Casting through Covid with Peter Jenkins and without sausage and peppers

RIDEM does it. Town Council’s do it. School Committees do it. Wine clubs, I mean book clubs, do it.

Now the RI Saltwater Anglers Association is doing it. Replacing regular monthly Elks Lodge meetings famous for helpful speakers and plates of sausage and peppers dinner beforehand, with a ZOOM video feed is just one of our “new normal’s” these days. Tom Wood, who chairs the education Committee and President Steve Medeiros managed the feed with guest speaker Peter Jenkins from The Saltwater Edge and Board Chair of a newly formed American Saltwater Guides Association talking about Fly Rod When? Nothing disappointed; there was plenty of information just in time for local waters bursting with fish. 

Bending to hyperbole, striper fishing has been absolutely, unbelievably fantastic!

fishing is so good right now, you can relax and still catch ’em up

Big fish finally arrived after a long, wet spring which discouraged many to prophesy that the population had really crashed. Throughout middle to lower Narragansett Bay, charter captains like Mike Littlefield of Archangel Charters have been finding big, big fish. Like 40 pounds big. More big fish are moving off the menhaden and onto sand eels along the southeastern coast. Some days they’re at 50 feet but then the next, they’re in skinny waters looking for crabs and worms. The next day they are either gone completely or they’ve moved to a nearby location that you don’t know about.

Mike Littlefield of Arch Angel Charters

If you’re trolling, don’t go without a few Butchie Built tube and worm setups. Having  paddled alongside fishermen like Vee Ounnarath and Noe Phommarath, who can release two fish before you’ve even settled into your seat and had a sip of coffee, it’s pretty obvious Butchie Built’s are no joke.

Laptop meetings are now and possibly may remain the way RISAA holds meetings  but they suffer from a lack of plastic plates, iceberg lettuce salads, rolls of raffle tickets spilling over tables, young members running us lures we don’t really need and Thanksgiving dinners on a warm summer night in an Elks hall tight with friends telling stories, spilling a little beer and shaking hands.

Remember shaking hands? 

Mr. Medeiros wisely prevented members from appearing on screen, sparing us images of members lounging in bathrobes and those hard to erase shots of people with laptop cameras just a tad too close to their noses.  

Still riding a fisherman’s high of landing a 38” striper in Charlestown Pond on an eight weight, Mr. Jenkins was all business. He proved that in certain situations, loading a rod with the weight of only line and fly then that pure joy of handling an incoming, or maybe outgoing, striped bass or big bluefish is an unforgettable experience. He covered changes in places where we should fish and the positive challenges they offer: deep to shallow, light to dark, warm to cold. These are all examples of where fly rods might better present a bait pattern to hungry fish.

 “Stare at the surf line, stare at the swash line,” he said. Those wise words encourage anglers to pause before they start swinging because in certain situations, fly rods will outperform spin gear when the subtleties of some submerged geographical conditions call for delicate or highly specific presentations.

“They come out of the deeper water looking for something to eat,” Peter said. In a salt pond, it’s all about sand eels, crab and shrimp imitations. If you’re not seeing clouds of bait like you hoped to, throw a crab pattern. What’s more, some flies need only to be simple in their design for estuaries where small bait fish and “critters”, as Peter likes to say, can hide from strong winds and waves.

“There’s a lot of great fishing in water like this,” he said, referring to the end of Narragansett’s Narrow River, but there’s almost always a wind. Basic fly casting might get you 40’ but a better line and a double haul might get you out to 70’. Taking a fly casting class will help. Instruction is offered at shops like The Sporting Shoppe in Richmond. 

“Be patient, let the fish turn before raising the rod tip,” Peter advised. You’re not trout fishing, you’re trying to get a big fish to commit to a small fly so using the line in your hand and the small amount of power in the top of the rod is the key to getting the weight back to the middle and butt section of the rod. Peter had all sorts of tips, like twitching and pausing your pattern at the end of your swing, while the fly has had a pass through the current and now its speed increases and it rises with water motion. That could be the trigger to make fish commit to taking a bite.

By all accounts, his virtual presentation was a winner. There were slides of thin fly patterns for sand eels and silverside, mediums for tinker mackerel and mummichogs, wides for bunker and herring and of course, shrimps, crabs and worms. Bright flies work in discolored waters, subtle patterns shine on bright days, dark flies catch on dark nights and those dark, dark flies are just calling to be used at low tide. He recommended fishing local patterns like a Razzle Dazzle, Rhody Flat Wing and the Rays Fly.

These were perfected by the oldest saltwater fly fishing club in America, our own Rhody Flyrodders. Peter also recommended a few local writers, like Ken Abrames who wrote Striper Moon and A Perfect Fish: Illusions in Fly Tying. He should have mentioned Dave Monti, who’s long career writing fish reports and working to preserve stocks is more than noteworthy.

The next RISAA virtual meeting is scheduled for July 27 at 7:00 pm. Captain Dave Monti will talk about how to Catch Bigger Fluke. If only we could just smell the sausage and peppers…

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018931-sausage-with-peppers-and-onions

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