Friday, May 24, 2019

Surfcaster's Striper Blog 2019

After waiting all-winter-long for the return of Sax to our waterways, there's no better feeling than that of the sudden strike to a lure left wiggling in a nighttime tide by a fish coming to bend the hell out of your rod.  With any luck of genuflecting graphite strain, the blurred shape, profile, and hinting colors of the season's first fish soon emerge to coalesce within boiling surface convections atop an aqueous conveyor of inky blackness to an angler's hungered sight.  A 34.5" Striper.  "Something important had continued."  

Friday, February 1, 2019

Master Of The Striper Fly

That was it.  I decided at long-last to just do it, even setting a reminder into my phone's calendar.  This time, I wouldn't forfeit to the coming, onset, and passage of yet another winter season in having never acted to redeem opportunity sunken beneath the darkening depths of flowing time ebbed years prior.  Some long-running tide showed hints of slowing, perhaps even coming to slack, such that with any coaxing gravity of my motive, would soon reverse state, flooding entirely anew.  I could no longer float some buoyant, subtle sense of regret left otherwise unchallenged by action or remedy.  After all, the solution was quite simple enough.  Every January, for a sudden and swift three days, the man from Massachusetts conveniently makes himself accessible to one-on-one, vis-à-vis visitation within the very state I live.

A Wawa coffee was poured, an address entered into GPS for easy E-ZPass passage up the GSP, and with the smeared ink applied of a rubber stamp rolled against the back of my hand, I strayed for the first time about an aircraft hanger-sized venue in peripatetic pursuit of a renowned author and Striper fly-fishing authority by the name of Rich Murphy.  Somewhere among the vast commercial channels of vendors and churning volume of shoulder-bumping passersby sweeping through aisle inlets, he was here, poised and positioned at a table blanketed by a sheet of white poster paper being tattooed with a graffiti of illustration.  At a trade show workstation, weighed-down by tying vises clamping at the hooks of his original, hand-tied creations, precise foils of feather and flash posed on-display and buttressed end-to-end between stacked hardcovers irrefutably recognized the sport over as the man's distilled, encyclopedic anthology of experience, here bound as the inviting inventory of his weighty book, Fly Fishing For Striped Bass.  It was then, that a saltwater fly-tyer and expert stalker of M. Saxatilis lifted his downward-turned eyes away from the attention of his working fingers to curiously glance above a plastic rim of bifocals where he focused instead unto a Fly Fishing Show attendee who suddenly appeared standing before him.

Rich Murphy's tying table at the Edison, NJ Fly Fishing Show.  His 2007 publication, Fly Fishing For Striped Bass, is widely recognized as "encyclopedic" in coverage; an "immediate bible" on the subject of Striper fly-fishing strategy.  Angling author Dick Brown penned it as "the distilled wisdom of an expert stalker of Striped Bass.. a celebration of one man's love affair with a great game fish."  Agreeably, the book's comprehensive and prudent content promptly won my heart.  That afternoon, after a smile and handshake, Rich's parting words to me were "everything in it is the truth."         

RM's Conomo Special, a large streamer fly that proved innovative in its inception at the imitation of the Clupeidae family of finfishes (alewife, blueback and Atlantic herring, Atlantic menhaden, threadfin, gizzard, and hickory shad).  It's Rich's #1, single-most productive, and universally-adaptable Striper fly pattern, named after Conomo Point on the Essex River in Essex, MA.        

The venerable vanguard of the vise was quick to use a pen in illustrating on his table how the profile depth of the Conomo's spreader cone could be manipulated with finger pressure into a shape that bears to appropriate an overall length-to-height ratio to the cross-sectional body profile of prey a tyer intends to imitate.

For some time, I had finally stood present, in-the-flesh, before the enthusiastic character of a man whom some distant six winter's time earlier, I grew to know only in my mind, page by carefully turned page, under the illuminating light of a reading lamp.  Having been befriended by a printed wisdom of words that flood his 457-page saltwater atlas, this same hardcover that I awoke from its bookcase and deliberately accompanied to the show, I imagined it reasonable to possibly personalize our friendship with just a few more - those that I would value as penned-privilege of a master's autograph.  His inscription advancing one last personal cast of wisdom - "Let the big ones go."  Five simple words that mean so incredibly much, and serve equally as important as the backing packed deep onto your arbor, waiting for some day to be revealed to the silence of night as you turn hard to stop your personal best from running-off without first inscribing your excited eyesight with the size and color of her splendor.

"Without this book, an angler can still catch Striped Bass.  But with it the reader will gain a hard-earned advantage in the quest to catch a knee-knocking trophy striper.  The author and I both started fly fishing for this magnificent fish at about the same time and with the exact same tackle.  He became a true gourmet, while most of us are only gourmands.  Rich rose from student to professor.  Now all this knowledge is at our fingertips." - C.M. "Rip" Cunningham, former editor-in-chief Salt Water Sportsman magazine

The event's encompassing parking lots were generously-stocked of clever, fish-inspired vanity plates.  Clearly, this last one I chanced upon, served as a rendered reminder of Rich's drying penned message within the bound covers I carried.  Just do it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Merry Fishmas! '18

Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas, a joyous holiday season, and a prosperous 2019!  See you on the sand next year..

"Santa's 50"  For the 2018 holiday season, I "present" a layout that I altered after I first posted it for this blog in Dec. '16.  The most notable change is the use of artist Ford Flick's beautiful and lively-looking Striper illustration titled "Mature Striped Bass."  Although it's nearly impossible to discern, I would like to note that for this picture, Santa is standing on a snow-covered 8th Ave. jetty that I photographed (and fished) in Asbury Park, NJ a few years ago before beach replenishment covered most of it.

Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Morone Saxatilis!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Striped Bass: Illustrations & Wildlife Art

Shared in this post are what I find to be a healthy sampling of the most admirable and accurately-depicted Saxatilis illustrations and works of art that I have chanced upon in my years of having lived immersed within the salty subject of everything Striped Bass.  Selected are twenty-nine (keeper) pieces created with mediums of ink, pencil, oil, acrylic, watercolor, or digital pixel.  While there are seemingly countless examples of this celebrated fish found throughout various realms of the art world, whether professionally-commissioned or humbly-sketched and shared on the internet, I find it striking that no two artists seem to express this same fish in the same manner.  That is, each artist has a different eye or physical capability for what he or she mimics and envisions.  Some aspect (whether coloring, curves, overall proportion, anatomical accuracy, body and fin shaping, attitude, or state of motion) of a finished product is always different from extant pieces of work, and moreover distinguishes what I as an observer and fisherman believes to be a convincing representation of the East coast's most popular gamefish.  With that, some really do stand-out against the "school."  I suppose it's just enough to share a few that should merit any Striper enthusiast's artful appreciation, and in this case especially, exhibit the true-to-life and apropos valediction commonly used of an angler - tight lines

Amadeo Bachar

Arthur Shilstone - "The Striped Bass"

Flick Ford

Flick Ford

Flick Ford - "Mature Striped Bass"

Guy Harvey

Guy Harvey - "Striped Bass Collage"

Jim Roszel

Jim Roszel

Joe Higgins - Gyotaku (ink & paper) fish prints.
"Joe's Fresh Fish Prints" 

Mark Susinno - "Mopping Up" (2004)

Mike Savlen - "Striper Rise" (giclee on stretched-canvas)

Nick Mayer

Nick Mayer

Samuel Kilbourne (1858)

H.L. Todd (1884).  This illustration is used for the logo of the 154-yr-old Cuttyhunk Fishing Club in Massachusetts.

Savio Mizzi - "On The Fly"

Stanley Meltzoff - "Eighth Avenue, Asbury" (July 1966) oil on panel

Stanley Meltzoff - "Barnagat Inlet, North Jetty" (June 1966) oil on mounted canvas


Unknown (appeared in On The Water magazine, 2017)

Jacqueline Stella


Unknown (appeared in Utah Fishing Guidebook 2018, page 58)


James Prosek

David Danforth

David Riina - "Realistic Striped Bass" (watercolor)

Captain Stephen Ferrell

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Rockfish à la Norman Rockwell

A Photoshop edit made of Rockwell's "Freedom From Want" (1943) in which a Striper was made the main course. Although the serving platter edit was not my work, I added four other elements to give it a slightly (hardly noticeable due to low resolution) more surfcaster edge. While this particular fall run has not liberated my own feelings of want with respect to beaching migrating bass, the Thanksgiving Day holiday casts upon us a much greater appreciative appeal - friends & family - the very unmoving rocks of our existence.  To surfcast is to perhaps have washed-away in the briny prescription of a saltwater tide the mind's most minor misgivings, even those as inconsequential as bemoaning the spirited absence of one's favorite gamefish, as the keepers and personal bests are always patiently waiting to your back and over your trying shoulders, on dry land, at home. Give thanks to them.  Never stop fighting for them.  But also give thanks to Sax. I fear she may need the help of our good fight too..

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Exposures - October 2018 - II

The overcast morning of the 21st. Against the bitter odds of a very windy weather forecast (or even better judgement, for that matter) I was back on the trail in search of tail. After all, October only comes once.

Standing at 6AM in a NNW wind of 26mph, it was quasi-manageable to make worthwhile casts into deep water.  What little hope we shared of fish showing in the surf literally blew away by 10AM after winds grew sustained to 38mph and shifted N.  A relentless sandblasting and pelting to the body and face was the knockout punch.  

Even with rod held high, airborne sand was striking at my reel and guides with the similar sound of precipitating ice pellets, much like this accosted angler must have experienced.

Before the blow shifted N, anglers gave the churning flood-tide a go with a NW wind pushing to their backs.  One or two whales made passage close to shore, periodically revealing movement across the channel by their misty exhalations erupting like geysers from the white-capped sea, and a determined seal bobbed through the tide that morning.  Not a single fish was landed, that I saw.

If you don't go, you just won't know..


817 feet of tanker ship silently slips out to sea on an ebbing tide.

The intoxicating, banded reward of a surfcaster's nighttime obsession.

A beached bay anchovy that made away from the surf's shallow wash of blitzing Hickory Shad and feeding schoolie-sized Stripers.

Sun sets as a microburst rolls-in from the west.  I considered this my last "easy" shot at surf-caught Albies for Oct. '18.  With the sea-stirring winds of the season's first Nor' Easter only 36 hours out from this particular evening, any shot at hooking greenbacks from the surf after this outing would be particularly welcomed, but not probable.  There's always the first week of November, if the weather cooperates, and the Anchovies stay in close to the sand..  

October's Hunter Moon rises to greet anglers who were tight to schoolie-sized Stripers, one after another, for a better part of dusk.
For the first time that I witnessed this fall, pods of medium-sized Bunker schooled the slack tide out-back.  Hopefully, these fish are an indication of good things to follow - as in, large Stripers on the hunt of these arrowhead ripples seen meandering within a moving tide.   

With a Nor' Easter carving-up the coast overnight, it was a relief to finally see an abundance of baitfish outback.  Especially, these guys - "the most important fish in the sea."

Micros and schoolies were the abundant contenders lurking within many an October tide that I was able to fish.  With exception, only a few large Stripers were taken that I knew of.