Tide and Weather: Dead High 2:05 pm, Partly Cloudy Skies, Air Temperature 44, Water Temperature 48, Light NNE Wind and Small Surf,Moon: 41 %, Pressure 30.15 and Stable
Catch: Sometimes you get what you ask for. I started this trip mumbling to myself, "All I want is one fish." That's what I got. A small, healthy striped bass that shot off when I put him back. The body shape of a striper is beautiful. This fish was handsome and full.
I started south of the stretch I usually fish. For three hours I fished and walked, and fished and walked, and fished and walked, north. I worked through one shore town and into the next.
Then I noticed three surfcasters a few beaches north. They were on top of each other and focussed. This meant fish. When I reached them, they welcomed me to get in on the action. I gave them a wide berth and started casting. I eventually had a solid grab and landed one. After fishing a bit more, I looked up and noticed they left. The bite had clearly slowed. I caught the tail end of it, but I'm so glad I did.
My last four trips have been skunks. I fished my local beach and rocks on 10/15, 10/21, 11/8, and 11/21. This time of year I plug for striped bass. I'd be happy to hook anything that'll eat.
On Monday, 10/15, I scouted during the late afternoon. Then I came back and fished at night. Nothing. One highlight is below. During the afternoon scout, I saw this small blitz. Birds were so packed and distant they looked like bugs. Unfortunately, they never moved to the beach and broke up in minutes.
10/21, 11/8, and 11/21 were all morning trips. I fished in the dark into first light. On 10/21, I did find a dead bunker on the beach. While surfing this fall, I've shared the lineup with single, belly up bunker more than once. This fall, a friend has caught huge fish snagging and dropping bunker from boats, so it all lines up.
Like a lot of surfcasters, I fish teaser rigs in the fall. It hasn't happened recently, but I've caught plenty of fish on them.
I've been tying for years. And after tying trout flies down to size 22, tying bucktail teasers on 1/0 and 2/0 hooks feels like a vacation.
In this post, I wanted to share my philosophy when tying teasers and also highlight a material that's vital, but often taken for granted.
In his striped bass fly fishing book, Stripers and Streamers, Ray Bondorew points out that many baitfish are translucent. Because of this fact, he warns to not overdress the fly. Meaning, go light on the bucktail. I've taken that to heart. He also notes that most fish, whether bait or gamefish, have a dark back and a light belly.Those two points guide my teaser tying. The only thing I'll add is this: I tie them short to imitate small bait like rainfish, and long to imitate larger, slimmer baits like sand eels. All I'm going for is a general match. I think that's enough.
The materials, going from the top/back of the fly to the bottom/belly: 3-4 peacock herls, olive bucktail, a few strands of crystal flash and finally, white bucktail. After whip finishing the head, I stick on eyes and coat the head in UV resin and cure it. If I can, I also put them out in the sun for a bit.
The vital but overlooked material I mentioned earlier is thread. You gotta admit, after a hook, it's the most important fly tying material. And when tying big flies, using thick thread is a game changer.
When starting the fly, heavier thread helps you cover those big hook shanks quicker. And when tying, you can really crank down on materials with confidence. Heavy thread won't snap like the light stuff. It really helps.
On the flip side, it's also a good idea to go with a thinner thread when tying tiny flies, like midges for trout. The thin thread helps minimize thread bulk. Something that can become a problem when you're tying the really small stuff, like 20s and smaller.
Anyway, most of my trout flies are tied with 70 denier thread. My streamers and saltwater teasers are tied with 140 denier thread. If I had heavier, I'd use it. But owning 140 denier thread in white, olive, and black covers most of my streamer and teaser bases.
As you can see, the higher the denier number, the heavier the thread. The ought sizes are a bit more confusing. 10/0 is lighter than 8/0 and so on. 8/0 is equivalent to 70 denier. I attached a video that explains it better than I ever could. As usual, New Jersey's own Tim Flagler and Tightlines nail it. To me, his videos are literally perfect.
I've found a new tradition. An annual, 9th inning keeper hunt from the sand and rocks.
Hurricane Florence had come and gone. We had powerful surf and northeast wind for days, but thankfully, the Jersey Shore was largely spared.
The idea came to me while surfing.
I found myself in the lineup checking my watch. I had to get home. Waiting for one last ride wasn't happening. I ended up bodyboarding in and got off on the sandbar. The water on the bar was waist deep. With my hand on my board floating next to me, I waded towards the sand. Eventually, I stepped off the sandbar and into the nearshore trough. That step put me in almost neck-deep water. Keeping my chin up, I slogged west and finally stepped up the soft beach lip and onto the sand.
My fish brain activated. It was clear that a lot of sand had been moved by the recent swell. The ocean had carved out new, deep holes and drops. Holes that would hold fluke.
I knew the upcoming week was the last week of fluke season. I also knew that dead high tide fell in the afternoon or evening all week long.
Think of it, I was looking at a week filled with warm air and water, a deep trough running right next to the beach, and afternoon flood tides. This would be prime time to stick a late-season keeper fluke from the beach. And all I'd have to wear on my bottom half were boardies.
I ended up fishing three different days. On average, each trip was 90 minutes or less. There was swell running every trip which made for a lot of current and whitewater to fish.
On the first day, a small bass ate my Tinman Wobble Jig and Gulp! Mullet in an out-suck. I also caught a few short fluke and they coughed up the summer menu.
The menu consisted of calico and mole crabs. The mole crab pictured had spent some time in a fluke belly.
I did stick that keeper fluke. It came on the second trip. This fish ate the jig and the teaser. This was a first for me. When I landed the fish, I unhooked the teaser and looked for my jig. Then I realized the jig was down his throat. Luckily, he was 18.5 inches long. At the end of my third trip, I found myself at a local inlet. The wind was honking out of the south. I watched as a fisherman, standing on the south jetty, fought and landed a false albacore. They were popping up here and there and a handful of guys were on them.
As I walked back to my car, it was the perfect ending to the summer. It was a clear signal. The fall is here.
Tide and Weather: Dead Low 4:08 am, Partly Cloudy, Air Temperature 69, Water Temperature 75, Light SW Wind, Clear Water, Clean Knee to Waist High Surf, Moon 8% Visible
Catch: I was up and out before 5. My plan was to surf. After pulling up to the beach, I jumped out of the car and went down to the water's edge. In the false dawn light, the surf looked less than knee high. I debated what to do. Restless, I decided to scrap my original plan and fish. I texted my surfing buddy, shot home, and switched up my gear.
I ended up regretting that call. As the sun rose and the tide filled in, the surf looked better and better. Maybe it was the tide push or maybe my eyes were just off, but man, clean knee to waist high surf broke throughout my fishing session.Anyway, since I got a late start, I decided to fluke the beach and jetties. I ended up with 3 fluke. All shorts. The biggest measured 15.5 inches. I fished a simple teaser rig. The main lure is a favorite of mine for surf fluking - a TinMan 3/8 oz. Wobble Jig with a 4" white Gulp! mullet threaded on it. You can see it below the fish above. The fish pictured ate the teaser. The teaser is 15" above the jig and is just a baitholder hook with another Gulp! mullet threaded on it.
The third baitfish on the rock is an actual fish the fluke coughed up. It looks like a common killifish and shows this fluke may have recently spent time in a back bay or tidal creek before getting hooked in the surf. I don't believe fluke are that picky, but when looking at the picture you can't help but notice that 4" Gulp! mullets are a pretty good match.
Tide and Weather: Dead High 7:47 am, Cloudy, Rain Predicted, Air Temperature 75, Water Temperature Mid 70s, Very Light South Wind, Flat Surf, Moon 0% Visible, Pressure 29.89
Catch: I caught nothing, but it was a very interesting morning. I witnessed an incredible amount of bait in the surf. They were bay anchovies. Also known as rainfish.
A very distinct feature of the bay anchovy is their over-sized mouth. They're filter feeders and their mouths help them feed. If you zoom in on the picture you can make it out.
While standing on the base of a jetty, I did see one striped bass swim right at me, hit the north jetty pocket at my feet, and make a lighting fast turn before bolting out along the rocks.
But I believe the bait was mostly getting eaten by snapper bluefish. At points, the baby blues had the anchovies hopelessly pinned against the beach and jetty rocks. I squatted in knee deep water, dunked my waterproof camera, and took a few pictures. The bait was so thick that even the snappers were picky. Snapper zappers, a solid match for small rainfish, didn't get touched. Even my Gulp! baits were mostly left alone. That was a first.
By the end of my trip the predicted weather showed up. A wind switch brought cool air and it was clear that mother nature was pushing me to pack it in. No argument here.
*On 8/15/18 I was surfing a few towns south. A similar scene played out both tight to the beach and well outside the jetty tips. I saw bigger splashes in the blitz that was offshore. Something bigger was throwing water.
Location: New Jersey Beachfront and Raritan Bayshore
Tide and Weather: For Beachfront: Dead High 5:32 am, Clear Sky and Warm, Air Temperature - While Fishing About 70, Day's High 90, Water Temperature 56-57, Wind SW, Small Surf Struggling To Break, Moon 85% Visible, Pressure 29.90 and Rising
Catch: The only fish I held was a shad. It ate a teaser I tied. I saw an osprey nab a bunker in the middle of the beach, but casting there didn't change my luck.
After a few hours on the beach, I drove up to the Raritan Bay. I was hoping to find bluefish. That wasn't happening either. The Bayshore was crowded with fishermen. Almost all were chunking bunker and I didn't see a fish caught. While walking the shoreline I noticed one forked tail sticking out of a bucket.
Right before leaving for home I spoke to a group of guys. They'd been fishing all night. Their hard work earned them one blue between 8 of them. It was far from hot and heavy.
The most positive takeaway for me today was my teaser rig. I've experimented with lots of different teaser rig configurations and I'm really happy with this one. Leave it to John Skinner to nail it. He explains the set up in the video below.
To me, the best thing about this rig is that you can quickly add or subtract the teaser. It doesn't require a dropper loop and you don't have to cut anything off or tie any knots. I love the efficiency.
Tide and Weather: Dead Low 12:38 pm, Partly Cloudy, Air Temperature 39, Water Temperature 48, Light ENE Wind, Moon 1% Visible
Catch: Thanks to tips from my friend Jeff, I managed 3 short striped bass. With dead low at 12:38 pm, there was hardly any water on the inside. I ended up crawling out on the jetty tip and throwing back at the beach, fishing the hole and rip on the south side of the rocks. The fish ate a Vision Eel, a simple teaser I tied, and a Red Gill teaser. Two fish were part of a doubleheader. The other fish took the Red Gill. That fish came off when I grabbed the leader. I also saw some surface activity, but it only lasted about 10 seconds.