FLY FISHING IN NEW ENGLAND
New England is a region in the northeastern United States known for being amongst the first settlements of the New World by European colonists. When the pilgrims set foot on these new shores, the ecosystems were something one can only dream of – massive estuarine systems rich with shellfish and other life, countless predatory fish by the billions coursing through the region’s waterways, and game in the rolling forested hills. As the region grew the wild landscape also changed, but the modern New England remains an area rich with bountiful natural and historic treasures of many kinds.
Spring & Fall Runs
Mass migrations are an astonishing wild phenomenon that happen annually around the world. In the plains of east Africa, wildebeest, zebra, and other ungulates follow a seasonal pattern in search of suitable grazing. Similarly, wild birds the world over perform massive longitudinal north-south movements to avoid the coldest most difficult months of winter. The aquatic world is no exception to mass migration, and perhaps one of the least appreciated and most incredible migrations on earth takes place each year along the western Atlantic shoreline.
In early spring Morone saxatilis, or striped bass, leave their spawning grounds in mid-Atlantic rivers in search of food. As days grow longer and the ocean’s waters warm, millions of bass begin an annual coastal migration that will take some up to 1,400 miles. Genetic memory causes these powerful fish to seek similar habitats each year, and the vast majority round the corner of Cape Cod and make their way north as far as southern Maine. In summer, they are joined by large schools of sharp-toothed bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix. Together, the formidable predatory fish maraud diverse baitfish, squid, crustaceans, and other sea creatures. Life revolves around the seemingly endless pattern of rest and feed, but suddenly in late summer there is a distinct change. With days losing hours and temperatures falling further each night, a seasonal trigger urges fish to once again make the journey south to their winter grounds off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Immense schools of striped bass and bluefish rhythmically beat their tails in a mass of oceanic energy surging down the rugged coast, and as tides, bottom contours, and swells bring this migration in direct collision with other species of smaller fish like menhaden and herring making similar seasonal journeys, one of nature’s greatest feeding spectacles ensues.
For anyone who has ever been lucky enough to fish the fall run in New England, the fly fishing can be truly epic. As striped bass, bluefin, and small inshore tuna like the explosive Euthynnus alletteratus, or little tunny, converge on helpless schools of baitfish, the ocean erupts with what is known as a blitz. These blitzes attract sea birds, seals, and of course fishermen, resulting in excitement and commotion of legendary proportions.
While some striped bass can test your heaviest tackle, the majority of this fishing is done with 8-10 weight rods and floating lines. The action is extremely visual, and one often can watch a ‘wolf pack’ of hungry bass charge a stripped fly. To add to the diversity, the small inshore tuna’s power and speed can make the light tackle scream.
Regardless of what you fish, the challenge is great and the experience is amazing!