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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.

Striper Feeding Behavior

By Alan Caolo, Rhode Island

Sight-fishing occurs in water temperatures of 60°F to 72°F; the warm upper range for striper activity. These temperatures occur in the summer when stripers have ceased migrating and have become resident throughout their northern range. The cool water temperatures associated with spring and fall trigger migratory behavior where striped bass become very active and feed aggressively on the baitfish that are also in transit. But during the summer the fish are mluch less active, eat less, and are quite casual about their feeding. The variety and abundance of forage available to stripers during the summer further adds to their selective nature, making them a challenging sight-fishing quarry. Summer stripers feed sparsely and become noticeably leaner than voracious migrating bass. Most fish taken while sight-casting are thinner than average, accoring to accepted length-weight data for the species.

Striped bass possess large, reticulated stomachs, allowing them slowing to slowly fill their stomachs with large quantities of good and then not feed again for several tides (much like certain reptiles that feed and then don't eat for long period). In contrast, bonefish have smooth, narrow stomachs that process food quickly, so they must feed often and at regular intervals. As a result, bonefish are more predictable than stripers. In addition, bass have many reliable way of securing food; cruising the flats is just one option, while bonefish reply mainly on the flats.

Several factors, including the threat of predators, the need to feed regularly and the limited window for feeding controlled by the tides, combine to make bonefish opportunistic feeders. When they see something edible they usually go for it and devour it, especially when they first hit the flats at the top of the tide. As a result, fly selection is often not a challenge and seldom is there a need to survey the local prey as part of the selection process. Most bonefish destinations have a certain style to their flies, but many patterns will interest the fish much of the time. Some destinations certainly boast large, picky bones, but I think this is more a case of educated fish not being fooled by very many patterns anymore; giving a false impression of selectivity. I believe these educated fish will still eat a wide variety of naturals if the opportunity prevails.

Stripers are a different story altogether. They cruise the flats without fear of predators and they do so by choice, not by necessity. There are other times and places for them to feed so they're in no rush. Furthermore, their time on the flats is not rushed by the ticking of the tide clock; they are quite casual and selectively feed on certain prey.

So what does all this mean to the angler? Are these fish impossible to dupe with a fly? Hardly! They do, however, require that you offer them what they're looking for; and present it well. Surveying the prevailing natural prey is very important when sight-fishing for striped bass and fly patterns are selected based on these observations. Selective stripers will often ignore all but one, occasionally two, imitations of the local prey. The long follows that stripers are notorious for when pursuing a fly reflect this selectivity: they scrutinize the fly before pouncing on it or turning off in a sudden refusal.

The way striped bass move across a flat is indicative of whether they are feeding, in transit to a different location, or in full-blown migration. Generally, slow-moving fish are feeding while fast-moving fish are in transit and tougher to interest with a fly. Unlike bonefish, which almost always feed into the tide, stripers feed both with and against the current. In fact, stripers often tip down and angle themselves 45° to the current and let the tide push them over the flat as they hunt. I consider fish in this feeding posture to be prime targets - they're slow moving and ready to feed.

On offshore flats, meandering stripers are likely feeding and it is well worth the effort to pole into casting range. Schools of fish are frequently encountered on offshore flats. They are migratory, but still present a great opportunity as they often become competitive for food and several fish will see your simultaneously. On inshore flats and in the surf, the fish are usually encountered as singles or in pairs. Several fish working an area often arrive as a school, but quickly split up as they hunt. Throughout their stay on the flat, these fish periodically regroup in pairs or triples and then disperse again. This behavior is perhaps a strategy to graze more of the flat when the forage is spread out. To the anglers this means that you must be careful not to spook any bass; alarming a few fish will eventually put all of the fish in an area on alert. They can communicate danger to one another by some means, which is why sloppy wading or the presence of a skiff on a small flat quickly shuts the fishing down.

Even though stripers are often spotted as singles, they are not entirely lone wolves. They are member of a nearby resident school. Resident schools may feed together after dark, but they spread out while on the flats and feed alone. It's important to note that not all members of a resident school will mount the flats in daylight. A certain percentage of them seem to be shallow-water specialists, and prefer this manner of feeding. This conclusion is based on my own tagging effort that revealed the same bass working certain inshore flats and beaches over the course of a season. These areas invariably held more feeding fish after dark; most were much small than the fish spotted during the day. Perhaps age and size influence when stripers become ready to work the flats by day. ~ 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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