Striper Session(s)?

Spending so much time on the shad made ‘me thinks’ the striper feel left out. So, a little about them, huh? Most people tend to think that striper, another anadromous fish, spawn soon after the shad. However, this year the shad and striper arrived at the fall line of the Rappahannock River right about the same time. Both the runs are earlier than usual too. Maybe something to do with the warmer weather we had throughout January and February? An observation worth pointing out, I think.

A good friend with a nice Rapp Striper from two years back. He landed this monster on a 5 wt rod, which took a little longer than it should and therefore, tired the fish out. The fish swam away, but we now know to use a stronger setup. #rainbros

Landing one of these puppies on a fly rod while waist deep in the Rapp reminds me of my adolescence listening to the Hopeless Romantic, album and song, by Bouncing Souls – ’87 might be one of my all time favorites. It gives you energy when you feel like you’re on empty, makes you rock harder than you thought possible, and provides serenity in the face of chaos. Maybe those metaphors don’t quite explain the experience, but I had to sneak the song of the post in here somehow… I’ll get better at it, I promise.

As far as fly gear, I pretty much use the same setup for striper and shad. The main reason for this? Both run in the same river around the same time. So, it just makes sense. Plus, it removes the need to carry around two full setups, which is both cheaper and easier to transport. If I can match my gear to provide all I need for both, life becomes simpler. I like life as simple as possible.


Only thing better than catching a beast? Releasing it to fight another day. Nothing in the image to compare size, but this guy measured a little over 24 inches

I use a 7-9 wt rod, with sinking line (or a sinking tip line, or leader) with sixteen pound tippet and a reel with a smooth drag in case a big ol’ fish decides to go for a run. The tippet is probably a little overkill – definitely overkill. However, I tend to get a decent amount of hooks ups compared to others chasing striper and/or shad. So, I stick with it instead of dropping down to something thinner.


For flies, I keep it simple. The striper feed on the young shad (fry) and other minnows. I use the very well known and very productive Clouser Minnow, size 6-1/0. 1: they work. 2: they’re easy to tie. I can throw the size 6 and get a good amount of hookups on shad too, which makes for a nice double whammy! As the size increases I tend to catch less shad. However, I went out the other day throwing a 1/0 white and purple Clouser and landed a number of hickory shad. Must have been hungry, for the meat? For colors, try to match the minnows and shad fry in whatever river you fish. I use, white/purple, white/pink, white/chartreuse, and white/blue. I’m sure you can throw some other colors with a fair amount of success.

Nice fish. Took a white/pink Clouser. The behemoth drag didn’t get as much use here as it did on the release photo fish. #keepemwet

As stated earlier, 9 weight rod, with 16 pound tippet is a little overkill for shad -especially with a 1/0 clouser minnow – but it still catches quite a few fish and allows me to minimize gear while still remaining fully prepared for the striper of a lifetime. Specifically, I use a Redington Behemoth 8-9 reel and Bozeman Flyworks 8 wt sinking tip fly line. The reel’s price sits well under that of any other with a comparable drag and the line comes with a free fly box as the packaging. What’s not to like?

Cold, wet, and happy.

Also, when fishing for striper, those really nice, sunny days suck. My expert-level opinion: they seem to enjoy the cold, cloudy, wet days. At least, striper enjoy eating little minnows and shad fry on those days. Hypothesis? The minnows and fry become naive to aerial strikes with rain and cloud cover. Therefore, venturing out into the deeper sections where the striper lie and wait. It sounds right…



What’s the life cycle of these black and white striped, minnow eating beasts? Glad someone asked! Like I mentioned in my previous post – in relation to shad – the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is a good place to start. It provides quite a few details about the Atlantic Striped Bass. Little did I know that striper, or pimpfish – which wikipedia provides as a synonym – can live up to 30 years and grow to a size of almost 6 feet.

Well, if striped bass sound interesting to you, give River Rock Outfitters a call and book a trip. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (or it does, depending on how you look at it) you can still catch a few shad which makes for an enjoyable day on the river.

Wade safe and #keepemwet!


One thought on “Striper Session(s)?

  1. Pingback: Searching for Shad – Take 5 | The James River Mermaid

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