Gearing Up for Stripers

Posted on May 08, 1999 at 19:06:24:

By Gary D. Scavette

Each season the Maine coastline comes alive with great numbers of striped bass. This provides us with an outstanding sport fishing resource. Nearly every cove, estuary, rip and river along our huge coastline is visited by schooling stripers. Fishing for these spirited fighters with the long rod has become an increasingly common sight over the past ten years. Stripers are very cooperative when it comes to taking our feathered offerings making them ideal fly rod quarry. Equipment manufacturers cater to this specialized form of fly fishing offering equipment that makes the sport both practical and a pleasure. In short, If you're a fly angler and not taking advantage of this resource your missing out on a great thingt!

Many people start fly fishing for stripers with a basic trout fishing setup. A six or seven weight setup is all that may be needed to fish for schoolie stripers with small flies in sheltered waters. Unfortunately this outfit will severely limit your ability to fish the many diverse habitats where stripers may be found. I will describe a simple saltwater striper outfit that will be well suited to the majority of the conditions encountered on Maine waters.

The rod

Wind is almost always an issue in coastal fly fishing. This is why it is common to use rods that are suited for throwing massive fly lines. The greater the line's mass the more able it is to carry large flies in the wind. Rods suited for heavier mass lines also provide a greater degree of lifting power when it comes to bringing a large fish to the boat quickly before it becomes too exhausted. I find that an 81/2 to 9ft. rod designed for a 9 or 10wt. line is ideally suited for striper fishing. I appreciated a "fast" rod or "tip action" rod for striper fishing because it assists me in achieving high line speeds and subsequently long casts.

The reel

A large striper is capable of making long runs. Even a small schoolie in strong currents can take you well into your backing. I prefer a large capacity reel that holds at least 200yds of backing. I do not find that striper runs are uncontrollable like that of a tarpon or bonefish. I do not find it necessary to have a reel with a sophisticated drag system. A simple drag system or the ability to palm the spool is all that is needed for Maine's largest stripers. I am a fan of reels with a large circumference. These reels help to reduce line memory and allow for a more rapid retrieve. In short, you do not need to spend $600 for a striper reel. Spend the extra money on a good rod!

The line

Great innovations in fly lines have made saltwater fly fishing a pleasure. Saltwater tapers, striper tapers, and shooting heads are just a few of the many lines suited to fly fishing for stripers. Along with these specialized lines come specialized casting techniques. Each year I help several accomplished casters modify their technique to effectively cast some of these specialty lines. To make the smoothest possible transition from freshwater to salt, I recommend that beginners use a basic weight forward intermediate or weight forward sink tip. These lines will allow you to present the fly just under the surface in a variety of conditions without modifying the basic overhead casting style. Many of the previously mentioned saltwater specialty lines focus the majority of the line's mass in the forward section and have a very low mass running line that trails behind. This low mass running line(lower than that of a standard weight forward) does not transfer momentum to the massive head and is not designed for false casting. This often presents a problem for beginners who are not yet familiar with "shooting" line or the double haul.. Once you feel comfortable fly rodding in your new environment give some of these specialty tapers a try. They can make your casting distance much greater for less effort.


Striper leaders can be very simple. They vary anywhere from 4 to 9 ft. in length. The shorter leaders will assist your sinking fly line with pulling the fly down. In addition the short leader helps roll the fly out in a stiff wind. Longer leaders are used in calmer more still conditions. My leaders taper down to a tippet of 12-20lb mono.


Some proven patterns that are frequently used for stripers in Maine are the Clouser's minnow, Lefty's Deceiver, Popovic's Surf Candy, Popovic's Silicon, and foam bodied poppers just to name a few. Popular colors are red and white, green and white, blue and white, and chartreuse and white.

The suggestions above will allow you to fish Maine's waters with success under a variety of different conditions. Give it a try. Tight Lines!

Return To Northeast Anglers' Articles and Stories

Post-It © 1997, All Rights Reserved.
DBasics Software Company P.O. Box 6034, Alliance, OH. 44601