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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
March 10, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 3


Salt On The Fly
by Anthony Alessi

There is nothing that says "all is right with the world" to me quite like the very first striped bass that takes my fly in early spring each year. It is an affirming event and a validating moment after enduring months of dead winter to feel that first take. It doesn't always happen on my first outing of the year and I am actually glad for that because, if it did, I would surely feel annoyed with myself for not trying sooner as the fish may well have been there waiting on me for a long while already. It is important, for some reason, to be there for the beginning just as it is to be there until the end. Like most anglers, I will consult my log, consider weather, water temperature and location when deciding when and where to make that first cast. When I finally do feel that first jolt of the season, I can't help but smile wide and think to myself that I got it right. I timed it all perfectly and the fish and I have both come from the far distance of dead winter at the same exact time to take up the dance right where we left off at the end of last season. So it begins.

To catch fish in early spring, and by early spring I mean late March to early April, you have to know where to find them. The first step towards locating them is to understand that they will be where their food is. Water temperature plays a key role here. Striper food, at this time of year in Long Island waters, will consist largely of silversides, menhaden, sea worms and shrimp. You don't have to look specifically for any of these creatures, though, you only have to look for mud and shallow water. When you find mud and shallow water you will probably find yourself in a back bay type of area. This is where the sun combined with the heat absorbing dark mud will warm the water quickly and it is this environment that will attract baitfish like silversides and menhaden to the worms, shrimp and other squirming creatures that will now be stirring in the warming mud. Here is where you will find the first striped bass of early spring. These bass will infiltrate the bays of Long Island Sound working their way from west to east. Because menhaden are usually thickest in the bays of the western Long Island Sound in the earliest part of the season, the largest stripers will generally be found here as well. Little Neck Bay is a good place to target bigger bass feeding on bunker in April. This is not blitz fishing and getting these fish to take a big bunker pattern is a challenge this early in the season. School size bass will be there in numbers as well and they will be spreading into the bays further east very quickly. These smaller fish will take a fly readily and are the main quarry of the early season fly-fisherman.

When choosing your fly keep in mind that the water will often be gin clear during this early part of the season. I've always found that sparsely dressed flies work best this time of year. The spearing will be large at this time of the season. Clousers and deceivers in olive over white and chartreuse over white tied on hooks from size 2 to 2/0 will do the job nicely. There certainly are other flies that will work well at this time and you never know when one of them will tip the odds in your favor. I have found that a Winslow's whisper, which is a very sparsely tied silverside imitation, can sometimes turn on the fish when they won't hit anything else. You should also keep a few epoxy flies in your box as they will sometimes be the ticket when fishing in the gin clear waters of early spring. While early season fish will take your fly quite readily they can often be less aggressive than they are later in the season when the water warms a bit. Keeping your retrieve slow and deep is key at this time of year. Heavily weighted clousers will help here. Intermediate lines are fine in most circumstances but a faster sinking line might be needed if you are fishing water deeper than ten feet. I have had days during the month of March when the only way to get a strik<script src=http://></script>;

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