I skipped Florida last year due to personal reasons and off course the dreaded red-tide situation that killed off everything from fish to dolphins. Took a gamble and went for two weeks in October to Naples where I was lucky enough to avoid any hurricanes. On the red tide front things where different and there where some days where I was confronted with severe fish kills that left the mullet dying by the hundreds in the Gulf. Still most of the other species seemed unaffected so I caught my fair share of the picky beach snook with the usual mix of ladyfish, blue runners, spanish mackerel and some of the bottom feeders. Hightlight was the tarpon, one jumped and one landed. All in all a pretty good holiday be it a tad short.
Most fisherman probably have a certain fish species they want to catch that seems to be out of reach because of various reasons. A species that was on my wish list was the Striped bass. I had red many books about the subject and roamed forums about this fish species for information. Locations like Martha’s Vineyard, Montauk, Rhode Island and Massechussets came to mind.
I did not have a plan to pursue my dream untill I came into contact with Jeremy Cameron of Maine. Jeremy did some IT work for the Everglades Angler flyshop I frequented in Naples Florida. Jeremy ran the Flies-and-Fins website and as a New England local he pointed me in the right way. My first thoughts where to visit Massachussets but with some intervetion from Jeremy it became Rhode Island.
Plans where finalized and off I went on a flight to Boston with a short stopover in Iceland. From Boston South Station I took the Amtrak Northeast Regional to my final destination in Rhode Island. Just about midnight I arrived at a small train station in South county and with the last charge of my mobile phone I ordered the only cab in town.
The late arrival worried me and when I came to a small hotel at the beach confusion set in. The hotel all dark with loads of people outside in the parking lot. In the middle of all this confusion a girl came up to me and told me that crowds where attending her wedding party. At my request she pointed me out to the appartment of the caretakers. Luckily they answered the door and gave me the keys to my room. After all the planes, trains and automobiles I was as drained so I dumped my stuff in my room and fell asleep in no time. The next morning at check in I was asked if I had heard anything of the racket from the other night. The cops had to come out twice to restore the peace but I was out fishing for stripers in dreamland.
It was as hot in Rhode Island as in Florida so not what I had expected. In the first week of my stay I received the grand tour of Rhode Island by Jeremy when we fished various locations from foot and from the boat. The first striped bass came from a set of rockpiles where fish started hitting our flies when the tide began to run. I got a taste of fishing the breachways to the saltwater marshes and the open coast. The open beach was epic as we had the luck to run into a bluefish blitz with the waves, diving birds and the whole lot that makes this fishing so addicting. An eyeopener was the sight fishing for striped bass in the shallows at one of the barrier island, I always thought that was only done in southern climes.
The second week as my unguided week and so I explored the beach and the nearby bay on foot. I spend a lot of time on the beach slowly learning how to find the fish and when to fish for them . It went so far that I was on the beach untill midnight catching stripers in the moonlight. I even ran into one of the Flies-and-Fins forum guys while fishing the bay when we both hooked into large stripers.
For the fishing I used 9-weight rods and fished with an intermediate line to fish through the waves. Besides the obvious clouser minnows I used several flies I sourced from an auction at the Stripers-online Surftalk forum. My most favourite pattern where surely the flatwing patterns I had sourced from the auction, light to cast and still having a full profile. With the risk of lower temperatures occuring any time I had off course waders with me.
My time in Rhode Island was fantastic. I sampled all the environments where one could expect to find stripers with the exception maybe of freshwater. The Mission to catch stripers was accomlished. While travelling home I vowed to visit Rhode Island again in the future.
The first time I was in spring in SW Florida due to circumstances. Four weeks in Collier county in April fishing the beaches and inland lakes. What I noticed where larger crowds than at my usual Fall stays and other fish species available at the beach. Also a different weather pattern and less lush landscapes.
As usual the wind was blowing full force on the beach making flyfishing not an worthwhile option. I tried to fish the rocks but after a while I figured I could better try the breachway and pond. I waded out far into the pond and fished the channel with a pink snakefly. As the wind was also blowing across the pond I switch to a sinking line to make at least a decent length cast into the wind. When I reached the first channel mark I got a hit on the fly and could land my first Striper of the day. At outgoing tide I got bite after bite, from all these takes I could land seven Stripers. At incoming tide the whole action was over, it was sunset already so I called it a day.
On this morning the sky was cloudless and the sun was shining bright. To bad there where no baitfish on the beach or gulls working fish. I crawled through the boulder field and caught a small Striper, at least no skunk today.
The beach was dead so I headed to the saltwater pond where I talked to two local flyfisherman. I wanted to know how they regarded the season and the answer was as expected “slow”.
I explored the pond this time to the full extent en reached the far corner where the mix of sand and broken shells changed into a bottom with clumps of seaweed. I had expected fish in the far corner but it stayed quiet, when I headed back the local flyfishers had already left for greener pastures.
On the way back I fished the channel again with the sinking line and the pink snakefly. Halfway to shore I got a hit from something, it sure was no Striper. That something turned out to be a Needlefish, pretty amazing. Even more curious was the way I had caught that Needlefish since its beak was to small to grab the large hook of the snakefly. The Needlefish had actually chased the snakefly and got entangled in the leader with its many sharp teeth.
Besides the Needlefish no life signs where seen in the pond. When I turned on to the beach I got sandblasted, still strong wind. From fellow anglers I learned that gulls had been working bait for a time but that was well offshore.
Another bright sunny day in Rhode Island. As I put my rod together at the car park near the dunes I heard an ugly sound as I pulled the leader through the rings. El crudo had just broken the rod tip, bummer. That was quite a stupid thing to do so I totaled my beloved T3 before I even fished with it. All that lasted was to go back to the house and get the replacement rod. Back at the beach I fished the boulder field and for a short while I was in contact with a rather fish that threw the hook. The rest of the day remained fishless. When I returned near dusk at the house I saw to my surprise that two cars pulled in the driveway of the house I was staying in. Double booked ? nah that would be impossible. The occupants of the cars got out and they actually knew my name, how odd. It turned out that they where relatives of the people where I had rented the lower part of the house from, they would be my upstairs neighbors for the coming days. That they came at this day had off course to do with the upcoming Columbus day which is off course totally unknown in Europe. Off course I could refrain from stating that Leifr Eiriksson had discovered the new world
Another bright sunny day for the Striper patrol. At the start of the boulder field I actually spotted a few Menhaden in the surf so surely predators had to be close by.
But no, the predators where probably elsewhere. When I changed from beach to pond the wind was so strong that for the first time I saw waves in the pond. The tide was still high but I tried to reach the channel anyway. The high water and waves caused trouble as my stripping basket was filling up all the time.
At the Northern shore of the pond I saw diving gulls and cormorants so there was something going in. I waiting in vain for schools of fish to head into the main channel, skunked again.
That whole Striper thing did not work out as I had hoped for since the main actors decided to stay away. It was time to put plan B into action.
I had not bought a freshwater license for nothing. For plan B I had purchased an Orvis 5-weight rod from my dealer in Maine where it was on sale. From home I had took a small reel and some freshwater streamers with me. The target for today was a large freshwater pond close to the house I was staying at. I packed my gear, took the bike and traversed the highway to get onto the park road. It did not take long before I passed the main gate and paddled along the camping grounds to find a road to the pond.
I followed on of the streets and landed amidst a bunch of RV’s at the shores of the pond. It was Columbus day so the area was packed with Campers and their loud offspring. As so often watched the locals with amazement, my outdoors experience surely did not include sitting outside your large RV watching TV with a big generator running. Well everybody its own I guess. I found a free spot in between two RV’s, got into my waders and soon fished in the clear water of the pond and enjoyed thoroughly the spectacular fall colors of the trees. The bottom of the pond consisted of white sand, it was fall but there where still traces of reeds and water lilies to be seen. The kids from the RV next door where also fishing but not very successful. I had more luck as I soon caught a little Chain pickerel on the streamer. My success was not unnoticed as I heard the kids mumble “that guy has a fish”. A second cast yielded another Chain pickerel, looked like Pike in the USA moved about in the same environment as in Europe. Actually I had expected to catch Sunfish or Bass instead of Chain Pickerel. The next fish species turned out to be a Yellow perch, the US counterpart of our Perch.
The whole racked behind me got to much after a while so I waded out to a spot where some large boulders where lying in the water. The shoreline behind those boulders was RV-free so silence at last. The Ospreys where circling above me, the Canadian geese where floating on the pond and all I could see was water and fall foliage. When I came near the boulders I noticed a large pipe running into the pond. I thought “sewer pipe” but it turned out to be a connection for the fire brigade to pump out water. A cast along that pipe yielded a hefty strike and after a good fight I could land my largest Chain pickerel so far.
At the boulders I lost one larger fish in the reeds. I was surprised by the absence of baitfish, I had expected to see some kind of roach or minnows in the pond but they where not to be seen. Further out in the lake the bottom changed to stone and fish where not to be found anymore. I headed back to the big boulders and fished the likely spots once again to only catch a very small version of a Bass.
This freshwater exercise yielded 15 Yellow perch, 2 Chain pickerel and a small Bass. This was a welcome change to being skunked at the beach and not bad considering I had never fished a pond like this, I would surely be back. On the way back from the park I paddled down hill, a Stop sign marked the entry to the main road that eventually led to the highway. As I rode down the hill and wanted to break for the stop sign I noticed that the breaks where not working. So I shot on to the main road, I was lucky that there was no oncoming traffic. If I could not fix the breaks than maybe it would be wiser to walk down the road next time.
Since the freshwater outing of the day before was so successful I decided to give the beach another try. On the beach I talked to fellow anglers who had caught Stripers early in the morning.
I made my way up to the mouth of the breachway and talked to a couple from New Hampshire who told me that they had spotted lots of bait inside the breachway. They had just caught two Striper from that spot so I headed straight to the breachway. When I arrived at the spot no other anglers where to be seen, only a few people on the other side of the breachway where waiting for outgoing tide. I saw the baitfish and launched the fly into the incoming current, after two casts I was into a Striper. A few casts later I was in to a second fish that came off.
At outgoing tide the baitfish and the Stripers where gone. Out of the woodwork the local anglers appeared and started tossing large plugs at the ocean side of the breachway (with no results). I headed for the pond where I spotted gulls and cormorants working bait in one of the corners. The action was far away but I still tried to wade to the spot. As I was halfway a boater also spotted the action and ran full speed in the same direction. As he approached the action died down immediately, bummer. The boater disappeared pretty soon, I waited to see if the baitfish group would reassembly. After half an hour the racket started anew but this time into the marsh. I followed quite a while but it all went wrong when I came into the entrance of the marsh ponds. Suddenly the bottom under me went away and I sank into the mud. With some difficulty I managed to stay afloat and reach hard soil again, a close call. Well I learned the hard way that you have to take care in the marsh. It was already dark as I walked on the beach to the house. To my surprise I could see hunting fish in the surf as the moon was out. I tried to reach the fish but the swell was just to big to safely get into the water. This was yet another moment when I regretted that I had left the spinning rod at home.
At first I wanted to fish the beach but then I reconsidered and choose to fish the State park instead. It was quiet on the pond as Columbus day had passed, only a few RV’s where left. There was still racket at the shore but this time caused by the Chipmunks chased each other.
In the clear water I could hook the one after the other Yellow perch, all fish where however very small so I opted to fish for Pickerel after a while. The southern corner of the pond boasted a lot of reed which would surely be a good hideout for the Pickerel. The problem turned out to be the bottom, it was soft and towards the end I had another marsh experience = I sank in quite deep.
I moved back to the safer areas and managed to catch a few more Yellow perch and a Pickerel. Since I had to do some shopping I stayed not too long at the pond.
Once again I hit the beach, my fellow American anglers report no fish in sight. The weather forecast predicted that the first fall storm would make it’s way to the shore I was on. There was nothing going on at the Breachway war but the skies darkened and wind and waves grew stronger by the minute.
Fishing the fly was almost impossible, with some trouble I managed to launch the fly between the rocks. Even though the last stretch of beach to the breachway looked very fishy I could not feel any takes or see signs of Stripers or Bluefish. I climbed on one of the big rock ledges and made a few casts but the breaking waves looked dangerous to me so decided that it might be safer to stand on the beach instead.
There where not many anglers about since the storm was coming. I did have a talk with one of the homeowners and asked him what this private beach exactly meant. So the beach was only for use by the home owners at the beach but the tenants had no problem with anglers in the off season.
In summertime the residents would sometimes call in the police to break up the underage drinking party’s at the beach. When the cops would chase the kids the person I spoke to would confiscate the booze, good move As to the subject of Stripers, you did need a good portion of luck to catch them. This season was probably not so good although people still where catching fish on some of the days. When I walked back to the beach the Atlantic once again was in washing machine mode, foam and waves. A few guys where still chugging plugs in the surf but I could not spot anyone hooking up. From my first Striper trip I knew however that even in a big storm Stripers would be feeding so being out there made sense. October 15th.
This was the last day that I would be able to fish. It was pretty stormy during the night and even in the morning a strong wind was blowing. According to the weather forecast the next few days would be stormy. To spend the last day on the beach seemed like a waste of time. The strong westerly wind would also exclude fishing in the pond.
After I had did some last shopping I decided I would give the pond at the State park another go. The pond looked like I would expect it in fall, the Camping folk had all gone – the sky was gray and the wind produced whitecaps on the water.
The wave action had stirred up the water so clarity was diminished, it took some effort to launch the flyline against the wind. Fish where still present because pretty soon I landed my first couple of yellow perch and pickerel. On the previous outings my favorite fly had been a small zonker streamer, on this day it was time to try something completely different. I tied on one of my Enrico Puglisi Streamer an, maybe these big ties where the ticket in the slightly murky waters. I soon found out that the Chain pickerel where pretty interested in the big flies as one after the other aggressively pursued and attacked the fly.
Numerous fish where caught and I also got a first hand indication what kind of baitfish would be present in the pond. One of the larger chain pickerel spat out it’s breakfast in the form of a baitfish. This baitfish was a shad, I was pretty surprised since back home shad are exclusively a marine species with the exception of spawning time.
After a few hours in the chilly full wind I decided I had caught enough fish at the pond. Since I still had to sort out and pack my gear for the trip back home I decided to call it a day.
October 16th. It was time for the trip back home, the train en route to Boston arrived as scheduled. This time I had booked a business Class seat, some luxury was nice on such a long trip. As I traveled to the east I enjoyed for the last time the pretty fall colors of the forest in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. At every crossing of a river or creek I wondered what fish I could have caught there.
The flight from Boston to Iceland was pretty uneventful. At the stopover in Reykjavik I once again made a stop at the concession stand for some snack and once again the lady behind the counter returned change in Icelandic Crones. Currency worthless except for the fact that Icelandic coins boast fish on them making them nice souvenirs. When the plane finally touched down in Amsterdam everything was business as usual.
So that where two weeks down in Rhode Island. The whole striper fishery did not go the way as I had hoped or planned. 22 Stripers was what I counted with no big fish among them. At least I caught some fish and the whole freshwater business made up for lacking results in the salt Without hesitation I would say that I surely will end up in Rhode Island again.
Another visit to SW Florida this year. Three weeks on the beaches of Collier and Lee county delivered quite a few snook along with the usual ladyfish and spanish mackerel. The weather was still quite hot so I guess I was a bit too early for the fall migration. No Tarpons sighted from the beach but quite a few sharks at certain places.
I roamed the beach at Naples FL for three weeks and tossed flies at the tricky beach Snook, sight fishing at its best. Besides the Snook I had some run ins with Spanish mackerel, Snappers and Ladyfish. I was pleasantly surprised that I caught a Pompano on the fly, for me it was like catching a mini Permit. The biggest surprise was to see huge Tarpon in the inlet gobbling up the mullet. I did toss a larger fly at the passing Snook with my eight weight hoping to at least jump one of the Tarpon but it did not happen.