When one fishing season ends, another one begins for TFO Advisor Blane Chocklett. After a long and successful fall and winter guiding season of chasing large musky in the rivers of Virginia, the warmer days of Spring get Blane prepared to target trout, smallmouth, and striped bass.
We see a lot of material on trout and smallmouth, so we thought it would be fun to switch it up and talk with Blane about striped bass fishing as these fish can get massive and are a blast on the fly.
What kinds of signs or patterns lead you to start focusing in more on striped bass fishing in your area?
When spring arrives in my area it signals migrations and reproduction in many animals and fish. As water temps warm many fish begin their annual spawning migrations. Shad move into our river systems and not too far behind are the predatory species like striped bass. A combination of water levels on the rise with rising water temps in combination with ambient light, all play a part in these annual migrations.
What types of TFO rods (series/weight) do you like to use to go after striped bass? What do you like about these rods that cater to this type of fishing?
I like the Mangrove series when using larger flies and heavy sinking lines when targeting stripers. The rod action in the mangrove helps smooth out the shock and kick over of the heavy flies and line. When using the intermediate and floating lines for this time of year I like the Axiom ll-X as it is fast and smooth and carries the flies to the target effortlessly.
What is the target forage for striped bass in your fishery/area and how do you mimic that? Does forage type change over seasons?
In our waters the forage for striper can range from river Herring to alewives and threadfin shad. All can very in sizes and is important to note as the fish can key in on certain sizes based on what’s available to them. I tie many variations of my Game Changer fly to mimic the sizes and species for this very reason.
What line/leader/tippet set up does you like to fish said flies on? Specific knots?
When the fish are in pockets and heavy current areas I prefer the Scientific Anglers “ Frequency Sink Tip” as it has a type 5 10 foot sinking tip with a tapered floating line for the angler to be able to mend the line in the fast water while the fly and sinking head is dropping in the zone. This allows the angler to manipulate the fly in eddies while maintaining control of the floating line in the faster current.
A second line I use is the SA Sonar Sink INT/SINK3/Sink5 for faster deeper runs. This line keeps direct contact with the fly as the line sinks due to its triple density design.
The third set up I like is the SA Sonar Sink 30 Clear Intermediate line. This line fishes well in slower water when the fly needs to hover or stay in an area longer without sinking too fast and getting hung up.
Any opportunities for top water?
We get good top water opportunities during low light early morning and evening and even after dark. For this set up I like the Axiom ll-X 8-9wt paired with a SA Amplitude Tropical Titan as it turns over bigger more wind resistant bugs well like big poppers and sliders.
Do striped bass have a certain type of behavior or holding pattern for spring? In other words, are they moving and covering a lot of water at this time, or are they typically a little bit more lazy and stick to one area? What types of water should an angler focus on for targeting this species?
This time of year stripers are on the move so keeping up with locals and being on the water is key. Many of the fish will run to certain areas to spawn and feed and finding these areas is key to success. Look for natural obstructions like water falls, big rapids or dams, these are areas where they will start to bottle neck and back up creating more opportunities.
How does striper fishing in your area change over the course of a season?
Striper season is very fluid as they constantly change based on food availability and water temps and ambient light.
For the angler that doesn’t have a boat, do you have any tips for wade anglers that would like to take their chances at catching a striped bass?
For those that don’t have boats wanting to target striper, look for tail outs of rapids and pockets. Areas were the striper has to concentrate before moving up the river. For lake anglers look for backs of coves, points and flats adjacent to river channels.
Blane Chocklett is an advisor at Temple Fork Outfitters, proclaimed fly fisherman, guide, and innovative fly tyer. You can find out more about Blane here.