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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

Offshore Flats

On offshore flats, stripers are typically found in schools, migrating northbound in the spring and southbound in fall. Many schools hold over prey-rich flats and feed for several days before resuming their journey. In midsummer the schools thin out and few fish are found here in general. However, summertime schools are still far more prevalent offshore than on inshore flats or sight-fishing beaches, where they are seldom encountered.

Offshore schools are spectacular sights where impressive numbers of fish (routinely in the hundreds) move across the open flat in waves. Adjacent to islands, along grass shoals or running parallel to other structure, schools commonly stretch out lengthwise and parade along the structure in a seemingly endless progression of fish. School movements are largely influenced by tides where the fish prefer to migrate into the current.

Large numbers of fish do not necessarily mean that the fishing will be fast and easy. Many of these migrating fish are more interesting in crossing the flat than chasing a tiny bit of food. Much like tarpon transiting tropical flats in spring, stripers (especially the large ones) migrating over offshore flats can be difficult to entice with a fly. Everything must be right to the big fish - fly, presentation and your stealth. The sheer number of fish in these schools make them great targets for presentation. Early-season fish, arriving in May and June, are often more aggressive than the stripers encountered later in the season. This is most likely the result of carryover migratory feeding in waters that are still relatively cool.

Single fish and small groups, or pods, are also found here. Again, fish moving quickly in one direction are likely in transit and unlikely to feed. Small groups of relocating fish often swim in strings (head-to-tail in single file). Strings of bass may look like tempting school configurations to cast to, but in fact they are very difficult as they are not feeding and are easily spooked. Slow-moving or meandering fish are good target as they are most likely foraging on the bottom.

Inshore Flats

Most of the striper's non-feeding movement occurs in channels and in deep waters adjacent to inshore flats, while every fish spotted on the flats is likely feeding. They work the current-swept open flats both with and against the tide. Generally, fish feed into the tide quickly, staying on course in one direction. When feeding with the current, they do it slowly, and meander about in the process. They progress at about the same speed as the tide, which they use to push them along. Anglers should account for this in their presentation and not lead these slow-moving fish too far since the current naturally carried the fly away from them.

Stripers love to work edges. During high tide they take advantage of high water levels and slowly prowl the shoreline for crabs and small baitfish that use the banks for cover. They often cruise well into shoreline coves and tidal outflows as they feed. There may be a bass wherever the water is deep enough along the water's edge. At low tide, stripers cruise the edges of drop-offs where the water is still deep and schooling prey is often concentrated. They meander on and off the flat as they travel the edge. Strings of bass are commonly seen moving quickly into the tide along these same edges, but they are usually uninterested in chasing flies and are not good targets.

Stripers use channels within inshore flats for both traveling and feeding. When traveling they swim along the bottom of deep channels where the current is less and they usually remain unseen.

Shallow channels, however, make great feeding lanes where shrimp and small baitfish are swept down tide in the current. They typically run one to three feet deeper than the surrounding waters and with good light bass are easily spotted. Stripers may swim into the current as they pursue baitfish, or hold along the bottom and intercept fragile prey, such as shrimp and juvenile flounder, that drift with the tide.

The Surf

In the complex surf environment, with intricate hole and sandbar formations, continuously changing currents and waves, striper movements are also complex. Striped bass work the surf both outside and waves, in parallel tracks along the beach and inside the waves throughout the intertidal zone.

Fish moving parallel to the shore are known as "cruisers." They may be very close to the water's edge on a high tide with low surf, or they may be well outside the wave-break at low tide. When cruising the shoreline, either in close or outside the waves, slow-movers are again feeding while fast-moving fish are not likely to break from their track to chase a fly.

Fish working the intertidal zone are known as "surfers." These fish are always solitary and they move in wave-like patterns as they feed. Surfers work the intertidal zone by meandering through it as they progress down the beach, or they may follow a parallel track spiked with sudden shoreward rushes behind rolling waves into the zone. Stripers surfing the intertidal zone are actively feeding and usually move fast in this agitated water - they are very good targets. Bass are commonly encountered gliding through the wash as the foam dissipates in a foot of water. These shallow-water surfers can appear suddenly out of nowhere, surprising even veteran sight-fishers, making this fishing extremely exciting.

Stripers probe every surf feature, investigating every possible opportunity for food, and they know them all. Sandbars, holes (rip tides) and sand plumes (muds), are three favorites.

Sandbars form along shallow-profile beaches and they often hold prey. They are frequently flanked by holes, or rip tides that are cut in the bottom by the surf. Stripers search these sandbars for prey that is swept in the currents associated with the adjacent rip tides. They enter those holes from outside the surf, swim into shore and then return outside through the same hole and continue down the beach. Other times when a sandbar is particularly fruitful, they comb the whole bar by entering through one hole, swim parallel to the sandbar and exit through a different hole at the other end. Stripers often repeat this pattern, thus circling the sandbar. Bars are on the order of 100 feet or more in length and one time around the entire formation can take 10 to 20 minutes.

When the surf in breaking on the beach, as opposed to rolling in from further out, dense sand plumes or muds are created very near shore with the crashing waves. These muds contain all short of unearthed surf-prey that gets pushed out in the plume and becomes easy prey for bass that dart in and out as they swim along the beach. ~ 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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