New England Bass on Fly

BASS TOP-001NEW ENGLAND’S STRIPED BASS RUN

New England is a region in the northeastern United States known for being amongst the first settlements of the New World by European colonists. When the pilgrims set foot on these new shores, the ecosystems were something one can only dream of – massive estuarine systems rich with shellfish and other life, countless predatory fish by the billions coursing through the region’s waterways, and game in the rolling forested hills. As the region grew the wild landscape also changed, but the modern New England remains an area rich with bountiful natural and historic treasures of many kinds.

SPRING & FALL RUNS

Mass migrations are an astonishing wild phenomenon that happen annually around the world. In the plains of east Africa, wildebeest, zebra, and other ungulates follow a seasonal pattern in search of suitable grazing. Similarly, wild birds the world over perform massive longitudinal north-south movements to avoid the coldest most difficult months of winter. The aquatic world is no exception to mass migration, and perhaps one of the least appreciated and most incredible migrations on earth takes place each year along the western Atlantic shoreline.

In early spring Morone saxatilis, or striped bass, leave their spawning grounds in mid-Atlantic rivers in search of food. As days grow longer and the ocean’s waters warm, millions of bass begin an annual coastal migration that will take some up to 1,400 miles. Genetic memory causes these powerful fish to seek similar habitat each year, and the vast majority round the corner of Cape Cod and make their way north as far as southern Maine. In summer, they are joined by large schools of sharp-toothed bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix. Together, the formidable predatory fish maraud diverse baitfish, squid, crustaceans, and other sea creatures. Life revolves around the seemingly endless pattern of rest and feed, but suddenly in late summer there is a distinct change.

For fly fishermen living on the New England coast the fall is the absolute climax of the fishing season. Nights begin to cool, leaves change color, and fish by the millions begin their annual migration south from northern summering grounds – a phenomenon known as the fall run. Immense schools of striped bass and bluefish rhythmically beat their tails in a mass of oceanic energy surging down the rugged coast, but the predators are not alone. The same environmental conditions that trigger these gamefish also drive massive schools of baitfish to make a push for southern waters. The two inevitably collide at famous fishing locales dotted down the coastline, and for a few short weeks one has a unique opportunity to be a part of one of the temperate ocean’s greatest gatherings of life.

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FISHING

For anyone who has ever been lucky enough to fish one of these events in New England, the fly fishing can be truly epic. As striped bass, bluefish, and small inshore tuna like the explosive Euthynnus alletteratus, or little tunny, converge on helpless schools of baitfish, the ocean erupts with what is known as a blitz. These blitzes attract sea birds, seals, and of course fishermen, resulting in excitement and commotion of legendary proportions.

While some striped bass can test your heaviest tackle, the majority of this fishing is done with 8-10 weight rods and floating lines. The action is extremely visual, and one often can watch a ‘wolf pack’ of hungry bass charge a stripped fly. To add to the diversity, the small inshore tuna’s power and speed can make the light tackle scream.

Rods, Reels, and Line

For striped bass, 10 weight setups allow anglers to throw large flies into the wind as well as handle these big powerful fish. Reels should have excellent drag systems, and should be rigged with a weight forward intermediate or floating lines and at least 200 yards of 30 lb. backing. Sink tips can also be handy to get flies deep into the rips and currents. 9′ leaders tapered to 30 lb. test are adequate for most bass you’ll encounter, and fluorocarbon is preferred. If you are after the smaller inshore tuna species, an 8 weight lets you feel the extreme running power of these little speed demons. For tuna, weight forward floating line, 200 yards of backing, and leaders tapered to 12 lb. test are recommended.

‘Big fish eat big flies’ is the angling credo amongst many New England fly rodders. Large streamers and poppers tied on strong hooks in chartreuse, white, and blue mimicking the many species of baitfish are recommended. While bass can be extremely selective at certain times of year, if anglers encounter blitzing (or surface feeding) fish almost any fly thrown into the frothing madness will get eaten. The inshore tuna eat smaller clousers, cone bunnies, and deceiver patterns stripped quickly. We’d be happy to make further recommendations to ensure anglers are equipped with the very best flies for every situation based on time of year and target species.

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LODGING

From our base is in historic Newport, Rhode Island you will hunt the rich waters surrounding Aquidneck Island and Block Island. Lodging options are varied in Newport, ranging from luxurious inns to quaint B&Bs to budget hotels. Let us help you find the right accommodation to fit your budget.


SAMPLE ITINERARY

  • 3.5 days fishing, 4 nights
  • Arrival/departure location is Providence, Rhode Island’s TF Green Airport (PVD)
  • Day 1 Wednesday – Private transfer to Newport, RI
  • Days 2-4 Thursday – Saturday Full day fishing
  • Day 5 Sunday – 1/2 day fishing, private transfer to airport
  • Two angler maximum per group

 

Trips available most of the SEASON. Please contact us to discuss your specific angling interests, travel plans, and lodging options.