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Sep 03, 2012

I first met James about twenty years ago when his father Matt brought James and his brother Ian into the shop.  James was nine years old at the time. I knew Matt had a reputation as a phenomenal fisherman and years later when I had a chance to fish with him I witnessed something I had never seen. He fished with an effortless nonchalance. It was as if he knew he would catch fish yet he genuinely didn’t really care if he did or not. As the years went on I would often hear stories from Matt about the fishing exploits of James and Ian. The stories seemed fantastic but I knew that they were true. James is now 29 years old and reminds me a lot of his father. When everyone else is crying the blues about how bad the fishing has been, he’ll stop by the shop and in his cheerful mannered way tell us about the fish he’s caught and the flies that have been working for him. It’s been going on for years and has become a great source of amusement for us. A few weeks ago I realized that I had never invited him fishing and decided to do so. We went out on Wednesday and had a great day of fishing! We were into some nice stripers almost from the get go and even had a 4/0 tarpon hook straightened by a fish we never saw. I was fishing my Pollock fly and James was fishing his Lil’ Mule fly.  When I first saw the Lil’ Mule I didn’t expect James to have much luck with it but I was wrong. Stripers love that fly. Late morning the conditions were good for sight fishing so I asked James if he wanted to give it a try. He said that he was up for anything so I told him, “prepare yourself to be frustrated”.  After about 15 minutes on the flats two small schoolies came swimming by and James threw to them. I was thinking to myself “I hope this kid takes rejection well” when one of the bass swam right over and ate the Mule. I couldn’t believe it! A few minutes later the same scenario played out with a bigger bass that ate the Mule. After that James decided to try out a new crab that he tied and almost every bass he presented it to ate it. He landed 7 stripers on his crab fly, the biggest was 30”. Towards the end of the tide he had a shot at a legitimate 45” cow in two feet of water that calmly left the flat after a slow inspection of the crab. Not five minutes later two bass close to 40” did the same thing. James took the rejections with a smile and a laugh, much like his father would do.    

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein

Aug 18, 2012

I decided to give site fishing the flats a rest this past week. Instead I fished for stripers the way I have for years, trying to target larger bass. I fished with my friend Catherine and when I finally convinced her to throw the bananas in her lunch box overboard our luck started to change. We caught many stripers from 12” to 16”, a bunch of slot size bass, and 4 bass over 30”. It was a fantastic day of fly fishing! The next day the big cows were still around but much tougher to feed. I managed to land one cow that ¾” shy of 40”.

Jim

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein

Aug 12, 2012

As far as sight fishing for stripers goes, I now suck! It was never this way before. I mean, it was hard sure, and I had refusals yes, but I had some love too, lots of love. Years ago I had little stealth. I pushed my skiff up small flooding channels with an old bent oar and then waited in ambush on my mud splattered bow. But when the bass came, they ate my flies. Then I got my first electric motor and I felt like a fly fishing Ninja. Sure, I was limited to 17 inches or more of water but I had silent speed and maneuverability. No flat was too big to explore and even more bass ate my flies. Five electric motors later or several years ago I switched to poling. I felt like I’d reached the height of flats fishing stealth. I could now maneuver in seven inches of water, silently poling shallow sand and mud flats while ambushing and sneaking up on unsuspecting stripers. Stripers that were much spookier than any Bonefish I’d encountered. And yes, they ate my flies and there was much love. This year my stripers have surpassed Permit intelligence. I don’t know how or why it happened. It’s like they’ve learned to perfect hate. They hate my brand new pole, they hate my clothes, they hate my casts, they hate my retrieves, they hate my stillness, they hate my fly lines, they hate my leaders, they hate my knots, and they certainly hate my flies. Flies that for years were established the “go to flies” are now the “hate to flies”.  To add insult to injury, after their intense scrutiny then hateful refusals, they immediately go on their sides and eat something natural. They don’t stop to study the natural, they just passively eat it. WTF!!! I know that I’m not alone because other sight fishermen have been in the shop to share their stories of feeling the hate. Tiny crabs to big crabs, all shades of olive or green crabs, shrimp patterns, tiny to small to medium size baitfish imitations, land it on their heads, lead them by 20 feet, slow retrieve, fast retrieve, no retrieve, it doesn’t matter. If the water is no deeper than three feet these stripers take on a new persona. There is no shortage of shots. From my bow, on a good day, I can see them coming from a hundred yards away. In our crystal clear water I can count their stripes at thirty-plus yards. On a decent day I might get 20 or more shots at them. Lately, that would mean 20-plus hateful refusals.  Pole off the flats and blind cast into a bit deeper water with the same patterns and I’m hooked up. Blind casting could lead to redeeming my sanity and sight fishing might entice me to hate, but for now this is a puzzle I’m enthralled to solve. I just need a little love. 

Jim

Flats aside, the local striper fishing has been very good lately. Fishermen that have been in the right place at the right time are using the word “epic” several times in the telling of fishing stories. Reports come in every few days of large surface feeds from south and north of our shop. Huge numbers of small to midsize herring are in most of our estuaries and river mouths. The last report I had today was of a hundred yard long blitz of schoolies from 12” to 16” slaughtering small herring. The schoolies were reported to be “fighting over a fast retrieved fly”.  Reports of bluefish have been coming in sporadically for a few weeks. Most of those reports are of big blues as heavy as 16 pounds.  Last week we started getting reports of small blues. Local inshore water tempts as of last Thursday were 62 degrees. No solid reports of menhaden yet. Mackerel are still around and so are the squid. I had an on the water phone report from a buddy today. It was really bad reception and sounded like “you wouldn’t believ..........everywhe…….epic………every cast”! That’s all I heard before I lost the connection. I haven’t gotten back to him so he’s either screwing with me while I work or he was into incredible fishing. Knowing him as I do, I’m leaning toward the latter. Good luck on the water!

Jim

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein

Jul 15, 2012

     While standing on a dock in a local estuary around 8pm last Tuesday, my trout addiction took a major blow as a large school of 6 inch herring swirled at my feet with several stripers hot on their tails. I’d just launched my skiff for the first time this year and put it out on my assigned float. It was a record late launch for me. It blew my previous late launch record to hell. I was actually feeling a bit ridiculous as old friends were coming by in their boats saying stuff like “where the hell have you been”, “we thought you were done with stripers”, “you aint gonna catch no trout down heyah”. Standing alone on the dock a while later, watching the stripers feed, I decided that I might give the trout a rest for a bit. A little bit.
     I fished the salt for two days this past week. I decided to concentrate mostly on sight fishing for a couple of days. The tides were awesome for that and the sun was good but the wind did blow, as it always seems to blow. My friend Florian was down from Quebec and he fished the first day with me. He had six good shots and hooked up on one of them. Although it was the smallest fish we saw it gave him a good line burn on its first run. Day two was with my friend John and he had many shots at skinny water stripers. I do believe that we encountered the fussiest bass that I’ve ever witnessed. It didn’t help that I was still getting the rust off of my poling skills and John was getting the rust off his backcast presentations, but we still had some great presentations with old favorite, well proven flats patterns but the stripers just refused to be fooled. We fished some deep water spots just to get the skunk out of the boat and John landed two slot size stripers and one just over 30 inches on guitar minnows. It was great to be back on the salt with its wonderful aromas, sounds and beautiful scenery. I hope all of you trout bums out there get a chance to cast to a few stripers this season. It might just turn out to be casting practice for you but it might also turn out to be the best fishing story of your life.        
 
    Local striper reports have been very encouraging. I’ve had endless reports from boat fisherman getting into huge schools of big stripers feeding on herring and mackerel. Most of the feeds are out of reach for the shore bound fly fishers but a few that I’ve heard about were within fly casting distance. The rest were from just off shore to several miles offshore. The amount of bait around our area is fantastic. We have 2” to 9” long herring, Mackerel, silver sides, sandeels and squid. The squid reports are like I’ve never heard. There are huge numbers of them from Marthas Vineyard to north of our area. My friend DJ has been doing very well on squid flies. He tyes beautiful squid flys and has been gracious enough to tye some for our shop. Other flies that have been working well are Guitar Minnows, Emu Bucktails, Eyed Snakes, Punky Meadows, standard Deceivers and Clousers.

Good luck!

Jim

     

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein

Jul 04, 2012

Many of my fishing trips are the “spur of the moment” type of trips. I see a window of opportunity to get away and I take it. I’ve become much better at this as I’ve gotten older and since I’ve realized that fishing & camping alone can be fun too. You can do what you want when you want to do it. There is a sense of freedom to these trips that I don’t get when I’m fishing with a group of friends.

However, these types of trips lack the anticipation I get from a well planned fishing trip. That anticipation truly helps me maintain my sanity through the winter months. When lifes tough moments start to get to me, I can take a moment, sit back and look to that carrot hanging out there. It’s the trip. No matter how bad things get I know that I have time set aside to be with friends and share our common passion of the trip. As the years pass the trip develops its own history and throughout the winter we all talk about the trip. Are you going to make the trip this year? Have you tied any new flies for the trip? What do you think the fishing will be like on this year’s trip? Is Jen making us an apple pie for the trip? I hope that your dog doesn’t puke in the tent again on the trip!       

I just returned from one of the trips that I most anticipate. I spent two nights camping and three days of fishing up north with Dave Kelly and Maine Guide Kevin McKay. We’ve been doing this annual trip for several years. Each year Kevin suggests different locations throughout Maine to do the trip and this definitely adds to our anticipation. Kevin has always done a great job setting it up and this year was no exception. The camping was fun and the meals were phenomenal. Kevin’s lovely wife Jen provided us with her awesome apple pie. I think that Jen’s apple pie has become as important to the trip as the trout have. We had a wonderful time chasing brookies and landlocked salmon. The hatches were good and the fish were mostly feeding on caddis but we also saw blue wing olives, golden stones, lime & yellow Sally’s, and sulfurs coming off.  We caught fish on streamers and nymphs but our best success was on dry flies.  Dave and I both lost big fish at the boat. We laughed away a winters worth of stress and the dog puked in the tent. What a trip!

 If you are interested in guided trip with Kevin McKay you can contact him at http://www.mainefishingadventures.com/  I highly recommend him. 

Jim

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein

Jun 25, 2012

The striper reports that are flooding into the shop are almost too good to believe. One report was of a client on a guided trip who landed 20 stripers over 35” the largest being just over 40”. I’ve heard about 5 minute long blitzes and 5 hour long blitzes. Some anglers are telling me about evasive schools of 50” cow bass and others are saying they are catching the smallest striped bass that they have ever seen. On the other hand I’ve had some striper fishermen that can’t find the bass. I think this summer is shaping up to be a very similar pattern to the past several years when the bass were predictable when they first arrived but after about a month they couldn’t be found in any of the once reliable spots. The anglers who have one favorite spot to fish may get a striper here and there but overall they may have a tough summer. The anglers who are willing to keep trying new areas might just stumble onto some truly fantastic fishing. The more mobile that you are the better the rewards might be. I already know of two anglers this summer that have tried this and both had some of the best striper fishing they have ever had. There is an enormous amount of bait in our coastal waters. I’m mostly hearing about sand eels, baby Atlantic herring, mackerel, pollock, silversides, and squid.
    All of these reports have come from people I trust and not from my first hand knowledge this year as I am still suffering from trout-itis. I’m still traveling north each of my weekends and I’m still finding very good fishing and some great hatches. I just wish that I could move into my Hotel Tacoma for a summer of trout exploration throughout Maine, some day…!  For those of you waiting for the Hexes to come off, they’ve been doing so in southern Maine for about a week. Here are some fresh water photos from the past few weeks. I’ve decided not to take fish photos of trout unless I can do so by keeping the trout out of the water for only a few seconds, which is close to impossible when fishing alone.

 

 

Posted in Fishing Reports By Jim Bernstein