Fly-fishing isn't as hard as some make it out to be, but it does demand your full attention, so if you're worried that your investments are going south or that your wife is cheating on you, chances are you won't fish well. It sounds like heresy, but there really are days when you should have stayed home to take care of business instead of going fishing.
-John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own
I'm considering framing this quotation and putting it up in my office.
Spring is tough. 2019 was no different. As a teacher, by April I'm running on a quarter tank and my students are itching to run out the door. It's not an ideal combo. I have to work extra hard to remain patient, plan good lessons, and have productive days. This makes fishing sessions, especially during the week, tough. Like Gierach said, some days it's best to stay home and take care of business.
My dad put it to us another way: First things first.
Anyway, I still managed to complete a few springtime rituals.
I caught my first striped bass of 2019 on April 7. I was next to my brother on the sod banks of Raritan Bay. Catching that first fish by fishing bait on the bay's mudflats is a ritual I've grown to love. It marks the start of a new season. On April 22, I coaxed a few beachfront stripers to eat a new lure. And on May 16, I traveled back up to the bayshore hunting for bluefish. I scored. That didn't happen for me last year.
In my area, the first striped bass each season are caught in Raritan Bay. The drill is to wait for the bay to reach 45 degrees and then fish bait on the mudflats. Above is a screenshot from the night my brother and I fished, April 7. I threw sandworms using a rig I learned about at Surf Day a few years back. Here's a simple sketch of the rig from my notebook.
There are a few benefits to this rig. First, the weight is on the bottom, so it casts well. Also, once the sinker settles and you get tight, you're in direct contact with the baits. Meaning, there's no weight between you and the baits. This makes feeling subtle hits, which are common in the spring, much easier. But the best thing, and this was explained to us at Surf Day, is that both baits are held off the bottom a bit. This keeps the baits from getting buried in the mud bottom. Instead, each bait is held up and in the face of cruising fish. It worked.
Then on April 22, Earth Day, I caught a few small striped bass in my local surf. I hooked these fish using a new lure that I'm really excited about, the 360GT Searchbait. It comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
The 4.5" size is my favorite. The 4.5" paddle tail body fits both the 1/4 and 3/8 oz. Storm 360GT jigheads.
What's important is that these jig weights are just the jighead alone. When you thread the body on the jig, the overall weight jumps up considerably. The 1/4 oz. jig with the 4.5" body weighs over 1/2 oz. and the 3/8 oz. jig with the 4.5" body weighs over 3/4 oz. I can easily throw both of these lures with my summer surf rod that is rated 1/2 oz. - 2 oz. These are great little lures and some fish fully inhaled them.
Finally, on May 16, I got my bluefish fix.
When Raritan Bay's water temperature reaches 55 degrees and stays there, there's a good chance the blues will arrive in force. What's interesting is that mid-May seems to be the time everything comes together. Looking back, I've experienced really memorable Raritan Bay bluefish bites on 5/15/14, 5/16/15, and now 5/16/19.
What made the 5/16/19 trip unique is that I was wetsuiting. It was dead high tide and my suit allowed me to frog kick across a creek mouth and fully separate myself from the crowd. Above are some of the fish I managed to catch and the photos below show what I saw to the right and left of me.