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Up'North Goes Coastal

June 8, 2009

Up'North in a Not So Up'North Place!– All fly fishing is not created equal, and as me and the Roughfisher discovered recently, fishing the Salt for Stripers comes with it’s own batch of heartache and misfortune.

Just a few days ago I was fortunate enough to finally meet and fish with the Roughfisher, Jean-Paul Lipton. The day started early, the coffee was on, and the weather was showing signs of perfection as the sun crept over the horizon. Coming from dramatically different fly fishing backgrounds, both of us were looking forward to getting our lines wet on some running Stripers. The search started early as we set out on the road in pursuit of these ocean dwelling gems. Not knowing much of anything about fishing Stripers, the previous month was spent begging well respected guide Eric Wallace of Coastal Fly Angler (P.S. Did I win the trip to Belize?) and L.L.Bean’s Senior P.R. rep. Mac Mckeever for any information on locations and techniques best suited for success during our outing.

I wish I could say we were under prepared, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the only thing hampering our chances at Stripers other than a losing battle with the tides was likely my less than stellar driving. Let’s just say living in Northern Maine does not prepare one well for multiple lanes and mass commuters coming from every direction.

In the morning we fished one of the many many many many many don’t bother asking where many many many marsh systems of southern Maine. Jogging through the marsh grass what a bit tricky, so naturally I hung back and let the Roughfisher lead the way. He found a hole only once, and fortunately no broken ankles were on the menu. With the tide coming up, the water resembled something to the likes of Y00-Hoo, but neither of us knew if that meant good or bad conditions on Salt Water. L.L.Bean Orion 9wt Rod+Double L Reel+Ocean Sands and Sunshine=Pure Heaven

It was when we began to cast that Jean-Paul pointed out what should have been obvious to me from the start, casting my 9 weight Orion rod the entire day would take major effort, and lead to major soreness. Struggling with keeping my excess line from getting tangled in the marsh grass, making lengthy casts was difficult but I seemed to manage alright. The Roughfisher on the other hand had everything figured out. A recently purchased stripping basket, and a switch rod made his life much easier as he rolled effortless cast after effortless cast off the water. Can anyone guess who was complaining of shoulder pain when the day was through?

After some location changes along the banks of the Marsh, we quickly grew impatient and decided to instead explore a few other places our beloved guides had suggested. A few more minutes of driving, and a lovely walk on the beach (complete with labradoodles and their useless, incompetent owners) we found ourselves asking more questions than we could find answers to. We drove along the beautiful Maine coast, rambling on about “how fly fishing was back home”  and voicing our frustrations with a less than stellar start to our Striper trip, when Jean-Paul jumped up in his seat quickly and shouted “Stooppppp”. Without even realizing it (go figure) I had gone across a bridge right over a perfectly “fishable” coastal river. I immediately ditched the Yukon on the side of the road (out of the way I might add) and we jogged over to peer into the water below. What we found was numerous wading opportunities around some of the most gin clear waters either of us had ever seen. We stood on the bridge weighing our options when in a split-second the Roughfisher hopped yet again with excitement, this time pointing our a sizable Striper coming off the rocky bank and slipping into the depths below. Suddenly it was a foot race back to the truck, as both of us threw together our rods fighting intense excitement and shaking knees. Was this the moment we had both been waiting for? Time would surely tell.

Seeing as how my fishing partner had spotted the location and the first fish, It was only polite that I leave the area of the sighting under the care of his clouser minnow. I made my way upriver a few hundred feet and set up shop on an observation deck overlooking a sizeable pool. Dispite my elevated position and the crystal clear water, I was unable to spot any action below. I continued making casts out across the river, stripping my fly in at various speeds through various depths.

Still seeing the occasional Striper, the Roughfisher fought bravely on the field of battle but shared a similar fate as myself. Instead of sulking, we decided a move was in order, and changed our area of attack further downriver from our original spot. This time elevated on the bridge, I found myself lucky enough to spot a few fish coming off the sand bar and made some decent casts into their vicinity. At one point a decent Striper took a run at my fly before suddenly diving and leaving me scratching my head. After a few additional follows, and a quick chat with a gentleman who looked like he belonged on an episode of The Hills, we decided to pack up and search for some lunch. What seemed like an easy decision at the time was probably our biggest mistake of the day, as this would be the last time we would see fish.

Tight Loops on the Marsh

Tight Loops on the Marsh

The Roughfisher in action, doing what he does best!

The Roughfisher in action, doing what he does best!

After lunch we made our way to yet another marsh river system, and were greeted instantly with the same chocolaty water we had seen during our morning Marsh expedition. We tried our luck anyway, throwing prayer after prayed into the soupy water in search of that miracle fish. At one point I thought my moment had finally come, but 15 additional strikes in the same area confirmed that I was instead snagging the bottom. Needless to say Jean-Paul had some fun at the expense of my so called “claim of fly fishing skills.” A few quick pictures later we returned to the truck yet again with soggy shoes and broken hearts. This was not the glorious day either of us had planned for, though we both had to admit later that we knew the day would be spent sulking and searching for glory that would likely be out of our grasp.

So much more can be said about our adventurous day, but I’m sure none of you appreciate the novel that is undoubtedly starting to take shape during this post. Let’s just say a death march down a busy highway in search of that next great spot, and more Yoo-Hoo colored water capped off our already frustrating experience. Still, it was exciting to at least locate some fish and enjoy a brief battle with them, even if it was one we would eventually end up losing. A serious hats off to the fly fishermen who land these fish on a regular basis, because it truly is a challenge. Most importantly, once I can man up and forget about getting skunked, I’m left only with a soar arm and the memories of a beautiful day spent fishing (not working) with a new friend who just happens to be one of the nicest fellas I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.

Until next time,

Tight lines and High Tides,


Still to come…

  • Part 2 of my Exciting Thursday, June 4th 2009: The Fly Fishing Film Tour in Portland Maine.
  • More Striper Fishing, and more proof that old men are Fly Fishing’s greatest Gift
  • Much Much More (No more Slacking on my part!)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2009 2:28 am

    Sounds like good friends and good fishing. Even if there ain’t no catching.

  2. June 9, 2009 11:19 pm

    you summed up the morning just perfect. We’ll have to tackle those beasts on my next trip East.

  3. Captgordon permalink
    June 9, 2009 8:29 am

    Sounds about right for your first stab at it.

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