Hi, I’m a 16-year-old high school student living in Falmouth, Maine. This past summer I decided to try fly fishing for striped bass. I have been fly fishing for trout for around three years and have completely fallen in love with the sport. From the second I caught my first striper on a spinning rod I was eager to chase them on the fly. The fight that a striper gives is incomparable to trout’s fight. I thought my first season was going to be full of these incredible fights. But boy was I wrong. Like it says in the title, my first season fly fishing for stripers was truly a disaster. I caught a whopping total of zero stripers. That’s right...zero.
My goal in this short article is to share my experiences and what I learned from them. By doing so, I hope that you will take something away from this that will help you to avoid making the same mistakes I did.
Here’s what I learned…
1. Cast Cast Cast...
What was probably the biggest adjustment I needed to make when starting to fly fish for stripers was getting used to casting the new setup. Before getting my saltwater rod and line, the only rods I casted were 5wts and 6wts with the appropriate line for each. It was a big change going from light trout rods to a 9wt with the heavy front tapered Rio Coastal Quickshooter line. I knew before I could go out and fish I needed to get some casting in. The first couple casting sessions were tough. I wasn’t getting nearly the distance I should have been getting and I was also getting repeatedly whipped in the back of the neck/head by the thick end of the line, which was not pleasant at all. But the more I casted, the better I got. I was using fewer false casts and getting more distance. I learned from my mistakes and tweaked my technique.
When I finally got in the water, I faced yet another problem with my casting. The line I was using was nothing like the light floating trout line that you can pick up out of the water with a small flick of the wrist. The line sinks and it’s extremely hard to get out of the water without using the correct technique. I had to do several roll casts to flip the fly out of the water. I was then able to cast effectively.
This whole experience taught me that taking time to practice casting can only make you a better fly fisherman/woman. I’m nowhere near an expert caster but I’m getting better and that's all that really matters. So I advise any beginners or just anyone looking to improve their casting to spend some time in their yard or in a calm body of water and just practice.
2. Go Prepared
Being prepared can make or break a good day of fishing. I learned this the hard way during my first season. On my very first outing, I regrettably didn’t bring a stripping basket. For some reason, I didn’t think I needed one. Once again I was horribly wrong. I waded out and got set up for what I hoped was going to be a great day’s fishing. My first cast went a pathetic 15 feet. I was sure my line was caught on something. When I looked down to see what it was caught on I noticed that it wasn’t caught on anything, but was instead sitting underwater next to my feet. I made a couple more casts but I couldn’t shoot any line because it had all sunk to the bottom. It was then when I realized that my first outing was officially over. I sludged back to shore feeling defeated and called my mom to come pick me up.
I learned from this experience that wading out and fly fishing for stripers is nearly impossible without a stripping basket. I decided to attempt to make my own out of a wash bin, hot glue sticks, and paracord. When melting the hot glue sticks to the bottom of the wash bin the adhered section of the hot glue stick was not completely smooth. This ended up causing the line to sometimes get caught, ruining the cast. Yet another fail. Feeling bad for me, my Dad bought me a real stripping basket for the holidays and I can’t wait to give it a go. I advise any saltwater angler who doesn’t already have a stripping basket to learn from my mistake and either make one (which hopefully turns out better than mine) or purchase one.
Another piece of equipment that I realized I should have had during my first season was a good pair of gloves. With all the practice casting in and out on the water, my hand started developing some pretty nasty blisters. At one point the blisters on my hands were so bad that I could barely grip the rod to make a cast. Going prepared with a pair of gloves could have solved this problem. I recently got a pair of the Simms Solarflex Sun Gloves and I can’t wait to try them out this spring. I am sure they will make a big difference.
3. It's A Marathon Not A Sprint
My biggest take away from my first season fly fishing for stripers is that you shouldn’t expect to be an expert immediately, or anything close to it. Learning something new takes time. I made the mistake of thinking that fly fishing for stripers is just like trout fishing and that I’ll go out they and catch fish after fish. I very quickly realized that I was wrong and that I actually really sucked. But honestly, it’s okay to suck because all that matters is that you are out there having fun. And one day if you put in enough time you will realize that you don’t actually suck anymore. Looking back on what a disastrous first season I had, I realize that making mistakes and sucking is all part of the process, and that the more I go out and just fish, the better chance I’ll have of having a great season.
Words + Photo By: Nick Shapiro