The Rapid-Fire is a great retrieve that often entices stripers to strike when other retrieves, especially the steady strip, just isn't making it happen. The strikes are usually violent. To do this retrieve, try to strip the fly as short and as fast as you can. Basically it's a 1- to 3-inch rapid retrieving action. Just picture the fly in the water going crazy in rapid up and down motions like an injured baitfish that's going spastic. Another side benefit is that since the stripping action is very short, the fly stays in the strike zone longer. Stripers often find the rapid-fire retrieve irresistible.
When faced with unusual fishing conditions, sometimes one has to abandon traditional techniques and try something radically different. The results may surprise you. I was fishing the Chesapeake and had been doing quite well on sub-surface stripers using a sinking line when the wind suddenly began to blow very hard. As the boat drifted, I continued to cast upstream/upwind. Casting the large 8- to 10-inch herring imitation became increasingly more difficult as the gusts exceeded 15 knots, while my hookups all but disappeared. As I looked around on my backcast, I noticed boils within 25 feet of the downstream side of the boat. The wind had whipped up the water to a nice 1-1/2-foot chop that apparently confused the baitfish and turned on the stripers.
Stripers that had been feeding lower in the water column were now feeding just below the surface, but casting into the wind was exceedingly difficult and tiresome with the large fly. With the fish feeding aggressively so close to the boat, I decided to try something a little radical. I reeled in until I had only 20 to 25 feet of line outside the rod tip that I could pick up and put down easily. I then turned, faced downwind and cast the fly, or should I say smacked the fly on the surface hard and paused for a brief moment. If I didn't get a strike; I then picked the fly up and just smacked it down again without any retrieve. On the third cast a nice 5- to 6-pound striper took the fly. It worked! After releasing the fish, I smacked the fly again on the water, not 20 feet from the boat. The water exploded when a 16-pound striper engulfed the fly.
The Water-Slap has worked equally as well fishing just off the New Jersey shore when surface-feeding stripers would come near the boat. No need to cast very far in these situations. More often than not, the sound and commotion of the fly smacking the water triggers a strike.
As you probably know, stripers will often hug the bottom around structure. Getting the fly down on the bottom with the fish is key. Sometimes fish will only strike when the fly is actually bouncing off the bottom. This can occur in the deep as well as fairly shallow water. You'll know your fly is on the bottom when you feel it tapping the bottom or when it occasionally gets hooked on something like clam or oyster shells. While fishing in shallow water of 2 to 3 feet in the Middle Chesapeake near Tilghman Island, I would get most of my strikes immediately after the fly pulled loose from an oyster shell. Bottom-Bouncing also was very effective this past summer fishing for huge 4- to 6-pound croakers off the beaches of Cape Charles, Virginia.
7. Super Slo-Mo
After you've tried all the other retrieves without much success, try one more: the Super Slo-Mo. This is a retrieve that can literally save the day. On several occasions this spring when I was on the Upper Chesapeake, the weather was a bit cooler, and as a result, the fishing slowed. All the other retrieves and a variety of different flies were tried without success, yet I would mark a fair number of fish in about 8 to 10 feet of water. The resulting change in water temperature apparently made the stripers a little lethargic, and they were not eager to strike.
When faced with this situation, try the Super Slo-Mo retrieve. This is not just slow, but a super slow-motion retrieve Ñ very slight twitches combined with big, long pauses. We were using a large 8- to 10-inch half-and-half all white herring fly with a 325-sink tip. With all the other retrieves not producing, I switched over to the Super Slo-Mo retrieve and felt a very soft tap. I gave the fly another slight twitch and a pause when I felt another tap. A slow strip, a little resistance and the line came tight on a 6- to 7-pound striper.
This day I was fishing with my friend, Kurt Schmidt. He's an excellent trout and steelhead fisherman but hasn't done much in the way of striper fishing. The way I explained the Super Slo-Mo retrieve to him was, "When you think you can't go any slower, go even slower."Being an excellent steelhead fisherman, Kurt was familiar with having a "soft touch"and was soon taking stripers on a regular basis. It wound up being a fairly good day, despite the conditions. Slowing things down can sometimes really pay off.
These are but seven retrieving techniques that I have found effective. There are probably as many different techniques as there are anglers. Use what works, but when it doesn't, be willing to vary your retrieves. Be creative, try something different and you may just be surprised at the results you get.