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September Striper Fishing and a North Wind

Fishing 20090028

Our fall striped bass fishing in Maine changes day to day, tide to tide. We go from catching lots of fish to working very hard for a few in an instant. This persistent north wind hasn't helped to really turn on the bass but there is some good news from the Kennebec River.

There are fish holding consistently over deep structure where the herring are still plentiful. Some trips we've seen individual fish pop to the surface to chase a 6 to 8 inch herring or a 3 to 4 inch alewife right out of the water. Most of this visible activity has happened early in the morning or in the evening. Still no signs of blitzing fish, but with all the bait that is coming down the river that too could change quickly.

There are still stripers prowling the flats and they are much less fussy than they were back in late July and August. One of my experienced fly anglers this week was very surprised to hear my stories of fishing 13 foot leaders of 8 pound test fluorocarbon and changing flies every fifteen minutes to see what small crab or shrimp pattern the skinny water bass would eat.

Most of these bright days have come with a healthy breeze. The fish that like to cruise just under the surface when the light is low should feel more safe when the overhead visibility is limited...right? So why don't I see them exhibiting this behavior when the leaves are rustling at 5:00 AM? Is it tied to the effects of the weather associated with the north wind? Does their prey change behavior when the water isn't still?

Fishing 20090009

I've been jotting down notes about tips for sight-casting on windy days. I'll add a post devoted to this topic shortly. September is a great month to fish in Maine. The water is warmer than in June but cool enough to remind the fish about the coming migration and winter. We see lots of bright and dry days and can "sleep in" and still get on the water before dawn. The downside is the north and northwest wind that is so common.

Remember the bit about change. Cover the water. Move and move, again and again. If you fished yesterday and it was slow, don't wait to go back out until sometime next week. You could miss the day that keeps you dreaming of spring during the coming winter months.

Capt. Peter Fallon


What It's All About

The forecast for Saturday looked to be fishy, with the first cloudy morning that we've had in a while. My anglers were called to work so I headed out with the hopes of scouting some flats that I haven't explored in a while. The wind was up early, straight out of the north, making the surface of the water very tough to read. After poling around for an hour and only bumping two small groups of fish I ran to find some moving water.

There were a few stripers holding in the current lines right tight to shore and willing to eat on the surface. I then went to check on a number of places that had been so productive earlier in the week. First drift I hooked (and promptly lost) a fish, but that wasn't a repeatable event. A couple more drifts produced nothing.

My good friend Capt. Dan Wolotsky of Sweet Action Charters was alone in his boat, doing the same thing, getting his fix and finding fish for his Sunday clients. We were sharing findings when we decided that we should fish together. I put the Maverick on a mooring and hopped into Dan's boat. We fished six places that all held good numbers of bass recently but only hooked one fish.

We decided to run upriver and check a couple of ledges that had good current flow over them and started at a spot that both of us knew but hadn't fished well for either of us. We spent the next hour there catching fish on almost every drift. So much for our exploring mission. We got caught up in the fun of fishing and had a blast.

After a busy summer for both of us, Dan and I had plenty of stories to share. What I took away from our conversation was the importance of the "fun" element of a fishing charter. Nobody works harder for his clients than Dan. He's really good at putting his guests on fish and he's driven to find success but he always remembers that it's not just about the catching. Good fishing day or tough fishing day, Dan's always committed to making sure that everyone on his boat has a blast, and that's a gift.

Check out Dan's Blog and you'll see what I mean.

Capt. Peter Fallon


Fast Start, Slow Finish...More Saltwater Fly Fishing News From Maine

After a couple straight days of catching lots of fish I had high hopes for yesterday's charter. With two very talented and experienced anglers on the boat I knew that we'd make the most of our opportunities.

We started at 5:30 AM with a chilly run in the dark to the first flat that we'd examine. With just enough light to read the surface of the water and zero wind I shut down the motor and hopped up on the poling platform expecting to see the enticing signs of stripers working the shallow water ebbing off the flat. After explaining the game to Jeff and Curtis and offering some thoughts on strategy and tactics I was beginning to wonder where the fish were. I had seen one swirl in the distance up at the head of a cove and that was it. I was about to offer the suggestion that we move to another flat when we all saw the distinct v-wake of a bass cruising just below the water's surface. I started poling to intercept that fish when she vanished in the three feet of water. Two minutes later we were seeing multiple wakes and quiet swirls of a number of striper bass zig-zaging in the shallowest water, grubbing off the bottom and getting us pumped.

Our first couple of shots weren't ideal - a single fish tracking away from us, then one that kept changing course every time the fly would touch down. Jeff was on the bow with the Sage Z-Axis 8 weight rigged with a 9 weight floating line, a very long leader (~13 feet ending with 12 lb fluorocarbon tippet) and a Hollow Fleye (dark olive saddles with light olive bucktail). He is a saltwater fly fishing guide [Solis On The Salt] based out of San Diego and former owner of The San Diego Fly Shop. He's chased an amazing array of saltwater gamefish around the world. He spends a lot of time guiding anglers in Baja, both inshore from the beach, nearshore out of Pangas and offshore for billfish, tuna and other big game. Getting the picture here...? Jeff could see the fish, calculate where he wanted to cast and put the fly on target (both far out and in close) in a very short period of time. If you're thinking "I want to be able to do that, consistently," all you need to do is spend hundreds and hundreds of days of sightfishing with a fly rod.

It wasn't long before we were presented with a fine opportunity. The fish was cruising slowly right towards our port bow, pausing every fifteen feet to swirl as she looked to pick something off the bottom. Jeff saw the fish instantly, had the presence of mind to hold off on his cast until just before the fish came into range, made two false casts, boomed the fly right out to the last spot were the fish swirled, had the fly turn over perfectly and started long and hard strips right after touchdown. He hadn't stripped more than six feet of line when we saw the bulge of water, another swirl and the line come tight. The whole event was supremely satisfying for all three of us. The bass was a nice 24 inch slot fish, nothing huge, but really rewarding.

We were into active fish for a little while with lots of good opportunities and a few more scenes of success and some perfectly played presentations when the eat came in the pause between strips or the fish just didn't cooperate. Jeff's good friend and angling buddy Curtis was very generous, insisting that Jeff stay up on the bow of the boat. Curtis has spent a lot of time catching a lot of stripers on and around the Kennebec River. He kept a boat at Morse Cove for years and knew the waters well. He was impressed with how shallow we spent much of our time and it was nice to have him experience a different way to fish in areas that he can call homewaters.

The flat we were on got quiet earlier in the tide than usual. We checked some moving water close to the edge of the shallows and had follows, attempts to eat but no hook ups. We moved over to another expansive flat that has held a lot of fish during this period of fairly stable weather. The wind was already up on that more exposed water and after poling around for fifteen minutes we just weren't seeing anything. We zoomed back to our original location, played around with some fish that we could just reach with the Maverick without grounding out and decided it was time for a big change.

After a run that seemed 30 degrees warmer than first thing in the morning we swapped out the 8 weight and floating line for the 9 with a 400 grain line and a big herring pattern. We stowed the rod with the spook and grabbed the very light but ultra sensitive St. Croix Legend Elite with a 1/2 ounce RonZ jig. First drift, bingo, fish eats the RonZ. Let's do that again. Second drift, Curtis does it again with the jig. I'm thinking "here we go, should be like this for the next three hours of the tide." Third drift, nada. Fourth drift, no luck. Fifth drift, time to move.

We picked up one other really chunky striper on the RonZ as we passed over another submerged ledge. Jeff put the fly into every sliver of moving water along the rocky shoreline and sunk a heavy Clouser to the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water (there is skill involved in being able to do that) again and again, all in 15 knots of wind that was never in the right direction. His water haul was impressively consistent. Curtis was putting the jig right where it needed to be. We just weren't being rewarded.

We ran around for a while, fishing spots quickly, looking to locate fish. The wind was ripping and kept us from working the shallow water right at the start of the flood tide. We finally found some shelter in a spot that required an "act of faith run" (all 150 horse running flat out, motor trimmed up as much as possible, following the ribbon of dark water, knowing that we couldn't stop or slow down) over a flat that Curtis knew held very little water. He was impressed. The sun was high and bright as we poled up the edge of a creek that borders a flat and we had one lone fish that Jeff saw before I did. The fish was in close and closing fast. Jeff quickly put the Borski Swimming Shrimp right on target. We watched the fish react and start tracking the fly, and he followed and followed and followed until the fly leader was almost to the tip top and then he just veered and lazily swam away. We were disappointed but the whole event was very cool to watch.

Sarah will testify that I was cranky when I got home. I just expected more from the day and had hoped to keep two great guys into fish throughout the morning. How often do we have a bright and dry day with a strong east wind? An email from another guide who was on the Kennebec yesterday confirmed our findings as he lamented the change in fish cooperation compared to recent days. That helped a bit, but I was still pissed. The act of recalling the details of our early morning fun and writing them here does help to dull the sting. The only real elixir is getting back out there to do it all again.

Capt. Peter Fallon


The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

Right back at it this morning. Gordon and I started at 5:30 and have spent the entire morning catching nice chubby fish. You can see the RonZ jig body has put up with lots of abuse and it keeps getting shorter and shorter but keeps working and working. Just after 11:00 now and we've just about lost the tide. No fish for twenty minutes now. Hmmmmm... Should we call it or should we wait for the current to turn...? Capt. Peter Fallon
The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2
The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

The Tug Is The Drug, Part 1

I just can't get enough. Day off today, lot's of tasks that I've put off too long. After 14 hours on the water on Labor Day I was ready to devote the day to my "to do list": send a spinning rod back to St. Croix for replacement...order another 1500 yard spool of Fireline...tie up more flats muddlers...tear down a Stradic reel that spent ten minutes in the water on Sunday (that's a story for an other post)...swap out a livewell pump...organize tuna tackle...rig two new Sage reels...send photos to anglers from this past week...find a job for the months when the stripers leave New England. I didn't set my alarm this morning, but had no luck sleeping in. Tossing and turning got old so I got up to get to work but I just could resist the draw towards the water.

Okay, I caved. By 6:45 I was admitting defeat. Watching the tide ebb from my kitchen window I couldn't resist the temptation to go catch some more fish. Grabbed my mug of coffee and a leftover muffin, loaded the dog in the truck and splashed the Maverick. First cast...BAM...okay, all that stuff can wait. I'm good with this decision. Next cast...HELLO....who cares what the lawn looks like. Third cast...okay, I didn't catch anything on my third cast, but I was back in the game soon after that.

Here are a couple of observations from the past three outings:

1. Fall is pushing in. The fish are more active in a typical September way. The young of the year alewives are moving down river, the blueback herring are heading back to the ocean and the stripers are taking note.

2. The RonZ jigs are killer. Check out their website and test them out yourself.

3. I've spent a lot of time trying to convince people that spending money on top of the line spinning rods is worth it. If you were with me today you could have experienced the advantages of fishing a fast action spinning rod with braided line. I was on aggressive fish but I also didn't miss hits. If the bass ate the jig or the swimbait, I felt it, in time to set the hook.

4. It can be too easy to think that the fish just aren't going to bite on a particular day. Stick it out, keep searching, change tactics, wait for the next tide, have faith, toss the 5 hour energy drink into the cooler.

5. Being responsible is overrated. Go fishing. I hauled out by 10:30 this morning and planned to spend the rest of the day taking care of business. Guess what...I was back in the water by 5:15 PM, catching fish right off the bat and really glad to be on the water. Before we know it the sun will be setting at 4:21 and we'll be chipping ice in the driveway.

6. Hebie The Dog prefers a reel with an audible drag. As soon as here hears the the zing of the reel he goes from full alert to over stimulated.

Tonight was close to being a replay of this morning. I didn't catch as many bigger fish this evening, but a few over the slot and one 31" bass kept me happy. Plus, I spent a lot of time searching and working to pattern the fish. Instead of staying in one spot to catch striper after striper, I did a lot of running around, searching and exploring.

I have a second day off tomorrow for the first time in a while. I can't wait to go fish. I do have a problem, but I accepted that a long time ago.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Good weather & good fishing

Just waiting to pick up Fritz this morning and head to Morse Cove ramp for another day forecast to be bright and calm. We've tried to take advantage of lots of perfect sightfishing conditions this week. As usual there are some days when the fish make us work to lay down the perfect presentation and other times when they say "that's okay" to a less than stellar cast. Two evenings right around the full moon were decidedly slower. Funny how often that seems to happen. Lots of good stories from another busy week. More later today...