July 19, 2001 - In our many years in business I just canít ever recall receiving this number of reports from shallow water fly anglers encountering striped bass with eating disorders. From the bay side beaches of Barnstable and Brewster, onto Billingsgate Shoal in Wellfleet, and the celebrated North Monomoy Island of Chatham, the issue has not been locating fish, itís dealing with the actuality that they just wonít eat.

With the inevitability of confronting these somewhat frustrating circumstances, your midsummer tactics should be altered to accommodate "lock jaw." While consistency is what every angler seeks, this is easier to achieve with a game plan of sorts. The suggestions below should help you in your mastication crusade.

Flies - Small, smaller, smallest. I am of the opinion that you will fare much better with a size 2 or 4 than you will with a 1/0 when fishing skinny water. Sand eels, silversides and shrimp patterns should also be tied sparsely with only a token amount of weight to resist "plopping." I personally have been experiencing a modicum of success with a #6 olive shrimp pattern with only bead chain eyes as a sinking agent.

Presentation - And this is the key. Assuming that visibility is optimum and your sight fishing skills are acute (90-110í), lead you target with the assumption that the fly has adequate time to descend to the bottom, and then, and only then, initiate your retrieve after the school has covered your fly. Under the excitement of the moment, easier said then done. Many times this will encourage your quarry to react in an impulsive manner without the ability to totally inspect your lureís authenticity. These are reaction strikes. In essence, the fish is reacting to a fleeing morsel in much the same way he or she has been conditioned to do, fleeing the scene on their ultimate demise. Once again, small shrimp patterns are very effective for this style of presentation.

Leaders - Under sight fishing conditions, leaders of 10-12 feet with fluorocarbon tippets are not uncommon. In my perception I have not experienced sufficient enough evidence to employ finer diameters of fluoro so typically I will apply 16lb test Mirage to tip the leader. This stout material is also less conducive to wind knots, is less visible (which is a relative term), turns over quickly and is virtually abrasion resistant.

Position - And this you can take to the bank. You will take more fish when encountering head-on shots then any other sight fishing scenario. Only occasionally will a mid summer striper venture out of itís customary cruising routine to "chase down" a potential target. Unfortunately there is little that can be done to remedy this script other than anticipate traveling lanes and tidal flow to better ambush likely candidates head-on rather then in a crossing pattern (not good, but Iíll take a shot anyhow).

Sunken Meadow in Wellfleet has come alive with larger bluefish, just query Jerry Blouin of nearby Holden. On a recent charter with Captain Kevin Coakley, Jerry was rewarded with the experience of a lifetime, sight fishing to specimens in the 30" class with surface offerings. The fish were uncommonly aggressive (summer bluefish can be uncharacteristically selective over SM) and the dedicated saltwater angler was able to bring many specimens to the boat. Of particular note has been the absence of stripers in known shallow water haunts throughout most of July.

Mark Kralian of Grafton has made Boston Harbor his bailiwick throughout most of the summer and has fared quite well. Mark has been averaging 20 fish days while toiling around structure, deeper channels and under feeding shore birds with specimens averaging 24-30" in length. From most reports the harbor has done quite well this year and has not suffered severely from the usual July lull.

Good fishing and safe wading,


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