Sometimes you just have to own up and acknowledge that the way you like do things when fishing can’t compete with another technique you generally don’t use.
Such was the case on Tuesday when I ran into Phil Stanton working one of the many rips down the Elizabeth Islands.
Up to that point, I hadn’t done too well by the two experienced flyrodders I had aboard, Jim Anker and Bill Fleming. Yeah, we had found a good number of schoolies in Robinson’s feeding under flocks of terns, but at that point Bill explained that he and Jim would like to try and find something larger.
They had just come off two days of bass to 26 inches on the Monomoy flats and while these are plenty of fun, the truth is, how many of these can you take before you start wondering if there is something else to consider?
In addition, I often wonder how much damage is done to all of those small fish during catch-and-release. Even with my new boat, I am able to lean over the gunwale and remove the hook while the fish is still in the water, giving it the best chance of survival, but the more schoolies you catch, the odds of a bleeding, deeply hooked bass increase.
But back to my original point—which as usual I had yet to get to even this far into my column.
So, both Jim and Bill are experienced with the old switcheroo; they had fished with Captain Jaime Boyle, an early practitioner of throwing a hookless Doc, a big—9 inches big—as a way of teasing big stripers into the range of a flyrodder.
Actually, teasing isn’t the right word, because either the action or the knocking caused by metal balls contained in the hollow plastic body or even a combination of the two simply infuriates bass. We’re talking about big bass in boulder fields, the kind that most flyrodders only get a shot at when fishing the rips or, if they’re lucky, on the flats.
I was pretty much in the dark about what was going on, although I knew about the effectiveness of the Doc. In one case, I saw a picture of a fly angler I recently had aboard holding what looked to be a 30-pound bass he had caught with another captain. To be generous, this individual was not a good caster; in fact, he was pretty darn bad and here he was with a fish caught in what just might be the most difficult scenario a flyrodder can face around these parts: targeting the boulders, reefs, and other sticky stuff that have produced many a big bass as well as some legendary losses of fish that would have surely broken the world record.
Well, we tossed that Doc while either Jim or Bill waited with fly rod and big bunker fly in hand—all the way down to Cuttyhunk, and produced one small bass and one half-hearted follow.
Even Quicks was quiet for us, but as mentioned above, Phil was there snapping wire with one of his multitude of guests he takes out and they were hooked up with a nice fish. He said there were big bass surfing in the curl of the rip and thought they were feeding on bunker, but we put on a couple of white squid flies, which proved prescient when Phil later on showed us the white parachute jig tipped with red pork rind that he was using.
We saw a couple of fish erupt in front of the rip, but otherwise could only watch as Phil’s guest reeled in what he said looked to be a 50-pounder.
In the end, I realized that if they were picking up fish on wire and a heavy jig, there was no way our fly lines, even though they were fast sink versions, could not compete. It got me thinking about the super sink lines that Captain Bob Luce introduced me to, comprised of a shot of LC-13 (a coated lead core from Cortland) fused to ultra-thick running line from a super sink freshwater model. They were perfect for rip fishing, albeit a bear to throw, and I even used them when bass were stacked a couple of miles off Chatham and we would toss them down current, along with a heavily weighted Clouser sand eel, and when we were right on top, we would rip that fly in and a bass with shoulders would grab it virtually every time.
Just to be sure, I asked Bob Lewis and he assured me that wire line is very difficult to cast with a fly outfit.
Putting the stripers away for a moment, some really good news on the tuna front came (initially) courtesy of Rory Edwards at Falmouth Bait & Tackle in Teaticket. He told of a good bite on bluefin around the Dump, south of the Vineyard, which was the first time in a couple of years that they have made an appearance there.
Along with some larger fish picked up while trolling, Rory said that casting was also working, especially with plugs from Siren and Hogy, including the latter’s Charter Grade Offshore Slider. You could just tell in his voice that Rory was psyched up for his trip south the following day.
In the midst of a call to Steve Morris at Dick’s Bait & Tackle in Edgartown to check in on Wasque, which he said had some small bass and bluefish on occasion, Steve told me that he had made a trip to Fish Tales and they dropped two larger fish while landing a school fish in the mid-30-inch range they took home for dinner. Some other Vineyard boats he spoke to have done well around the Dump and Steve said there was more life downtown than he had ever scene, with whales, baitfish and plenty of sea birds.
I am going to blame the lack of bass available to yours truly, who prefers casting the Elizabeths to the stretch of northeast wind we had been enduring, which in my view had them hunkering down in deeper water.
In fact, when I spoke to the shops that provide almost all of my Canal news, the optimal word was that you had to go deep.
Jeff Miller at Canal Bait and Tackle in Sagamore emphasized that if you weren’t on the bottom down around the west end, you weren’t catching. When I asked Jeff what color jig was working, he said some folks were talking about pink, but others mentioned blue, so he admitted that there didn’t seem to be a must-have at the moment.
As far as the rest of Big Ditch is concerned, Jeff said there have been some small fish scattered throughout the entire stretch, including the east end, but even they haven’t been part of any significant topwater activity.
Meanwhile, the word from A.J. Coots at Red Top in Buzzards Bay is the last several years have seen their sales of jigs widely outpace topwater plugs such as pencil poppers and Polaris style offerings. In the plug world, the Magic Swimmer is a creation all its own and Canal mainstay, but when the fish are hanging as deep as can be, even it loses its magic.
When it comes to jigs, I was happy to hear A.J. mention that his sales are split 70/30 between weighted soft plastic paddletails and traditional bucktails, confirming that there are still some folks who go old style when deer hair was the only way to dress leadheads.
While there has been more of a call for pink, most likely because of the squid in the land cut, A.J. said that black is the way to go if you are fishing at night.
I spent some time with Jim and Bill midweek tossing the old Doc around some rocky structure and in Wareham Bay, hoping to get a reaction from the big bass that have been holding in upper Buzzards Bay, according to Jim Young at Eastman’s Sport & Tackle on Main Street in Falmouth. We had no success, but given the number of boats tossing Docs, it was clear that Jim’s report was right on.
There is still a mix of bass and blues on the southside shoals. My buddy Captain Warren Marshall had a good pick of stripers up to 26 inches at Middle Ground on Wednesday and Rory Edwards said that bluefish have been doing a good job chopping up the soft plastics that anglers have been trying to tempt bass with around Succonessett, Hedge Fence, and L’Hommedieu.
Ben Cobb at the Sports Port in Hyannis said that the stretch from Oregon Beach to Dowses has been producing some bluefish. Following a family of sea bass trip last weekend, the Lewis’ clan had some fun with bluefish off of Osterville.
Speaking of sea bass, it would be far easier to tell you where they aren’t than where you can find them. Bob Lewis said they limited out about three miles outside Osterville, while Capt. Marshall and some of his family members picked up the maximum number they are allowed around Succonessett.
One of the mates from the Patriot Party Boats out of Falmouth Harbor told me they have been doing really well on sea bass, but the scup bite has slowed a little.
A.J. Coots and crew weighed in a three-pound scup recently and he added that up in Buzzards Bay, if you are looking for bigger sea bass, then start looking in shallower water closer to shore.
The only word on fluke I received came from Jim Young, who said he spoke to a couple of anglers who picked up some nice 22- to 23-inch summer flatties in the rip off Nobska—and released all of them!