This hot and humid weather pattern has finally brought us fishing that seems typical for mid-summer. I'm a big fan a cool, dry, crisp days when its bird season but not when I'm chasing stripers ( or just about any other fish). I'll take the mid-day heat and afternoon thunderstorms to get the calm mornings on the flats with happy fish making telltale wakes across the surface of the glassy water. Fishing has been challenging after the morning flurry, which can be anywhere from 7 to 9 AM. The bright light has offered some good sightcasting opportunities when the wind has laid low but this is very demanding fishing. LONG and LIGHT leaders coupled with good fish vision and accurate casts are a must and still don't guarantee an eat. For the guides I know fishing live bait, some tides have produced consistent action right through the middle of the day. So by "typical summer pattern" I mean fish on the flats in very little water and fish on deep structure in good current that are suckers for a live herring drifted overhead.
There is still day to day variability in action when each day seems a carbon copy of the day before. Last Wednesday and Thursday offer an example.
On Wednesday morning we found fairly aggressive fish on the flats from first light to about 8 AM. Put your offering reasonably close to the fish and most times they would at least look at it. Many times the same fish would swirl and swipe and eat again and again until the hook was firmly lodged in its jaw. Accurate casts were well rewarded. Although the tides were almost anemic, ebbing current produced fairly consistent action through out the morning, becoming more sporadic by 11:30 or so.
Thursday morning was similar in environmental conditions - same southwest flow, similar cloud cover, rising barometer, weak tide - but different in terms of fish response. We found far fewer fish showing themselves between 5 and 7 AM. The few eats that we had on the flats came blind casting to flooded grassbeds. We covered a fair amount of water to finally find a small group of fish that were not on weight watchers. Those bass were, thankfully, very aggressive. In other places with decent water flow we got no hint of fish or a "one and done" response with a single striper making a single attempt to eat. We fished the same time period, from 5 AM to 1 PM, some of the same areas and used mostly similar techniques with noticeably different results.
Now maybe we should have altered our approach even more significantly but my conversations with four other guides confirmed our findings for that day. I spoke with two charter captains who were fishing live bait, one focused on drifting the edges of the flats and shallow water structure and the other who directed his efforts around the deeper ledges and stronger currents. I spoke with a guide who worked soft plastics in shallower water and jigs in deeper water in the Kennebec and I spoke with a fourth guide who took the same approach but covered water out past the mouth of the river, along the beaches and ledges and islands. All said the same thing: much tougher day than the day before. Hmmmmmm...?
I don't know the answer to that question and it drives me nuts. I want to know why things happen and I have complete faith that they happen for a reason. The fishing on Friday was decent from 5 to 7 AM but then seemed to shut right off for the rest of the morning (again confirmed by others working in the same general area) but I have an explanation for that result that fits my pattern of experience: the weather changed to a glad-to-be-alive glorious day of cool, dry, north wind, bright sky. I don't have an explanation for the difference between Wednesday and Thursday. Was there just more bait moving down river on Wednesday? Was it the pending shift in the weather? Was the dropping tide that much weaker? The list of possible explanations goes on.
I draw three lessons from this experience (which has repeated itself time and time again):
- I try to recognize a change in pattern and not spend all day fishing yesterday's bite.
- I go fishing. A slow day does not always portend another slow day to follow. We're all looking for trends on the water. Sometimes a trend lasts for days, sometimes it seems to change after only an hour.
- I have a lot to learn.
Capt. Peter Fallon