Always have your rod with you! How many times have I said that over the years and not put it in the truck? Well, this afternoon I had my 8wt Axiom II fly rod with me and boy am I glad I did!
I was running Big Dog on the beach and I had my fly rod in hand – just in case. Suddenly, a massive blitz erupted around me and the entire shoreline went wild with hundreds of striped bass and perhaps millions of large peanut bunker (3″ – 4″ inches) spraying out of the water, through the air and up onto the beach!!!
The bass blitzes were INTENSE and so tight to the shoreline that the fishes backs were often out of the water and I thought some of them were going to beach themselves! Six to twelve inches of water and it was all happening right at my feet – at times only a rod length away. In fact, I kept throwing my fly pattern way beyond the fish. They were blitzing that close. The shoreline was littered with dead peanut bunker.
Well, I had my top of the line stripping basket on, my fly line was stretched, cleaned and greased, I had a new leader and tippet, and a brand new Baymen Universal fly. I was ready for this and have been waiting to get into this all summer. Now was my time!
I cast my fly out into boils and boils of exploding topwater bass and began to striped my fly back like a madman. WHAM! FISH ON! Line screaming off my reel and I knew it was a big one! Suddenly – my line went slack!!! I was fishing a barbless hook and I let just a tiny bit of slack into my line as the fish began to take off like a rocket and that was all it needed to throw the hook…
I cast again, this time stripping back slower. My heart was pounding out of my chest. There had to be fifty fish or more smashing bait in front of me, to my right, to my left, no more than ten feet to twenty feet away and bait was exploding through the air in massive blow-ups!
Strip… Strip… Strip… WHAM!!! Big Fish On Again! This fish tried to run but this time I kept a very tight line on him. No way I was letting an inch of slack into the line on this fish! The pressure on the 8 wt fly rod was intense so I very carefully clutched some line out, using my stripping hand as the drag. The water was so shallow, this fish could not get enough momentum to really take off. I had him and after a short fight, I began to walk backwards and dragged him up on the beach grass.
All this was going on while huge striped bass (some I estimated had to be 36″ inches or better) were slashing through millions of peanut bunker all around me, with many fish with their backs out of the water. I quickly released the bass and cast again to massive explosions… WHAM!!! Fish on! Another one, this time in a little deeper water, this one was able to power up and scream out away from the shore. Again, I worked my stripping hand as the clutch and kept him from going into my backing. I tired him out and slid him up onto the shoreline, unhooked him, and released him back into the blitz.
This went on until I was tired and my hands were cut up from clutching line. I also had a very sore finger from a hook a fish put through me yesterday while on charter, the bandage being ripped off by a running fish at some point in this blitz.
Happy and thrilled, I walked back to my truck, amazed at the numbers of bass and the shear amount of baitfish being sprayed into the air, and flopping onto the shoreline. The bay was dead-calm and noise from all of this was so loud and right in front of me. Boy, was it exciting – and not another sole in sight! I could not be happier to have walked into this massive blitz like this, with my rod rigged and ready in hand!
So, that’s my fish story. One of the highlights of my summer and of many summers past. This one is going to be hard to top. My only regret is I could not get one of those GIANT bass to take my fly. But I still got many keepers and a few shorts as well. Thank you Lord. Great to be a part of your creation.
Capt. David Bitters, BAYMEN, www.baymenlife.com Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Striped Bass Charters on the Massachusetts Coast. 30 Years Guiding The Bay.