluefish, but they are uniform in size, give or take. Stripers grow very big and we cannot catch them on a fly, and many of us accept this truth and keep casting our flies. But isn't it inevitable that a fly-fisher will deviate in the presence of bigger fish to be caught?
Forgive me readers, for it is bitter/sweet that I have been trying to catch a bigger fish. The method is as far from fly fishing as I think possible [if you're easily offended you should stop reading right here.] Like those guys in Scotland who hunt ferox trout with wired dead-baits, hunting is what you do for big stripers. You use what they eat, with no imitation, which means either a live eel (pierce a large hook through its eye, cast out, twitch back) or live-lined menhaden or part thereof.
|Ball of Confusion: Match the hatch and attend Confession, cast a worthless fly, or don't go fishing?|
|A size 22 BWO just wasn't the ticket.|
But in the end, or at least today, I'm enjoying casting the bait rod again, just as I did in the first place. Carrying the long and short rods on the boat makes me feel like a better fly fisherman; my goal, and there is only one to my mind, to innovate to the best of my ken in order to outsmart a fine fish. I've simply been doing what needs to be done to go fishing instead of packing the gear away. I've taken the feather off the hook, and used it to affix a bait made entirely of natural materials. I've completed the illusion of life for the sake of the prize.
Ultimately, I'll be fucked if any of this has made me feel any better, as was my intent. And I still haven't caught a big striped bass.