Weekend Warrior: Giveth and Taketh

The Fall Run giveth and the Fall Run taketh away. And when she taketh away, it hurts. Some backstory:

Last week over the course of four or five days, we had acres of feeding bass within the Three Bays. Peanut bunker, silversides and bay anchovies poured in along the beaches, and so followed the stripers. We were on the bite two days in and enjoyed tide-long blitzes along Long Beach, Browns Bank, and deep into the channels.

And these weren’t just micro fish blitzes. They weren’t our resident 16”-20” dinks—fish of all sizes joined in on the fun. We had plump stripers up to small keeper size, and lost a true cow that hit a Spook plug. Biggins’ paved the bottom in a few spots we checked. Some big bluefish even crashed the party.

It ‘s exactly what you picture the Fall Run to be. Absolute chaos. White water churning, baitfish crashing out of the water and schools of gulls and terns so dense you can barely see through them.

If you observed this, you’d have thought it would last forever. Just the sheer mechanics of it makes the whole thing seem perpetual. An object in motion will stay in motion infinitely. You’d have thought that the big fish, the true cows that have taken residence the past few months up North of Boston would have found their way into our little bay to gorge themselves on the buffet of bait.

And a few days into this seemingly infinite blitz, I thought this was exactly what happened. I saw one-off mentions of 20lb fish somewhere around my home waters. I saw Instagram posts with pictures of big bass on sand that looked very familiar to me. A surfcasting buddy confirmed when I swallowed my pride and asked a question you never like to ask a surfcaster: “Yup, found ‘em. Big fish off the beach.” This is it, I thought. This is the type of text that gets the juices flowing, if you know what I mean.

So, thinking that if I missed out on a truly epic fall bite in my backyard, I would probably still be thinking about it on my deathbed, I made the determination that I would go in late to work. That morning, with two hours still left before sunrise, seeing quite possibly my last pre-false dawn blackness of the season, I cruised into a very dark, very cold Plymouth Bay before work.

Immediately, I sensed the vacuum of it. There was nothing there. The fish, the bait, the birds, had vanished.

It was a lonely feeling. An empty bay spanned out in front of me, desolate, when only twelve hours before, it pulsed with life.

This is the fall run, in so many words. Moments of sheer chaos followed by long periods of silence. And all through these cold two months, we fish, hoping that our next blitz won’t be our last, our next striper won’t be our last before it’s curtains on the season. But certainly, one of these fish, no matter what, will be our last. Now that, my friends, is a lonely thought.

The Fall Run puts me in a sentimental mood. It makes me ache for warm, endless summer, full of promise, shadows of schoolies cruising the flats for green crabs. But this is especially true considering the circumstances. Stripers, as we know, are in trouble. But more on that in a separate blog. You don’t read this to feel melancholy. Or maybe you do.

The Report

The good news is, the stripers returned to our Bay spots, although not in the numbers we saw before. We still have a few weeks left and the promise of some good fishing, and a possible very big bass, if those North Shore folks ever want to give them up.

Albies are still a very real possibility, and you’re crazy if you think I’m going to give up on my fly rod albie dream already. Surprisingly, bonito are still hanging around in Buzzards Bay, the Southside, and the real big ones along the Vineyard. The bait is real, ladies and gents. You can walk on it in some spots.

Trout have been stocked! I repeat, the trout truck are rolling! All of my favorite ponds now have rainbows willing to hit anything that looks even remotely like food. This also means the big holdover browns will be out and roaming the shallows, especially as the temperatures drop. We’re going to be hosting a stocked trout tourney in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for that.

Oh yeah, and tuna fishing is off the charts. We’ll be out there soon.

So, although it can get bleak talking about the end of the striper season, our fishing options right now are really the best in the entire 12-month calendar. So make use of it. Get out there and fish these next few weeks. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

The Plan

We’re going to be avoiding the wind forecasts this weekend. As is typical this time of year, South and Southwest prevailing winds of late summer giveway to harsh North and Northwest gusts. But this is okay. The albies seem to like it.

Saturday, you’ll find Sean and I in the woods somewhere with Geoff of Brackish Flies, for part II of salter hunting. These are the last few weeks you’ll be able to safely target these beautiful fish before they begin spawning, so if you’re looking to get out onto the many brooks around and just off the Cape, do so now. We’ll have a report and some video to share after the trip.

Saturday afternoon looks like prime time for striper fishing. Very lights winds before a big shift to the South and a big dropping tide will get the fish moving. You’ll find us out in the Three Bays or around the East End trying to fool a few large migratory bass on the fly. Peanut bunker and Bay Anchovies are sill all over the place.

Sunday will be a tough one with the wind, but there may be a weather window to target albies in the morning. Pods of albies are still being found around the Canal, in Upper Buzzards Bay, and down the Elizabeths. Most of the bigger schools are south of us, but a good southwest wind may get them up into our reaches.

Billy Mitchell

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