Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Chesapeake Church" Stripers (November 2018)

Admittedly, my newfound interest in hunting made October and November less fishy than it otherwise would have been.  But late in the month,  I headed to the Bay for some late-season striper action with two good friends.  The morning started in the dark with black coffee and hushed conversations, but as the sun came up it became clear we had a beautiful, if chilly, Sunday on our hands. 

Our trip was courtesy of my friend Matt, who by all accounts could (and should) be a saltwater fly fishing guide.  Every time we fish together, I'm blown away by the depth of knowledge he has accumulated.  I try to soak it up.  Read his adventures at: 

Buddy #2 leads an environmental non-profit, and grew up fishing stripers in New England.  We talked at length about our passion for stripers, but also the management challenges facing the fishery.  

 Good friends

First glimpse always gets us stoked

Temps hovered at 35F as we cruised out of the Patuxent River and into the Bay...comfortable when stationary...pretty cold when running fast.  Through endless thermals layers, we scanned for diving birds -- hoping to be clued in to breaking fish.

Chilly morning

After following birds fruitlessly for a few hours, we decided to follow humans instead.  A dense cluster of fishing boats in the middle of the Bay caught Matt's attention, and we began jigging off the bottom with light tackle.  WHAM!  Matt landed the first and last keeper of the day.

Desperate to leave the crowd, we drifted into new water.  Within an hour, the action picked up.  Birds were now thick, diving for bait in every direction.  Loons pushed water as they chased small fish.  Schoolie stripers rolled on the surface.  Though the fish weren't big, they made for constant and exciting fly rod action.  At times, it was a striper every cast as we stripped small clousers near the surface.

We fished for hours, the temp hit 55F, layers came off, and someone remarked longingly that we'd forgotten beer.  What a Sunday.  This was "Chesapeake Church," my friend commented.  We considered trying to find larger stripers, but ultimately adhered to the adage "don't leave fish to find fish".

A representative sample

LL Bean ad, or just a handsome angler? 

 Note the bird action

 Raspberry sunset cruising home

Despite having no claim to Matt's keeper, the generosity of my pals landed me with fish for dinner.  I was particularly stoked because I knew Adrienne would have fun filleting.  A marine biologist with a penchant for ichthyology, she made short work of Mr. Striper.

We sizzled the fillets in garlic, butter, white wine, salt and pepper.  A bit of lemon, spinach, and rice pilaf finished out the meal.  Light, flakey and just 15 minutes removed from the fish itself, the fillets did not disappoint. 

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