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Fly Fishing Ledges for Large Striped Bass

  • 3 min read

Fly Fishing Ledges for Large Striped Bass

Chasing Striped Bass in New England can be met with some of the roughest conditions. Testing both gear and determination to catch these larger game fish that swim in our waters. Chasing them on the rocky ledges that line our coast is even ballsier, but that’s just my opinion.  With crashing waves and sharp ledges that take flies like candy from a baby, having the right setup is crucial. Knowing where to cast and what flies to send out even more so. 
Rods: When starting to target large Bass, aka Cows, from ledges don’t read into the bigger rod the better, leave that 10-11 wt on the boat. My go to setup is an 8wt believe it or not, and yes it handles big girls just fine. The only time I feel it is necessary is when using something like a beast fly. When fishing these ledges I always bring two rods, one with a sinking line and the other an Intermediate.  My  8wt usually has the intermediate and my nine the sinking line. This allows me to target the depths I need to based on the tide.
Reels: Sealed drag is crucial, fishing these rough conditions on ledges is the last place you want a sticky drag. When you finally hook up to a beast you don’t want your reel to fail you. Also pay attention to your fly line and backing. This is not the time for fly line with kinks or a loosely packed backing. You will definitely go to backing with these larger fish. If there is a knot in your line or in the backing, game over or broken rod. Trust me I learned the hard way. So Stretch out your line the night before, hook your leader to a tree, mailbox, brother or sister, and start walking backwards with minimal drag. Take out all the line to the start of your backing. Hang it on a tree, or chair so it's still elevated off the ground and leave it for 30 min to an hour.
Lines: 95% of the time I am fishing an intermediate line, Rio Coastal Quick Shooter, #notsponsored,. That sinking line is for when I know I am above a particularly deep hole. Oftentimes I am throwing a pollack fly imitation in that scenario. Also with fishing these rocky ledges you need to be sure you aren’t going to run that line across any sharp rocks. Google maps and seeing your spot at a low tide is a must for me. 
Leaders: As I am sure you can tell, getting cut off is an obstacle when fishing ledges. When building my leader I start with a 50lb butt section that will build into a tip section that is no less than 25 lbs. These bass aren’t leader shy if they are taking these big flies. But on sunny bright days I can be found going as light as 20lbs.
Fly choice is critical, be in tune with what's running. My go to is a pollack fly because there will always be pollack running about on ledges. 
But switching your fly often is more key than moving around the ledge. The ledge acts like a highway that bass run along. Staying in a spot with good light wash can be very rewarding. Also placement of a cast is key too. I usually like to start in close and fan out my cast. Note that a long distance cast is not key here. Having a good short cast game, with flies fished all the way to the rocks be super effective, boat side eats are real even on ledges.
The following are some other go to files I tie up in the off season for targeting large bass on ledges. 
Photography & Written by Evan Donald

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