Check out the new 'Salmo Saxtilis' fly rods designed by Ken Abrames in the stripermoon store.
Salt-water fishing is a movable feast. Hemingway said that and he is right. The feast moves. It is happening somewhere and tide is one of the signs we look at to determine where and when.
Nature is not random. There is always an order underlying each event that we witness. Often we stop and see a tiny fragment of it unfolding and draw conclusions that may or may not be insightful to the whole drama. Like watching 30 seconds of a documentary and concluding that you know what it was about. We hit the remote, change the channel and go off to explore what else there may be to see. We are often looking for the sizzle and may believe that big sizzle signifies meat. It does, but sometimes the sizzle is hidden.
One of the big differences between fresh and salt water fly fishing is tide. Tide is an order that is absent in ponds and streams. A tide is the unfolding of an order that is existent to be witnessed but cannot be known in full through 30-second bites. A tide is an event that happens at a particular time and place.
Salt-water fishing is a movable feast. Hemingway said that and he is right. The feast moves. It is happening somewhere and tide is one of the signs we look at to determine where and when. A particular time and a particular place is 'where and when', in fishing terms. Where is that place? - Where the bait is. When is the right time to be there? - When the fish are there feeding. The first determiner is bait. That is place. No bait, no feeding fish. The second is fish feeding on that bait. That is time and in the ocean the clock is tide.
There is a little salt pond that I fish that holds feeding fish on certain tides in the spring of the year. It has an outlet and when the bait is present and the tide is falling fish come there and feed. Nothing surprising about that but in the daytime very seldom are there significant numbers of fish there to be caught. Daytime tide and nighttime tide are different events. They are both tides but the fish do not respond to them the same in how and when they feed. The answer to why they act differently in the daytime and at night is very complex and perhaps unknowable in its fullness. I do not know those answers. I do know that if there are large numbers of baitfish or shrimp or any other type of forage visible there in the daytime my chances of catching spring stripers there that night are very good if I can fish at the time when the tide is dropping.
So what do I do in the daytime? I don't fish the outflow because the fish don't hold there in the daytime. I wade out to where there is a change in depth and often I find the school of bass holding in deeper water where there is some remnant of the current that spills out of the pond. On the flood tide in the daytime I'll fish in the pond itself or wander the flats that abut the opening to the pond. I have found them ranging these flats meandering along picking up crustaceans and sometimes blowing up on small schools of baitfish. When the evening comes and the tide begins to flow out the bass move in and they feed heavily holding in the current from the outflow and are quite vulnerable to the fly fisherman. This scenario is the norm when fishing small openings and cuts that have tidal flow and bait in spring.
At different times of the year different types of baitfish come to these tiny places and when they do the stripers come to feed on them then. In the summer, small menhaden come into these small ponds and often there will be millions of them packed in tight. This changes the way the bass feed somewhat but not entirely. Daytime fishing can be wonderful on any tide because of the vast quantity of baitfish. The menhaden will enter and leave the opening to the small ponds continuously. There will be schools of them wandering on the flats and out into deeper water and both bluefish and bass will feed on them at will. When the tide is falling both in the daytime and at night the menhaden that are closest in will swim into the current and the bass will feed on them in a more precise way. They will hold in the current close to the bottom under the schools of baitfish and rise up to take them at will. When they are doing this it is possible to pick out a fish that is holding and rising in one place and fish to that fish alone. You can pick out the big ones. Again it is baitfish first that determines where the stripers will be feeding. When there is a vast amount of active baitfish like menhaden in these protected areas then the daytime fishing can be spectacular for everyone. At night you often will have this fishing all to yourself.
Small salt ponds like the one I am talking about are easy to find and fish. Very few people bother to fish them preferring to go to more high profile places that receive lots of attention. This is a loss for those folks because of the intimacy of the fishing. The fishing is very good when you pay attention to the baitfish migrations and the tides that the fish prefer to feed on. It is a closed system in a way and because of this you can learn because you can see what is happening minute by minute there. When you have a few of these places to fish and have had success fishing them you can check on them and see what is happening in the larger scheme of things. In other words you can leave fish that you know are actively feeding and will be for several hours and go exploring to find other fish that are also feeding at the same time. The best fishermen I know all do this because it increases their knowledge quickly. You go to one place, find a particular kind of bait, find feeding fish and know that when these fish are active on this bait then there is a good chance that another spot that is similar may have the same bait and also be active. This is often true and eventually you find connections to more and more new places. Things begin to click in your awareness and you will find yourself thinking differently about how to find fish in widely different environments.
The connecting links will build between events and tides and types of baitfish present and places that you would never think have any connection. You use what you already know as true to explore with. When the silversides are in Mackerel cove in July they are in the pocket at Watch Hill and are at Stinky Beach and Third Beach and on and on. When the silversides are in these places the menhaden are in these other places and the sand eels are in those other places and the crab hatch will be starting within a few days at the mouths of the rivers that flow into the open ocean. This kind of striper fishing knowledge is only learned by finding the connecting links and seeing the larger continuity of nature in terms of the entire year. Start in the little outflows this summer and begin your year there next spring.
Narragansett Bay and the Oceanfront of RI is a very complex environment. There are salt rivers and estuaries, coves and lagoons, rocky shorelines and sand beaches and they are very close together. It is possible in some places to fish the surf on the flood with the wind in your face turn around, walk a hundred feet and fish a clam worm hatch on the ebb in a saltpond with the wind at your back. Because of the closeness of all these varying environments, it is easy to compare them to each other in real time. It's a great place to find connecting links.© 2001