Striped Bass, also known as Rock, Rockfish, Morone saxatilis, or simply Striper, is a fish that inspires passion! But why?
Why is the Striped Bass the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and the state Saltwater fish of New York? Why have Striped Bass, or more precisely Striped Bass fishing, caused countless marriages to fail and been responsible for many people losing their jobs? Why during striper season do many otherwise reasonable folks walk around like zombies during the day due to relentless nighttime Striped Bass fishing.
Is it because it's the world greatest gamefish? Many striper fisherman would claim so. But like my friend Chronicle who insists Newton Massachusetts (near Boston) is the best place in the world to live but hasn't lived anywhere else, most striper fishermen haven't fished much beyond their backyard, so their claims don't hold water.
My favorite fishing on the planet is flyfishing for striped bass, period. I haven't fished for everything on the planet of course, but I've caught thousands of bonefish on fly, dozens of tarpon up to 150 pounds, tuna, sharks, barramundi, giant trevally and probably hundreds of "miscellaneous" species. I've spent hundred of days fly fishing the flats of the Florida Keys, spent months fishing for trout in New Zealand, made plenty of trips to Alaska, been to Christmas Island enough for the customs 'officials' to recognize me, fished the American West, the Bahamas, Central America, and plenty of places like the horribly polluted Hong Kong Harbor I'd rather forget (Hint: don't touch the water! Flyfishing not recommended here).
I don't say this to brag, but to give some perspective to my statement that "Flyfishing for Striped Bass is my favorite fishing on the planet."
I'll admit with 3 little kids I don't get to flyfish for stripers, or anything else, as often as I like to. The exotic trips are mere memories now. I no longer spend a month each fall on Marthas Vineyard throwing flies at striped bass. My biggest fishing thrill of the last year has been getting my 3 and 5 year old daughters to catch brook trout (stocked and somewhat tame) on worms in a nondescript trickle of water a mile from home.
So why do I love flyfishing for striped bass (and I can only speak for myself).
Variety: You can catch stripers in the surf on sandy beaches as well as off rocky coasts (be careful!), on the flats, both muddy and stunningly clear, at river and stream mouths as well as way upstream, in saltwater marshes, in brackish water in bays, miles offshore, and there are even landlocked stripers. They range from Canada to Louisiana, and the West Coast as well, and even Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, which last I checked are landlocked.
Stripers love flies, they'll eat almost any kind of bait, they'll hit any type of lure -- I've even caught one on a dry fly!
Size: Size does matter. Although most of the stripers you or I will catch will be five pounds or less, Stripers do grow over 100 pounds (the rod and reel record is 78-pound 8-ounces by Al McReynolds, caught on the Vermont Ave Jetty, in Atlantic City, New Jersey).
Knowing that the next cast *might* hook a monster does matter!
And don't forget, a 5 pound striper can pull, especially in the current, and they are masters at using the current to their advantage.
The Backyard Factor: Exotic locations be screwed! Knowing I can catch world class and fun fish in my backyard, or at least with a few miles, is really cool!
Challenge: Stripers might be trivial to catch sometimes, but other times they'll be as selective as the most uptight trout, spookier than the spookiest bonefish, and annoyingly near impossible to even locate.
Want a real challenge? Try getting a big one on fly. It's MUCH harder than using live bait! After a decade plus of chasing stripers on fly I have yet to break the 40 lb mark, and probably have less than a couple dozen stripers than weigh over 20. Hard to be sure, as I let most of them go and only eat the occasional fish.
The #1 reason?
FUN: Striped bass are just a damn fun fish to fish for, to pursue, and yes, to catch.