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Striper Time

Article by Bill Adelman
05/26/15 -- Why is it when the bite is on, I'm not? Earlier this spring when the striper bite was red hot on the Sacramento River near Rio Vista my available time was non existent. There’s a six pack skipper, a good friend, who’s been working this water for 40+ years. He took striper trolling trips on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, catching a minimum of 30 fish each day. My striper trolling rod was calling my name day and night, finally relaxing when I attached my reel on Thursday evening, planning a Friday troll. All was well. My friend fixed us up with top notch information and when we launched at the Rio Vista ramp at dawn, hopes were high. The tide was perfect, the wind was down and not that many boats were in sight. Sure glad I had already bought the eggs and hash browns to accompany my striper dinner that was scheduled for that night. Any guesses as to where this account is headed?

We trolled fast, we trolled slow, we trolled upstream, we trolled downstream and we trolled in a crisscross “S” pattern for 6 hours. We hugged the bank, fishing in water less than 4 feet deep and deep trolled lures in water up to 20 feet deep. The entire perfect tide came and went with nary a grab. My six pack friend also fished the same waters that day, ending with just one keeper. Why does this always happen when I have the time to fish? So, where is this going?

It’s going to Verona two months later. The purpose of this particular trip was to put serious hurt on the shad population. As often happens, stripers were in our fishing area on the second day. The bite took off at 9 a.m. with our first keeper linesides being taken on a fly rod. As the owner of a two-rod stamp, a decision was to place my fly rod in a holder, allowing my flies to sway in the current at about 70 feet behind the boat. A pre-rigged casting rod rested in my rod rack, and again began calling my name. The decision was to cross cast a white 6-inch fish trap, using an erratic tip action to add to the wiggle. Fish On! This one was also a keeper, a male in the 10-pound range. Finally, we’ll be able to have a fish dinner. A short time later another keeper was hooked on the fish trap, and a chunky female was released. The casting bite died for a while, resulting in a return to the fly rod. Another keeper grabbed the striper fly, a keeper as well, and was cut loose. This particular bite ended at 10 p.m., however it was a terrific one hour bite. During the rest of the week we managed a striper or two each day, all but one being undersized.

Bill Adelman in boat on Sacramento River holding a keeper-size Sacramento River striped bass
The author withf keeper-size Sacramento River striped bass. Photo by Gerry Madrid

Keeping in mind the two-rod stamp, we flung the fish trap about 40 feet behind the boat, set it in a holder, and let it wiggle in the river flow. This technique provided one more keeper during the rest of the week. The fly rods were the weapon of choice for the balance of the outing. Last season we utilized this same casting technique and had a 20+ pound salmon slam the fish trap. In the water pics were taken and the fish was cut free. Why mention this? Gerry, my fishing companion, had a solid grab this year and her fly reel sung so loudly that three people in the campground turned to look at the noise. The run was at super speed and straight down the river, indicating another salmon hookup. There wasn’t even time to start the boat and chase the hookup. By applying a bit of pressure to the spool of her reel, the salmon snapped off, thankfully. The shad fly was missing, however there was not a curly cue tip on the 8 pound leader. At least a small victory. All of this anticipated extra stuff when shad fishing is part of a very important mental process, to say nothing of talking rods.

Tight Lines!

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer, seminar speaker and hunting mentor.

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