Fly Fishing for Striped Bass

fly fishing for striped bass
fly fishing for striped bass

When Stripers Start Showing Up

Striped bass, or stripers, start coming back to our waters in April and May. This is the best time for fly fishing for striped bass. The fish are hungry and on the move. This happens because:

  • The water gets warmer
  • Days get longer
  • The sun gets higher in the sky
  • Lots of small fish they eat show up

These two months are great for fly fishing for stripers. Some eager fishermen try in late March, but April 15 is usually a better start date. The fishing gets better each day after that.

Finding the Fish

To catch stripers, you need to know where they are. Here’s what to look for:

  • Back bays, rivers, and salt ponds along the coast
  • These places are usually 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the ocean
  • Warmer water makes stripers more active
  • It also makes the small fish they eat more active

The best water temperature is about 55 degrees. You can use a cheap fishing thermometer to check.

Good areas to fish are usually:

  • Shallow
  • Have dark bottoms (mud, gravel, eelgrass, or dark sand)
  • These spots hold heat from the sun

Best Time of Day for Fly Fishing for Striped Bass

In summer and fall, early morning is often best. But in spring:

  • Fishing is usually better from noon until dark
  • This is because the sun has time to warm the water

How Wind Affects Fly Fishing

Wind can change where the warm water is:

  • It can push warm water from one side of a bay to the other
  • It can keep warm water in one spot for a few days
  • After 2-3 days of steady wind, fishing is often really good

Tides and Stripers

Tides are important for catching stripers:

  • A sunny afternoon with a falling tide is prime time
  • As the tide goes out, it washes food out of the creeks
  • This makes stripers want to attack your fly

Many good fishermen keep track of the best-falling tides.

Moon and Fishing

The moon affects the tides:

  • New and full moons make tides stronger
  • This creates strong currents as water flows out
  • Fishing is often good a few days before or after new and full moons

The tide doesn’t always flow at the same speed:

  • Sometimes it speeds up or slows down
  • When it speeds up, stripers often start feeding like crazy
  • As the water level drops, the fish move to deeper spots

Good fishermen plan to follow the fish as they move with the tide.

Tips for Spring Fly Fishing

Choosing the Right Fly Line

The fly line you use depends on how deep the water is and how strong the current is:

  • In shallow water, use a floating line
  • In deeper water or stronger currents, use a sinking line
  • If you’re fishing around bridges or deep holes, you might need a heavier sinking line

It’s a good idea to bring rods set up with different lines so you can quickly change if you need to.

Picking a Fly Rod

For spring stripers in calm waters:

  • A 6 or 7-weight rod is fun
  • An 8-weight rod at most
  • Any rod made for saltwater will work

Rods that aren’t super stiff (called moderate action) are easier to cast with sinking lines.

Choosing Flies

There are many good flies for spring stripers. Here are some tips:

  • Bright flies work better in muddy water
  • Pink, white, and chartreuse are good colors
  • A popular fly is the Clouser Deep Minnow in these colors
  • In April, use flies that look like small baitfish (2-3 inches long)
  • By May, you might need some bigger flies

Some good flies to try:

  • Clouser Deep Minnow
  • Woolly Bugger
  • Lefty’s Deceiver
  • Flat wing patterns

How to Retrieve Your Fly

In cool spring water:

  • Retrieve your fly slowly
  • Pause now and then
  • This gives the cool fish time to see and attack the fly
  • Sometimes fish will grab the fly when it’s sinking during a pause

In very shallow water:

  • Try a popper or gurgler fly on the surface
  • Retrieve slowly with pauses between twitches or pops

Fly fishing for striped bass: Helpful Tips

Water Temperature

Knowing the water temperature is important:

  • Use a cheap fishing thermometer
  • Tie it to your wader bag or keep it in your boat
  • Look for water around 55 degrees

Keep a Fishing Log

Writing down details about your fishing trips can help:

  • Note where you caught fish
  • Write down the tide, time of day, and weather
  • This helps you find good spots year after year

Follow the Tide

As the tide changes:

  • Have a plan to move from spot to spot
  • Follow the fish as they move with the tide
  • Look for places where water is moving (rip lines, current seams)
  • Edges of marshes are often good spots

Spring Stripers Often School Up

In spring, striped bass usually swim in small groups:

  • If you catch one, there are probably more nearby
  • Keep fishing that spot for a while

Be Ready to Change

Bring gear to handle different situations:

  • Have rods set up with different lines (floating, sinking)
  • Bring flies of different sizes and colors
  • This lets you quickly adapt to changing conditions

Popular Fly Patterns

Here are some flies that work well for spring stripers:

  • Clouser Deep Minnow (in pink, white, and chartreuse)
  • Woolly Bugger
  • Lefty’s Deceiver
  • Flat wing patterns
  • Poppers or gurglers for very shallow water

Tie or buy these in different colors and sizes to match local baitfish.

Retrieve Speed is Key

In cool spring water:

  • Retrieve your fly slowly
  • Use a steady retrieve with pauses
  • This gives cool fish time to see and attack the fly
  • Fish often bite when the fly is sinking during a pause
  • Fast retrieves usually don’t work as well in spring

Fishing Shallow Water

In very shallow water:

  • Use a surface fly like a popper or gurgler
  • Retrieve slowly with long pauses
  • Wait a few seconds between each twitch or pop
  • The pause often triggers strikes

Wrapping Up

Spring fly fishing for striped bass can be really fun. Remember these key points:

  1. Look for warmer water in back bays and rivers
  2. Fish in the afternoon when the water has warmed up
  3. Pay attention to tides and moon phases
  4. Use the right fly line for the water depth
  5. Choose bright flies in muddy water
  6. Retrieve your fly slowly with pauses
  7. Be ready to move and change tactics as conditions change

With these tips and some practice, you’ll be fly fishing for striped bass in no time. Remember, the most important thing is to get out there and have fun!