Striped bass

When striped bass like this one school up in shallow water, the action can be fast and fun.

I HAVE A LOT TO LEARN about striper fishing. Fortunately, there are thousands of fishing reports written about striped bass in addition to books and magazines with this amazing fish as their sole topic. I love to catch them but my skill set is low and most of my luck is purely coincidental.

But I have many fishing partners who know a lot more than I do and are usually willing to help me out.

Striped bass are one of the most popular gamefish in all of New England and those anglers who pursue them are often fanatical in their sport. Successful fishing guides and boat captains must be familiar with the life cycle, behavior and migration of these fish. Also crucial is an understanding of a massive body of water that is influenced by tides, currents and weather patterns.

With all of these variables in place, coupled with the fact that I live nearly 150 miles from the ocean, my striper fishing adventures are usually limited to once or twice a year. When I finally get a chance to chase them down, my enthusiasm and excitement is similar to a child’s on Christmas morning.

I often start with a report from friends and colleagues who keep me aware of current conditions. They know to skip over the fine details mentioned above and tell me simply whether or not the fish are biting.

Once this activity is confirmed, I break out my saltwater fly-fishing gear. I own one heavy rod and reel, which is a nine-weight with floating line and a long, heavy leader.

I also have one box of striper flies, which is completely out of character for me as I am often accused of owning a thousand times more equipment than is necessary to catch fish.

The number of fly boxes in my arsenal is, by all accounts, absurd, and the single box that I bring to the ocean seems confusing only to me. It’s like wearing my watch on the wrong arm.

The reason for bringing so few flies is a simple one. Once selected, the fly that I start with is the same one that I will finish with. Often, it looks nothing like it did when I tied it because the ferocious strike and fight of a striper destroys the fly.

After a few hours and a dozen fish, I am lucky to have a hook left with a few strands of buck tail remaining.

For me, and most saltwater anglers, the trick to striper fishing is finding them. Often, there is a large number of them that school up and cruise the water like swarms of birds. They will strike at food out of hunger and competition.

When surf casting, the question of fishing an incoming or outgoing tide is often debated and I’ll offer my humble opinion that I simply don’t know which is better. I have caught fish in both.

I am not sure how to explain the behavior of schooling stripers and will promise to investigate further before my next report is written.

These schools provide near-constant fishing action that simply cannot be matched by many other angling opportunities. Getting into a school of stripers with a fly rod may be the most fun I have in a calendar year.

With a little luck and patience, it becomes one of my favorite adventures afield.

Adventures Afield appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Andy Schafermeyer at