Cape Cod 2012Once again I find myself Jet lagged, tired and my desk buried in mail. I think there are a few bills in the pile so perhaps I will deal with those later in the week. I feel the same withdraw symptoms each time I return but I would say that every year is quite different. There are always new challenges to face as the Stripers Migration Northwards unfolds. I liken the migration to a swarm of Locusts, ever hungry and constantly hunting for sufficient reserves of food to feed such a vast number of hungry bellies. This year the migration began very early, a large volume of fish pushed Eastwards through the Cape Cod Canal and engulfed the flats of Barnstable and Brewster a couple of weeks before we were due to arrive. By the time we hit the water we had missed the cream of the crop and had to endure the classic ‘You should have been here last week’’ Number. You can never be 100 % sure when its all going to kick off so the best you can do is choose the optimum weeks and hope the Stripers are reading the script. Despite missing the big Party we certainly didn’t go fishless as for the first time in years we were finding zillions of schoolies were in town and eager to eat a fly or soft plastic. I confess that I had been very concerned by the lack of juvenile fish coming up through the ranks over the last few years. I was starting wonder if I would still be fishing the Cape 5 years from now, so to witness the number of new fish is very encouraging to see.
Shifting Sands and the forces of Nature
I first fished on Cape Cod in 2006 . I was lucky enough to just catch the back end of the glory days of Monomoy before the winter storm of 2007 closed the gap in the sand dunes. This affected the flow of water through the channels and flats. If things had stayed the same I would possibly still be standing in the same spots that we fished in 2006. In the old days you would find all the year classes mixed in together. Fishing blind through the channels was like a lucky dip , you never knew what would happen next , you could catch a dozen 5 pound fish and then suddenly find the the next fish was dragging you down the beach as you tried to catch up. A nine weight rod , a Twenty pound bass and a strong current makes for epic fishing! Another contributing factor to the evolution of Cape Cod fishing has been the huge increase in the number of seals (and Great White Sharks that predate on seals !) The Stripers are very nervous when migrating along the outer beaches. They have to run the gauntlet past thousands of seals. The positive aspect is that the fish will often stay within a couple of feet of the shore line. I advise anyone fishing the surf to avoid wading if possible as they may well be standing in the spot where the fish will be running. Stripers can be completely brainless at times,but when they go shallow they are generally extremely cautious. A catch and release fishing culture also means that they are often fully aware of the dangers of men with long sticks and baseball caps standing on the shore.
Fly and Lure Fishing the Flats
I remember my first trip onto the Flats of Monomoy was a complete eye opener. It seems like yesterday when I first cast to a marauding shoal of around 50 Stripers as they swung out a channel onto a sandy flat. I cast my fly ahead of the pack and watched 50 fish all change direction and charge my fly. I hooked up , dropped the fish but then managed to pluck a straggler from the back of the shoal, just before they went out of range. My strongest memory from the Bayside flats was in 2008. Ant , Richard , Johnny and myself witnessed a vast super shoal of perhaps 6,000 Fish casually heading right through us as we waded . I have seen 20 Pound fish push through 8 inches of water under the cover of coastal fog , swimming on their sides to pick up the stranded dead sandeels , the victims of the full moon spring tide . A popular tactic on the flats is to follow the tide out and stand as close as possible to the deeper channels. These are the highways that the bass travel along . Casting across the current and swinging flies is a deadly tactic at times. I have been flyfishing the flats for years and have often wondered about the potential for light lure fishing. This year I decided to have a go. The results were quite dramatic. Megabass Xlayer Ayu on a 5 – 7 g Jig head was deadly. I also fished Z Claw 500 g and the cute little Fakie Dog and managed to stimulate and hook plenty of fish off the top. You can simply cover more fish with this kind of gear, my true sight casting chances were very limited this year . I am 100 % sure that the ultrlight approach to lure fishing the flats can be devastating. I fished alongside a few fly rodders on one session . I would be surprised if they landed 2 fish each on from that channel. I landed over 10 fish that’s not a testament to my angling ability more a testament to the power of the mighty X Layer Ayu ! Im keen to do more flats lure fishing in the future . I have few cunning ideas !
Cape Cod Canal
Having visited the Cape 7 times now I would say most of my Striper fantasies have been fulfilled. Well almost all of them. I still fancy a trip to Montauk sometime in the future and the other unfulfilled dream is catching a big fish from the Cape Cod Canal. I like the place but I am aware that it doesn’t suit everyone. The Canal is wide and the current rips through like a freight train. You have to shimmy down heavy boulders to get to the water’s edge to fish. If you plan on fishing the Canal you need to go heavy. My canal outfit is still at the girly end of the spectrum. I have an 8 foot St Croix Mojo Surf Rod , One piece and rated 2- 4 Oz lures. Big pencil Poppers, Large Shads and Bucktail jigs are the standard Cape Cod weapons. I leave this gear on the Cape as I have no need for it at home. Canal fishing is almost a crossover between GT Popping and Beach Casting. I first visited the Canal last September . I witnessed a guy land a 45 pound fish standing next to me. My jaw dropped when I saw that fish pop up after a 20 minute battle. The Canal does seem to attract a different kind of Angler. The fish hardcore and will kill a trophy bass to feed the family. Its not something I am that comfortable with but they are the locals and I’m just an Englishman on holiday , so I keep my lips zipped tight . I managed to lose a Big Striper at my feet last September when it rolled over at my feet and managed to un hinge my 60 g Fiiish Black minnow. I was left with a jig head and the fish was left with the hook and some rubber! Suffice to say I still plan to get even. I may spend a few days there alone sometime in the future just me and my Mojo !
Due to a twist of fate I was able to fish on the boat for the first time in 3 years. I normally drop the guys off and then fish solo on the Northern Beaches or P town flats while the boys fish the rips afloat. We fished the Tuesday and Wednesday and the conditions were perfect, we were still on the neaps but we had plenty of flow out there. The first day we must have landed 50 fish , all clonkers and mostly on the fly or Topwater Lures. The second day started slowly but as the tides turned the fish began to blitz on the surface. Can you imagine a shoal of 500 Double figure Bass all hungry and chasing sandeels. These are the dreams that come true when you fish for Stripers. You are fishing a managed fishery where commercial fishing has given way to the true value of recreational fishing. I just wish I could drag every apathetic Uk recreational angler out there for a couple of days. If they saw the kind of boats the number of fish on the water and the money being generated by catching fish for sport it would change their lives. This is my vision for the UK . I wish I could make changes; the biggest problem is the guys doing the fishing, not the guys trying to make the changes.
In one day we landed countless big Bass . I have no idea how many. In the old days I was fly purist . I no longer feel that you have to be a highly evolved creature to fish the fly and that lure fishing is a second class approach.
This is the list of methods we landed Bass with during one day.
Fly fishing Sunk line
Fly fishing floating line / Poppers/ clousers
Megabass X Layers with 7 g Jig heads on light lure rods
12 Inch Pink Sluggos fished across the top (Lethal)
Sink and Draw Sayori Shads (25 – 50 g ) French style
Vertical Jigging Soft plastics
Vertical Jigging Butterfly jigs
Surface fishing with Hard lures
The second week was a game of two halves. As the guys stepped off the plane the Air temperature dropped from 75 degrees to 50 ! The wind went from the South to North East and the fishing went to shit! We lost our first charter day through bad weather. Our second Charter day was equally fated , my favourite skipper snagged his prop the night before, we switched guides and the guys then broke down within the first half hour of the day. I even managed to get pulled over for speeding in the Car as I took 4 solemn faces back home to Harwich from Barnstable ! I dropped the gang off at one of my favourite afternoon beaches and decided to drive around all the tackle stores and try to rescue the trip by finding a new skipper. I struck Gold and secured 2 days with one of the Capes most respected guides. The fishing the boys experienced on the last two days of the trip was completely off the scale. They landed well over 100 Doubles in 2 days. The Bass were feeding Hard on Squid in Nantucket Sound. The sea was Black with the ink from the Squid. Squid flies on 12 # Fly rods were lethal as was everything else. The best fish landed was weighed at 28 pounds and a 50 Pounder was missed at the side of the boat. At last I had 4 very happy bunnies to collect from the quayside. I was just so glad that the guys had a chance to encounter a couple of those dream days that keep me returning year after year.
Every year the story is different , every year we have tough days and every year I witness fishing dreams come true. We have to work for the fish when fishing from the shore, this is real fishing and a far cry fro the slightly sterile regimented 9 – 5 approach anglers encounter when fishing the flats or Bluewater. Dawn and dusk are critical times for the shore anglers and you need to be willing to get out of bed as early as 3 AM , be able to walk long distances through the sand. 2012 was a tough year from the shore with plenty of fish but no big girls. 200 Double figure Bass from 4 days fishing certainly makes up for the shore results this year ! I anticipate that I will be out there again in 2013. It may be time to change a few things around. Perhaps add a flats boat alongside the 26 footer that takes us out to those mega shoals on the rips. I may go out there and enjoy a few days on the Canal alone. I have score to settle with a 30 pound bass with a hook in its mouth !