Fly Fishing in a Gale, Successfully!

Fly fishing in a gale for striped bass? Well, we all have our stupid fishing stories, and sometimes stupid fishing works.

I had spent two wonderful weeks fly fishing on Marthas Vineyard, an island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and had just left the island. I was at a meeting of my other "excessive" hobby, this one focused on 48 hour competitive ham radio marathons, and our president, Jeff, K1ZM, played a Tom Peters videotape to get us motivated for the upcoming ham radio season which starts right around when the striped bass leave .  .  .

It got me motivated all right  ̶  motivated to fish! I drove straight to Woods Hole and caught the last ferry back to Marthas Vineyard.

The sea was rough. Waves were washing over the bow of the 235 foot ferry and several passengers were seasick. There was water downstairs swishing around the cars. I couldn't believe they hadn't canceled the ferry! And I was going fly fishing? I had less than 36 hours before I needed to return home, so no question I was fishing tonight, but where?

Landing on the Vineyard around 10:30PM I realized it was worse than I thought, with 25+ knot winds and gusts hitting 45 knots and up. My fishing choices were pretty limited.

I thought Eel Pond might be a possibility. It's a somewhat sheltered shallow salt pond with many acres of shallow flats, which meant slightly less wind, little wave action, and the possibility of casting in any/all directions depending on the gale force winds.

I like fishing the mouth of Eel pond, which is normally flat calm but had 4 foot storm surf tonight and made me wonder how nasty the ocean beaches must be. No doubt downright dangerous. I waded into the pond a few hundred yards, and started casting with a floating line, but there were too many weeds from the wind kicking things up, so I switched to an intermediate line with a fast sinking Clouser minnow to avoid the weeds and other garbage kicked up by the gale as much as possible. It worked OK and most casts avoided the flotsam and jetsam.

Obviously no one else was fishing tonight. Fisherman may be crazy, but not this crazy.

The best fisherman get out and fish. Although I don't recommend fishing in a gale, how many times have you decided not to fish because the tide was wrong, the wind was wrong, you didn't like the phase of the moon, etc.? The fishing might have been great, if you had gotten out and fished somewhere!

Eel pond worked OK. I could cast, although I had gale force winds impeding my backcasts and aiding my frontcasts. There were a few bass around, and I was picking up a schoolie an hour roughly. Pretty slow going, but hey, I was catching fish!

At first light I imagined breaking fish on a shallow bar in Eel Pond, but no way, it couldn't be. It was too rough to see any such thing. Then I saw another nut case apparently fishing near the shallow bar.

As I got closer I saw he was fly fishing too and there certainly were breaking fish. He was casting right into the fish without success.

I cast into the growing melee a couple times with no success. On my third cast something struck. It was a strong fish and I imagined it was using the gale force winds to its benefit. Maybe it was?

A few minutes later I had a bluefish on shore. I had lip hooked it fortunately as bluefish have sharp teeth and easily bite through mono.

I always carry some wire tippet in case bluefish show up. Unfortunately, it's often too late after I realize that I've been bitten off by a lone bluefish or fast moving school. However, if a school of bluefish shows up and hangs around, you want to have that wire!

The blue wasn't real big, probably around 7 pounds. Since it was during the Marthas Vineyard month long Fishing Derby, I kept it and entered it into the Derby. It was just shy of 7 pounds.

For the next few days I was amazingly in first place for a fly rod shore caught bluefish! Blues were scarce that year. Eventually bigger blues hit the Island, and I ended up in third place.

So other than a hopefully interesting story, what did I gain? Well, I have a plaque for third place on my wall right next to the plaques I've won in ham radio contests, and I also got a nice ten weight fly rod as a prize!

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