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June 2010

Scattered Fish Thoughts

Let's play good news, bad news. The good news is that there's great fishing all across Maine and New England right now. Name the species and and it's prime time for that gamefish. The bad news is that the days are now getting shorter. Takeaway lesson: Go Fish.

Lightship1 Just back from an amazing wedding on the Nantucket Lightship down on Martha's Vineyard. Who plans a wedding during peak fishing season? Well, I guess I'm guilty of getting married on the opening weekend of deer season. Sorry about that. And Martha's Vineyard isn't a bad place to spend four days in June if you like to fish. We got to Scituate and decided to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic to the Cape by running my father's boat down to Vineyard Haven. Very smart move. Most travel to wedding's involves flight delays, stops at DSW, searching for a gift. We tangled with bluefin tuna on the way down and back.

I have a tuna problem. I kept it in check last season, trying to stay on task and filling dates with as many striper chartes as possible, but I just LOVE the hunt for big fish.

Do you fish Hogy soft plastics? If not, you should. Both eats from the tuna came on Hogy soft plastic baits. We used Hogy hooks as well, and they stood up well. They've been a hot striper lure for us these past couple of seasons.

Calmsea The RonZ jig caught multiple scup, bluefish and fluke on Hedge Fence. That lure does it all.

Be sure you keep spare fuel filters and a filter wrench on board at all times. A gallon milk jug is the perfect container for a spent filter until you get back to the dock or ramp. Leaving Vineyard Haven Harbor the On The Fly came up on plane and then slowed to 1200 rpm's on its own. A quick change of the fuel filter and we ran back through the canal, out to Ptown, back to the Gurnett and up to Scituate without incident.

If you are in Portland, Maine, go to Harbor Fish. Even if you don't plan to buy anything. It is the most impressive fish market that I've visited, save the Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Last night we grilled two pieces of sushi grade yellowfin tuna that were spectacular.

Cambiw No morning trip today. We'll fish the dropping tide this afternoon and then look for stripers pushing up onto the flats with the rising water as the sun gets low. Hope the thunderstorms pass through early or hold off for us. Very busy stretch coming up. Time to re-rig some leaders and get to the grocery store.

Cam Arnett. Seven years old. Learned how to cast a spinning rod yesterday. He loved checking out the shipyard at Bath Iron Works and driving the Wasabi back to the launch ramp. First time he felt a striper hit his lure he said "It felt funny in my heart". How insightful is that observation? I loved it. "It felt funny in my heart."

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing Advice: Go Fish

Cody with full fish

Maine striper fishing must interest you if you are reading this post. Here's the most important bit of knowledge that I can share with you: Go Fish. It's June, the stripers are hungry and there is a ton of bait in our waters. You may find bass busting herring on the surface, you may stalk stripers in the skinny water as they sip shrimp, you may just enjoy a couple of hours in the boat or wading the beach, but it is worth the effort to make the time to fish. It won't get easier than this month, and you can learn a lot when the fish are active. Just think back to January if you need some extra incentive to get out on the water.

It's been a very good week of fishing on the  Kennebec River with surprisingly little boat traffic. Each day has produced different opportunities but always consisted of a really nice mix of shallow water sightcasting and strong moving water angling. Remember that the stripers have the greatest advantage over large bait (herring) when and where the current is strong. When the water slows a bit, the bass are more likely to shift their attention to smaller, less elusive forage.

 EarlyChris fighting fish in fog morning is early this time of year and it is easy to start the trip at 4 AM and still feel like I'm a little late getting going. I can haul the boat at 9 PM and still see color in the evening sky. Low light conditions aren't the only time to chase stripers (we caught the bulk of the fish we landed today between 8:00 and 11:00 when the ebb was at its peak) but if you love chasing fish up on the flats, plan to sleep some other month.

As is typical for June, we've experienced all kinds of weather this week: foggy and slightly muggy, bright and crisp, rainy and cool. All have been worth fishing. Let the weather help guide you to where the fish want to be and what they'll be doing during the course of the day/tides.

I'm off to Martha's Vineyard for the next four days. It will be odd to be off the River, but at least I'll be on the water. Get out there and have fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

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Maine Striper Fishing: Ups and Downs

Cranes and rods_2 Striper fishing keeps you wondering and makes you think. After a stellar Thursday afternoon/ evening on the Kennebec River, Friday morning was disappointing for us. The fish that we found, which wasn't many, just had to be coaxed to eat. No reckless abandon. No surface feeds. No repeat of the show from the day before. The scenery was stunning, with early morning fog giving way to a spectacularly blue sky and an absolutely calm water surface. A great day for a boat ride.

We managed to track down a few stripers in various types of water during the course of the morning. Chuck's spent a lot of time on a lot of waters but it had been a while since he'd been cruising around the Kennebec. Tony shot 486 photos. Chuck had to answer his phone 37 times. Tony was lamenting his commitment to running T-ball practice in the early afternoon. We laughed, ran around, poled some flats, explored some salt marshes and had a lot of fun, even if I was cursing the crisp, dry, great to be alive day.

Back in gear this afternoon, the falling tide was kind to us. Made the first drift at 3:00 PM. Not as many fish showing on the surface compared to Thursday afternoon, but plenty of stripers just horned up about all the herring in the river. It seemed like any structure with strong flowing water held fish.

Mr greenlaw_2_2 I was surprised by the limited boat traffic. I noticed two boats alter course as they ran up river, drawn to a cove with gulls circling overhead. Each boat slowed to an idle, as the occupants scanned the surface of the water. For those few moments, no herring tried to flee the water in panic, no swirls gave away the stripers holding in the strong rips. Off the angler's went, maybe in search of "more productive water", maybe late for a cookout. Drifting down current, we were taking a break, wiping fish slime off our hands, re-rigging leaders and getting ready to make another pass. Gulls circling high means bait holding deep. There were also about a dozen birds sitting on the tide exposed ledge, just waiting for the next flurry. The action in this particular cove continued for an hour and we left feeding fish to check other locations. Those birds were dead giveaways. They were expending the energy to fly overhead for a reason.

Second to last stop of the evening had less current than the other places we'd fished. That, coupled with the shallower water and more surfacing fish, made for perfect popper conditions. It was time to get out a rod with a floating line and have some fun. Enough of that deep water work.

End of the trip In a perfect finish to the outing, there were striped bass prowling a flat in one to three feet of ultra calm water just as the tide was starting to rise and the sun was about to set. An olive hackled hollow flye seemed appropriate...and worked just fine. Really nice way to end the day. Catching stripers any way, any where is great. Shallow water sightcasting with a fly rod for cooperative fish just rocks.

Should be a good day tomorrow. Weather forecast is favorable, although thunderstorms may chase us off the water in the afternoon. If you want to get out in some stunning settings and chase these marvelous gamefish, send us an email or give us a call.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Good to Wicked Good

Striper fishing in this slice of Maine went from good yesterday to wicked good today. Despite the East wind, the fish were assaulting herring all tide long this afternoon.

My good friend Rich called early this morning to see if I wanted to join him on a quick dash down to the Merrimack River. I reluctantly declined, as I had a regular client trying to extricate himself from the office in Boston to come up for an afternoon then morning of fishing. I spent my morning diligently crossing off items on my to do list, but by 1:30 I just couldn't sit at my desk any longer. My angler wouldn't be able to make it up Maine, and I kept thinking about Rich drifting across the flats of the Merrimack. By 2:00 I had the Wasabi in the water.

It didn't take long to find the fish and they were not shy. After bringing four chunky stripers to the boat, I called Gordon to tell him to meet me...now. He was already in his truck leaving North Bath, but I couldn't convince him to ditch his responsibilities (he did waiver).

The wind was pesky enough that handling the boat in the rushing tide got to be a pain and I stowed the 8 weight fly rod and started chucking a Hogy 10" double-wide plastic bait (my wife always chuckles at that description) up against the ledges and into the current lines. Whomp. It was getting eaten every other cast for about fifteen minutes. I'm out of fishing shape. My arm was tired.

The surface action slowed so I caught a few fish by going deep just to confirm that the bass were still there then decided to run around for a while. The thirty circling and diving gulls kind of gave away the next place I should check out. The breeze kindly let up and I drew the 8 weight again. I played around with about ten different fly patterns. They all worked. I couldn't really tell if color made any difference, but maybe white was better than purple? Patterns ranged from hackled hollow flyes, to traditional grocery flies to striper dragons to poppers. All of the bait I saw was herring so that's all I offered.

This went on for a while. I had yet to see another boat on the water. I eventually left breaking fish to check some other locations and all held stripers willing to eat. Every fish I caught was covered in sea lice and fairly bright. We caught fish last night but it wasn't anything like this. Maybe it was the overcast skies, maybe it was just being in the right place at the right time but it sure seems like we just had a big group of striped bass push into the Kennebec.

Action slowed as the tide died. I didn't land a fish much over 30 inches but some of them were just fatties. The water is dirty from the rains of last weekend but it didn't damped the enthusiasm of these bass. The timing of the ebb only gets better over the next couple of days. I know where I'll find Gordon at 4:30 tomorrow morning.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Charters: My Most Important Client

Had my dad Dadwithflyrodout on the Wasabi Friday for a great striper fishing trip. We started slow but finished strong. Here are a few of the highlights from the day:

Polled a couple of flats in the early AM fog. Perfect light, no wind, stunning scenery (why didn't I grab the good camera?) but only a few groups of fish showing themselves. We had a couple of decent shots and one school come in for attack but we never hooked a fish. We just weren't seeing the numbers of fish that I had earlier in the week.

Dadfishwithfly Ran around for a while looking for action, wakes anything and waiting, waiting, waiting for the tide to really get going. My dad accused me of making up fish sightings to keep my client's interest focused. I did my best but couldn't prove him wrong.

Came back to a spot that my father remarked looked so good but had never given up a fish for him. First drift through he was hooting "Whoa, this is a big fish". Before we could cycle through the eddy again he was making sure that I was emailing the photo of him with the fish to my niece and nephew in San Francisco. "They'll check email on their iphones at breakfast before they go off to school". I guess this is now normal for a lot of third and fourth graders.

Dadwithfish Headed to another ledge that is so consistent. Another spot that my father has never fished. Fifth cast of the big herring fly, his line comes tight just as the fly makes its downcurrent swing through the seam. Another nice striped bass get's sent to San Francisco. We only plucked one more fish off this point before continuing our tour.

My father declares that it is time to breakout the spinning rod and see if a fish will eat the Lonely Angler Spook. Eat? They crush it. They're just pissed about that thing dancing over their heads. He catches a couple more bass and then has a bigger fish inhale the surface plug. This is a photo-email worthy fish, even if my niece and nephew are in class. Just as we get the fish to the side of the boat a big gray shape zooms up from the darker water and grabs a hold of the striper. Done in by a seal.

Spook My father's work is done. Mission accomplished. His arms are tired and he's ready for a sandwich. He run's the boat up the Kennebec back to the ramp. There's just enough chop on the water in a couple of stretches for me to show him that in the Maverick, faster is often smoother. I get him comfortable zipping across the top of the waves at 40 mph while I down my sandwich.

Home in time for a nap and some chores before my mother arrives back from Portland and the Brunswick farmer's market toting bread from Standard Baking, pie from Two Cats Bakery, lobster's from Gilmore's, salad from a local grower and a variety of pre-dinner snacks from who knows where else. My father has made his customary stop at the NH liquor store, so we have plenty of wine.

Once it's martini time, I have my dad grab his glass and join me on the lawn for Lobsters some fly casting practice. I'd noticed that he was often using only a single haul on his backcast, so we want to program the haul on the forward cast to automatic. Maybe its the joy from the day, maybe its the couple sips of gin...he gets it right away and is double hauling every time without thinking about it.

Sarah and my mother get to hear fish stories (again) from our day over dinner. Perfect.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

 

Fly Fishing for Stripers: "What are you using?"

3flies Fly fishermen tend to get very focused on what fly to use. I'm guilty. Come on admit it. You do too. Stripers on the flats, brookies in a beaver pond, browns on a big river, we often ask and hear "what fly are you using?" When we ask, "what worked", we're really asking about the fly that caught fish. The reality is that variables such as presentation, depth, movement, time (of day, of season, tide in saltwater) are usually much more important factors in success than fly selection. But...it's still fun to talk about flies.

Here are three of the four flies that worked for Roger yesterday. [Bottom to top: bubblegum hackled hollow flye, herring grocery fly and black slinky snake fly] The fourth fly was Andy's purple haze Clouser.

We started the day poling a mudflat off a salt marsh with a small creek opening. The tide was dropping but the current in the river really hadn't yet picked up steam. Zero wind and just the right amount of fog made for perfect conditions. The stripers were pushing water and swirling on bait and we could see it all. First fish came soon after we started. A small pod of a couple bass were cruising down the edge of the marsh over some flooded grass. They kindly offered us an ideal presentation as they were tracking straight towards us, set to pass down the left side of the boat. Roger made the cast and two strong strips and then bam! A big swirl then splash and smiles all around.

We playMaine saltwater fly fishinged around up on the mudflat for a while. Landed another nice striper, had some other chances and lined a fish or two. Roger showed up this morning with his rod rigged with a small purple over white with pink glimmer Clouser that his long time fishing companion Andy had tied for use on the Morse River. The section of the river where we started our trip was loaded with herring and we could see and hear them flipping on the surface less than 50 yards from where we were fishing but the bass that were feeding on the flat weren't chasing big bait. The "rise form" was far too subtle, just that telltale swirl of a striper slurping something small. Andy's purple haze Clouser wasn't a fancy shrimp imitation but it worked just fine. Roger and I talked about emailing a couple of photos to Andy who was stuck in his office back in Connecticut, but decided that we wanted all of the good fishing karma that we could get.

Once the current in the river picked up the action on the flats slowed down. We ran around for a while, checking some other edges and rips. Only saw one brief blow up in about a foot of water but by the time we could pole up on the fish they were gone. We made the switch to the bubblegum hackled hollow flye and a 350 grain RIO line and started working along ledges that faced the ebbing current. Wasn't long before we tracked down individual stripers coming up to chase a herring. We picked up a couple more fish working the eddy lines and switched to the herring grocery fly just to see if we could discern a preference. Worked..but no better than the hollow flye.

We ranMaine Saltwater Charters down river to pick up Roger's wife for the last two hours of the charter. Nothing remarkable to report from our prospecting at the mouth of the Kennebec as the tide was filling back onto the flats. We did see Chester Rowe returning from a very successful mackerel outing with two of his longtime clients. Chester kept one eye on the fishfinder screen while cranking in mac after mac but never saw a big arch under the schools of striper bait.

 Our last stop was on another mudflat adjacent to a marsh and creek. Roger was surprised when I clipped off the Clouser and replaced it with the black slinky snake fly. He remarked that he often used a black snake fly when fishing at night but never would have considered using it at noon. I'm a big fan of black, olive and purple in stained to murky water over a mud bottom at anytime of day. The wind was up and the sky still overcast, so we had no visibility down into the water but it wasn't long before we found fish giving themselves away. It wasn't quite sightcasting, but if we could get the fly in the area where a fish had just swirled it resulted in an explosion and then that sweet sound of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. These were also pudgy stripers, dark in color and absent sea lice, just like all of the other fish we had landed.

Roger and I kept talking about how much fun it is to cast to fish that you can see and to catch striped bass in skinny water. We really enjoyed ourselves. Roger was thrilled to kick off his Maine striper season with some success. Hope you get out wherever you are. It's June and all over New England, now is the time to fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com