Justin Anwyl's product recommendations are listed at the end of this article.

Justin talking beginners through the kit required for Sea Bass.

Justin talking beginners through the kit required for
sea bass.

It has been almost five years since I guided some of you on Sea bass, and those seasons have all been different. One of the most rewarding factors when working as a saltwater fly-fishing guide is the constant challenge this species presents--whether it be location, lunar cycle, water clarity, forage food, or a combination of many of these factors-- you can be sure that a specimen Atlantic bass is a prize worth pursuing.

This year, I have been fortunate enough to have guided many experimental fly rodders who were brave enough to move away from traditional flies and retrieval rates. As an example of this, in July we caught an amount of bass and noticed when handling them that quite small crabs were only semi-digested inside the mouth and gullet. Having looked through our flies we tied on small permit patterns and proceeded to dredge heavy lines with short leaders into the navigation channels. The retrieves needed to be a slow figure of eight, not dissimilar to “Booby” fishing on reservoirs, but the interesting observation was how positive the strikes were. These fish were predating on small mid-season juvenile shore crabs approximately the size of a 50-pence piece, but the ferocity of the takes suggested that the bass were extremely confident in seeking this food source, and had little hesitation about digesting them.

Most harbours would hold a high propensity of mature female shore crabs which tend to migrate towards harbour mouths where the water is more saline in order to release their eggs before hatching in the summer months (usually on ebbing tides during nightfall). So maybe we were lucky enough to be fishing in the right place, but couple that with a view to “matching the hatch” we were rewarded with 14 bass within only a couple of short hours.

It just goes to prove that bass are expedient predators and if nature decides to open up its larder, they’d much prefer to take the easy option of a meal than to use up energy chasing white bait in the tidal flow. Someone asked me once this year, "how does a fly rodder become consistent at chasing down a particular quarry species?" My reply was not to learn about the species itself, but understand more about its feeding, migration, and food source.

Chichester Harbour, summer 2007
Chichester Harbour, summer 2007

During the 2007 season, Orvis kitted me out with a number of different rods and reels to use, and all were comprehensively tested over a 7-month work out, and stood up to all weathers and winds. One of the most impressive rods I used was the Western2 10ft 8-weight Competition Flex rod which, when coupled up with a Battenkill Large Arbor V reel, and an 8-weight intermediate Wonderline G3, loaded quickly and as easily as any fast taper I have used. The extra length of this 10ft,3-piece rod (over a more normal 9ft rod) makes a surprising difference when you are standing up to your waist in the surf. I really got on well with it.

I also spent a lot of time fishing with the flagship Zero G 7-weight tip flex rods, once again a superb rod, built in either 9ft or 10ft lengths. On balance, my clients liked the Zero G 107-4 and in my opinion the extra foot performs better whilst tackling a prevailing wind as you are able to pick up maximum load which converts line speed to distance far quicker whilst hauling.

Testing prototypes of the new Helios rods…

In October 2007, I travelled to Boston for the Back End striped bass run with a couple of clients. We were expecting to take stripers, bluefish, and albacore in the range of 8 to 20 lbs. Perhaps dozens of them in a day. Combined with these hard-fighting fish, we were expecting testing windy conditions and some big surf--all of which we got. Just the right conditions to test the new Helios 8-weight tip flex and the Zero G 10-weight tip flex rods. These rods weigh in at a little over 3 ounces, which is astonishing for a heavy-duty saltwater fly rod. We were not disappointed – in fact we were stunned by their performance. The Zero G 10-weight in particular is so light you can cast it all day without tiring. It is so well balanced that throwing weighted flies into strong wind is easy, and it is so strong that taming even the fastest Albacore on its longest run was no problem. At the end of our trip we sat in Boston Airport waiting for our plane in silence, reliving each hook-up and run, and wanting more….

Justin with a fine Striped Bass (East Coast USA) taken on the Helios 910-4 Tip Flex. The new Battenkill LA V reel served its purpose too!
Justin with a fine Striped Bass (East Coast USA) taken on the Helios 910-4 Tip Flex.
The new Battenkill LA V reel served its purpose too!

I hope your season has been as productive as ours, and I look forward to chasing these sea wolves with you again in 2008.

Tight lines,

Justin Anwyl, Orvis Endorsed Guide
Justin Anwyl
Orvis Endorsed Guide

Justin Anwyl's Product Recommendations

ZG Helios 910-4

ZG Helios 910-4

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