The Hardest Fighter in Freshwater?
The ocean is a tough place to survive. The currents are strong. Lots of fish that are bigger than you are, and they’re hungry! The prey often moves hundreds of miles, and you must chase them.
The hardest fighting fish in freshwater, most anglers will tell you, are those that come from the ocean. The steelhead, the salmon, the sea-run brown – they get all the press. There’s another fighter out there, though; and he may be the toughest of them all. I refer to the striped bass, morecelis ranglinus, also know as stripers, linesides, or rockfish. The striper is the target of choice for many saltwater anglers, and with good reason. They’re strong, aggressive, more than willing to take a fly, and often are accessible from shore. Like their salmanoid cousin, the striper spawns in fresh moving water and the returns to sea. Some southern strains are basically riverine (they spend most of their lives in the rivers and estuaries). The annual spawning runs up freshwater rivers are as much an eagerly-awaited event (at least by locals who know) as the famous steelhead and salmon runs.
And nowadays, stripers (and their cousins, the hybrid striped bass) are stocked in many landlocked reservoirs and are surviving and prospering .
River Fishing for Stripers
While freshwater striped bass fishing has become quite popular on many large lakes, river fishing for stripers is generally ignored except in the early spring when they move upstream to spawn in lake headwaters.
But take one look at the fish and you know it is built for current - the long torpedo-shaped body, the heavy musculature and the broad tail.It’s not just during the spring spawning runs that these are fish in the rivers. Because of their preference for cold waters and currents, the stripers often will move into the rivers during other times of the year. Many will live in the river system all year because they like the current and the heavily-oxygenated waters.
We are blessed with river systems that offer terrific striped bass fishing. We primarily fish the Chattahoochee above and below West Point Lake, with occasional forays to the Tallapoosa in Alabama (and feeder streams of both these systems).
This is the area of the continental fall line where the Piedmont drops away to the Coastal Plain, and the rivers here have considerable elevation change and some serious, rocky shoals. This offers two major plusses for fishing.
The strong currents offer the habitat that stripers prefer. The water is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
Perhaps more importantly for an excellent fishery, in many places the rocky shoals prevent access by the majority of anglers. Access is very limited, and offers few floating opportunities due to the lack of "take-outs." Wading access is also minimal.
These are wild and scenic rivers, too. Once you leave the cities and large lakes, most of the surrounding property is in large, uninhabited tracts. Wildlife abounds - eagles, hawks, otter, beaver, deer and turkey are common.
Our specially designed and adapted river craft is a heavy-gauge, all-welded, 18' tunnel-hull jonboat powered by a 90hp Mercury outboard adapted for jet (not propeller) propulsion. This boat allows access to waters that would normally be considered suitable only for whitewater kayaks and experienced paddlers.
The boat is fully rigged for fly fishing with large, 7' wide front and rear decks, center console, and 65-lb remote-controlled trolling motor. Two anglers can easily fish at the same time, with plenty of room for the guide and equipment.
Tactics and Equipment
Unlike the largemouth bass and other fresh-water game fish, stripers are generally not ambush attackers, but rather roving predators often on the move in search of prey. They can travel miles and miles in a single day. Rivers do tend to concentrate them somewhat, due to the constant current and bait concentrations.
In low water conditions, the fish will often hold in deeper holes above and below shoals. When water levels rise, they will move right into the shoals.
Seemingly at odds with their wolf-pack habits, they can often be found near downed trees on undercut banks. This is not because they are using the timber as cover, but because the wood fosters algae growth which attracts shad, the stripers main prey.
Our flies for stripers are almost exclusively shad imitations, and the fish are usually not especially picky as to the specific pattern. Much more important is the size - if the majority of shad are 3", that is the size fly we use. If the shad are 6", a 3-incher won't work.
Another major factor is presentation. Though this fishing is quite removed from the typically associated peace and serenity of trout fishing on streams, the fly must still act and move like bait. To accomplish this, we use a combination of floating, intermediate, sink-tip and full sinking lines. Rods sizes generally range from 6 to 9 weights depending on fly size and conditions. We furnish all flies and equipment, or you can bring your own.
For more questions or more information on guided trips, email Kent or call him at 706-883-7700.
Inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org