The year of the striper is winding down. With only 3 weeks left, hopefully there will be a couple of trips to the steam plants before the New Year starts (if it gets cold enough). In the last 21 years since I caught my first striped bass on a fly, this year has been head and shoulders above the rest. 230 stripers landed (25 trips, of which only one was fishless), including a new personal best of 26 pounds (as well as Flat Fly'n's personal best 20 pounder). In fact I had landed more stripers this year by March 1st than I caught all of last year. I think I know what happened to make it such a great year.
Historically, fishing for stripers below the steam plants and dams meant catching many, many skipjack (Tennessee tarpon, shad, or whatever you like to call them). Some days there were so many that you could catch one every cast and we have caught them up to 4 pounds. Somehow you had to get the fly past the shad and white bass to hook a striper. But this year the skipjack have disappeared. I only caught 3 or 4 at the steam plant (Kingston) last winter, and only remember catching 1 below Melton Hill all year. There were still huge schools of threadfin and gizzard shad, so the stripers have had to key in on smaller food, which has been a boon to us fly guys. I think the larger fish have had to eat constantly to get enough food which also helps. I can’t explain why the shad are gone, and have not seen this condition in the past. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.
Happy holidays to everyone, and keep on casting!