A Change in Seasons on the Flats [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: A Change in Seasons on the Flats

08-10-2003, 07:35 AM
As most know it's been my pleasure to work as a seasonal shore guide on Monomoy over the last several years and as each phase of each season passes by on the flats I've come to know them like old acquaintances I haven't seen in a year. Sometime between the last somewhat frustrating yet pleasant sunny day of sight fishing during the invertabrate phase and the end of last week the clock ticked and the young of the year finfish phase (herring and menhaden) stepped in and spread like wildfire over the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge.

Goodbye zipper-lipped shrimp sippers, and welcome backs-out-of-the-water ankle-deep linebackers pounding the clouds of small herring and pea bunker appetizers which are just warm-ups for the juvenile bunker about to appear in the area in force.

Things have quickly changed, and fall will come to the flats in a blink. The fish do not grub face down as prominently as they've been due to distrations of surface pounding feeding opportunities. To find fish successfully it takes a different way of thinking about the macro-structures of tide, sand, and weather.

I'm pleased to say we stayed a step ahead of each checkpoint according to expected movements yesterday with the exception of the last which we were late on tide movement but found some fish anyway. A very different approach than summer sight fishing yet very effective even in dark, rainy downright miserable conditions.

At one point I saw more fish in one spot than I have ever seen in my life, most with their fins poking out of the water shallower than my shins. After hooking numerous fish, I stopped to take a video clip of the activity before hooking countless more... note the grass on the left at the end of the clip, and the dark color of the foreground water which is about 4 inches deep. The fish are the disturbance under the birds, which is less than shin deep. As I stepped around the bottom appeared to be moving with the numbers of fish that were in that spot, although the sun was nowhere to be found the water was lightly turbulent from all of the fish moving about in water just barely able to cover them.

It was an amazing day of fishing. From the first grubbing fish in inches of water just steps from the boat drop to seeing those cows from the Rip Ryder in the afternoon. Jimmy, Bigdave, Striblue - that's what it's all about, eh?

warning: big video clip, takes 30 seconds on high speed and is not very high quality. it may be pulled if bandwidth consumption reaches high levels.


08-10-2003, 04:07 PM
Juro...very different today... windy and sun...but I took off with Adrian and Big Dave... Adrian hit right away as we walked south... did not see many fish. but bait ..the silversides..I think were plentiful. Big Dave stayed in a sure spot and landed maybe a dozen while Adrian and I struggled to see fish farther south... did see a couple schools and some singles and doubles . Adrian headed in early and I stayed another hour and spoted a school milling about at a grass flat and landed two.... but that was it. I stuck with a two inch sand eel that could have also been mistaken for a bait fish as well. Some fish were hitting on the surface. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Tod D
08-10-2003, 07:08 PM
Noticed the "change" as well Sat am - though I didn't think about it till reading this post. Bumped into JimW at the tail end of the first juvie bunker & silversides topwater feeding frenzy I've been in this year. Super foggy morning, dead calm water, terns diving and bass & a random blue gorging on small fry w/ reckless abandon...

Always enjoy it, but find myself asking: "where'd the summer go?".

08-10-2003, 08:50 PM
That was a great day. Never saw so many bass in one spot in my entire life. It got to the point that I couldn't decide which way to cast. :eyecrazy: When things would slow down a little, I would just sit back and watch the Master at work. Juro could find fish in a glass of water. It was great to be out there with Juro, Bigdave and Striblue.
What a sight to see. Bass crashing bait in water so thin that their undersides were dragging the sand. No sooner would I cast to one pod, than anouther would crash 10 feet behind me. Unreal!:whoa: This one will stay in my head for along time. What a day! Too bad it had to end.

08-10-2003, 09:24 PM
It was a really great day for sure Jimmy, and glad I got to enjpy the day with you, Bigdave and Striblue.

John, virtually all of the small baitfish pushing around the shallows in tight geometric formations moving in unison while getting their asses kicked were either young-of-year herring and/or peabunker. Silversides have a certain "scurry" motion when swimming and form less distinct formations as a group when schooled up; not to mention a commonly sea-foam green or tan color and more elongate body shape even when observed from above while wading. Also more transparent than not except for that ribbon of silver flashabou they have on their sides. They are definitely around, just go point the high beams into the water at the boat ramps on southside rivers at night, it's quite a spectacle.

But the hordes of bait that invaded the refuge are not silversides. I suspect they are YOY herring because they have bigger tails for body size than peabunker, have a less petal shaped body, and I never saw them swimming with gill covers flared out to filter plankton, a characteristic that is so commonly observed with bunker that fly patterns with a flared gill appearance are quite deadly. Could be really young ones though - I usually sacrifice one in the name of science to get the positive ID (herring, peabunker, or sometimes anchovy) but frankly there was enough going on with all the fish that I plain forgot to snag one for observation purposes. Nevertheless they could be either. Will do an ID next time out for sure.

08-10-2003, 10:55 PM
There is a Southern New England warmwater adage..."Fall starts in August":smokin:

08-11-2003, 08:12 AM
I managed a couple more on the way back to Rip Ryder after passing Dave. One school was hanging out under a "wind lane" - one of those glassy-slick calm lanes that form and seem to run for miles. The problem is they form at converge points where wave action gets canceled out and get loaded up with bits of weed, grass and all sorts of other garbage wich gets stuck on your fly. The convergence can also create bait concentrations too which I guess is why fish like them. :D We always used to search these formations out when fishing big lakes from drifting boats but I never really though about them in flats situations until now.

08-11-2003, 10:59 AM
Yes an excellent weekend on the flats to be sure. I will not forget watching those cows rolling on the surface, spraying bait on the flats...too cool.

As Stri said yesterday was the polar opposite from Saturday. Bluebird sight fishing. There was noticeably less bait on the flats and didn't see a fish break all day as they had on Saturday. The fish were still there however. J and A I made my way down to the "shipwreck" - interesting spot!

Saw lots on the outgoer although not where we had seen them on Sat. Weather is obviously a huge influence. I did have a big single follow my fly to within 10 feet, flash, and take me into my backing in the afternoon. What a way to round out the weekend.

So much for the august doldrums...

Juro I did catch some of the Juvies and they were all about one inch long - tan and quite bulky with olive stripes across the back.

Nice seeing you all out there :devil:

08-11-2003, 11:29 AM
Dave -

Great report! Sounds like a bluebird, wish I were there but I saved $700 by reconstructing my electric range with direct-order parts from Whirlpool. One snafu, I crossed the rear burner receptacles! That took me about 20 minutes to figure out but it was an easy fix. You guys had the better day by far!

1" bulky with stripes across the back are chubs, officially mummichogs which I'm sure is in the indigenous language.

The hordes of juvies that I saw Sat should have been big-eyed cream-silver sided with the expandable folding mouths common to herring, bunker, anchovy, tarpon, etc.

Of course the chubs are in the very edge of the shoreline, which is probably how you caught them.

The hordes of darker, petal shaped silver-sided baitfish that were being sprayed all over the surface on Sat were either peabunker or YOY herring.