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Fly Fishing for Striper

07/06/2017 Craig Joyner

Fly fishing for striperWe bounced around from cove to cove, peering as quietly as possible into the flat water where the little creeks fed the great lake. The shad were there all right, flashing first left then right, sometimes breaking the surface veil as the predators loomed underneath. Just what was it that forced the activity, bass or striper? We hoped it was striper.

Today Henry Cowan, a New York Yankee on our Southern Lakes, and I are searching the up-lake waters of Lanier for striper. It is a bit new to me, however, since this is my first attempt to catch one of these on a fly. I have often thought little of this fly-rod business; usually concluding that one could do better with conventional tackle and buck-tails, plastic jigs, and top-water baits.

Today I am the student.

Henry, a thrice-weekly visitor to Lanier and an accomplished fisherman with a fly-rod on waters all along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, has rigged for me an 8-weight rod spooled with intermediate line. A ‘Henry’s Easy-Cast’, a fly he ties himself, adorns the 10-pound tippet. A few minutes of false casting are required for me to even approach a decent presentation. Rudimentary success arrives with his hands-on instructions, and I am ready to threaten the sleek predators of the coves.

Henry relates that yearly in lakes like Lanier, Clark Hill, Hartwell, Carter’s, Allatoona and many others in the Southeast, when the late winter or early spring surface temperature hit 53 to 60, striped bass will streak into the coves and gingerly pick off meals of threadfin shad. The trouble with conventional tackle during this special time is that with the shad being so small, usually not over 2 inches in length, the baits are necessarily too large. A fly, however, is perfect.
Well, after a few hours of fanning the foggy air above the surface, I am a believer. By lunch, Henry and I landed 9 gamesters, with the largest a real whopper. And what a treat, the largest took my fly in not more than 18 inches of water. I saw the hungry fish approach and strike. I am here to tell you that striper will take a fly when larger baits will fail.

Good grief, what a task ahead, now I need to buy more rods and reels. Maybe you should try it too? A visit to the tackle shop may be in your future.

-O’Neill

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