Two individuals flats fishing off a boat

Flats Fishing for Striped Bass

Article Written by Vinny Catalano. Learn More About the author below
Photos by Rex Messing of Simms Fishing
Article Read Time: 4 Minutes

The beauty of fly fishing for Striped Bass in the Northeast is the variety of environments you get to target them in. Flats fishing is my favorite place to target these fish and one that I look forward to every season! Finding blitzes and targeting fish in deep heavy rips is a lot of fun for myself and my clients. However, combing the flats for cruising fish is another level of excitement. Although you can wade fish in certain situations, being on the pointy end of the skiff is the most effective way to target them. I fish the East End of Long Island, NY, but I cover both the North Fork and South fork of the island when the time is right. When you are sight fishing the flats for singles, small groups, or even larger schools of fish it can be difficult to judge the pace they are swimming, along with the tide direction, which makes fly placement and the speed of your retrieve critical. Put it too far in front of them and they may never see it, put it too close to them and they may spook.


Two individuals flat fishing off a boat

Cold water and a moving tide are key to finding them sliding up and down sand bars and grassy banks looking for food. Every spot has its tide, but a low incoming is always best. Like any flats/sight fishing fishery, if you have good light you can spot them easily, but stripers camo up well with their surroundings and after you see a few, you know what to look for. For fly patterns, I try to match the food present. Sand eels, Spearing, Shrimp, and Crabs are all plentiful on the flats. Watching the fish's body language and fly placement is the ticket. I would say stripers aren't known for being super difficult to catch but when you put them in 1-5ft of clear water you better bring your A game, especially with the big ones.


Individual has three separate lines cast

Typically a little longer tapered leader in the 10-12 ft range of Cortland Fluorocarbon XTR leader material is my go-to and has been super helpful to turn over flies in windy conditions. I use the Scott Sector fly rods 9 ft 8 & 9wt's, which are my go-to rods on the flats. I usually fish a range of fly lines depending on the scenario, but a floating line is my option 99% of the time. I play with a few different lines on the flats depending on the conditions, but I go with the Tropic Plus Redfish and Tropic Plus Bonefish with each having a different taper for the conditions that play out from day to day. This year I’m looking forward to implementing the new Tropic Plus Ghost Tip when currents are strong and when fishing deeper flats. Although the Redfish, Bonefish, and Ghost Tip lines are rated for tropical conditions I like the harder jacket material as it tends to soften up a bit on the boat deck on warm summer days. Tropical lines might not be ideal for wade fishermen but during warm days on the boat in Spring, Summer, and early Fall they tend to relax perfectly.

Man leaning over a boat to pickup a bass

Flats fishing for Stripers isn't for everyone but if you want to challenge yourself as an angler and get a chance to sight fish one, it's worth checking out.  The Bite is the best part of flats fishing anywhere in my opinion and with stripers, they like to eat mid-column or looking up which makes for a very visual eat, one that gets the heart pumping when it all comes together! I currently run and pole my Hells Bay Marquesa 18.4ft skiff. I couldn't imagine a better boat for the application, especially when going over shallow sandbars when poling the skiff allows me to be elevated to help clients sight fish. The number one piece of advice for flats fishing I can give is to be aware and respectful of your surroundings. Take the time to look and see what's going on before rushing onto a flat because keeping the fish happy is key to success. I tell everyone that steps on my skiff for the day, catch 'em or not playing the game is the best part!    

Man walking on a dock
About the Author

From a young age, I’ve always had a strong passion for fly fishing and after countless hours on the water from boats, beaches, and along river banks I decided to turn my passion into a career and haven't looked back since. For me, sight fishing is the ultimate game and the most rewarding, there's no better feeling when an angler and guide work together to visually experience “The Eat“. With 20 years of experience, you'll find me guiding 3 Boats up and down the North Shore of Long Island Sound, North Fork, and fall runs in Montauk. I'm constantly striving to find the next white sand flat, come join me!

Instagram- @longislandflyfish
Photographer- @rexmess
Products Mentioned in this Article: 
Tropic Plus Redfish
Tropic Plus Bonefish
Tropic Plus Ghost Tip
Fluorocarbon XTR Leader Material

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