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Welcome to Fly Fishing The Salt! If you are just discovering the joys of fly fishing the salt (or salt chuck as some call it) here you will find information to steer you in the right direction. Tips on what equipment to use, why, where and how to fish. And we will try to include a little inspiration to get you going. For the experienced salt water angler, there will be personal stories about real fishermen and their experiences, tips on what flies for which fish and techniques that work. Your stories and articles are also most welcome. Share the knowledge and adventure. Pass it on! This is for you.

Striped Bass Behavior in the Sight-Fishing Condition

By Alan Caolo, Rhode Island

Know Your Quarry

Striped bass behavior in the sight-fishing condition is unique. By "sight-fishing condition" I am referring to very clear, brightly lit shallow waters from one to five feet deep where the fish are readily spotted and presented with flies. A variety of surface activities visually reveal feeding stripers; the rise-forms left by fish sipping springtime worm-spawns and the wild splashing of bass blitzing migrating bait in the fall are examples. Casting to stripers under these conditions, however, is not what this book is about.

With clear, shallow water and bright sun, striper behavior is considerably different than what we're used to with night- or deep-feeding fish. Anglers should take time to carefully observe their quarry and learn its behavior. Since this fishing is entirely visual, there is ample opportunity to study the fish, its movements, and its feeding patterns. There is no substitute for being able to predict striper movements, to read which fish are feeders and which are not, and to somewhat read what the stripers are eating through their behavior.

Similarities to Bonefishing

Sight-fishing for striped bass and bonefishing have a lot in common. Both species are stalked in clear, shallow eater where visual presentations are carefully made to moving targets that behave similarly. Both may be pursued on foot or by skiff, either alone or with a partner. It's no surprise that many bonefishers have enthusiastically taken to striper sight-fishing in recent years.

But the two sports are also very different, which experienced bonefishers must understand to consistently succeed with striped bass. Anatomical and environmental differences are most relevant and they influence many aspects of striper fishing. In my opinion, stripers pose a tougher flats challenge than most bonefish; the exception being the big bones found in the Florida Keys and northern Bahamas. Many comparisons to bonefish are made throughout this chapter to effectively highlight striped bass behavior and help those with bonefishing experience quickly adapt. Many books have been written about bonefishing, which are excellent background for striped bass sight-fishing.

Stripers Are at the Top of the Food Chain

Unlike bonefish, stripers have no natural enemies on the flats. The absence of barracuda and sharks on temperate northern flats allows stripers the freedom and comfort to graze the shallows without urgency. Bonefish, on the other hand, must have one eye open at all times for the jaws of death. With this in mind it's easy to see why bones are so skittish and often flush when spooked, while stripers appear calm and rarely become frantic when alerted to your presence. When alarmed, stripers often react by simply veering slightly rom their course and merely maintain a safe distance.

Stripers encountered while sight-fishing typically run large. On inshore flats, fish from 25 to 32 inches long are common. Offshore flats and the surf offer even larger fish, with 30-to 44-inch fish typical. These stripers are from seven to 15 years old. They have been around a while, most likely have encountered many humans before, and are wizened and wary. Large stripers demonstrate what is know as a "sophisticated spook." This is best described as an acute awareness and respect for your presence, but without fear of harm. This is invariably accompanied by what has become a coined expression, "lockjaw", where the fish's mouth simply will not open for any fisherman's offering. The sophisticated spook takes some experience to recognize while it's happening. Large bass calmly continue about their business despite an angler's presence, and they seduce many rookie sight-fishers with their iron nerve. The only bonefish that maintain this calm on the flats are the large, osprey-proof variety, typical of the Florida Keys.

Stripers seem to get most agitated when they detect a skiff on the flats. Here, in addition to veering from their course they noticeably speed up to quickly get by the vessel. But they remain calmer than bonefish. It takes some experience to interpret this behavior, which enables you to confidently ignore fish that have probably seen you and focus on those that have not. Many newcomers to this sport mistakenly conclude that stripers in this environment are "uncatchable" after they repeatedly fail to entice fish that had been alarmed by a non-stealthy approach. ~ Alan Caolo

Credits: Excerpt and photo from Sight-Fishing for Striped Bass Fly-Fishing Strategies for Inshore, Offshore and the Surf, by Alan Caolo, Published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use premission.

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