Essential Reading for the Striped Bass Fisherman
or The Bass Bum's Library
by Dave Micus
e saltwater fly-flingers aren't real literary types. If we were, we'd fish dry flies. Our chosen sport brings us to the crashing surf in contact with creatures that, at the least, could bite your fingers clean off - an environment more conducive to composing new combinations of obscenities, not poetry. We leave the literary insights to those softly casting tiny fluffs of fur on gently flowing streams.
That's not to say that we don't have our books; we just have fewer of them and they are likely to have ringed covers from doubling as beer coasters. What follows are my suggestions for the books that make up the essential striped bass fisherman's library.
When you're just starting in the salt it's important to have a few how-too books, but you really don't need to read a thirty page chapter titled 'equipment' to learn that you should fish a nine-foot nine-weight rod with an intermediate line and a nine-foot leader tied to either a clouser or deceiver in white or chartreuse. Brevity is the key to instructional books; hell, we want to be fishing, not reading about fishing.
Ken Abrames Striper Moon is an eclectic book that I'm hesitant to classify as "how-too," as it is really much more than that. But it does provide a wonderful introduction to the sport with useful information as well as interesting anecdotes written in a style that is a joy to read. Jack Gartside's Striper Strategies is a small in size but immense in knowledge. At a time when how-too fishing books are as ponderous as college calculus texts, these two works are enjoyable reads as well as valuable resources.
My favorite fly tying book is A.K. Best's Production Fly Tying. Though it doesn't deal exclusively with salt-water patterns, there is plenty of excellent information about tying flies that easily translates to any type of tying you might do. A Fly-fishing Guide to Saltwater Naturals and Their Imitations by George V. Roberts, Jr., is a helpful book that provides information about the various saltwater baitfish as well as the best patterns to imitate them. My only complaint about this book is I wish it had a clear table of what baitfish are prevalent at which time of year. Striper Moon and Striper Strategies both have chapters on productive striped bass fly patterns, and Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing by Joseph Bates, Jr., provides an interesting historical perspective on tying streamers as well as old patterns that are still productive.
It's necessary to have some background in the sport, as it will add to your conversational aptitude so you can impress others at those black tie soirées that we fly fishers just can't seem to avoid. Striper by John Cole and Men's Lives by Peter Matthissen are two books that provide interesting background on the commercial striped bass fishery as practiced by the fishing families who plied their trade in the Hamptons before it became the playground of the New York glitterati. Reading the Water by Robert Post was a heretofore-rare book (I can't say what I paid for mine or this article would end up as exhibit "A" in divorce court) that has just been re-released in paperback. It profiles the dedication and subterfuge of the striped bass fishing fanatics on Martha's Vineyard in their quest to hook the big one. Eastern Tides by Frank Daignault is a fascinating autobiography of one of the best surf casters to have ever left footprints in the sand on the New England shore. Though not much attention is devoted to fly fishing, there is still a wealth of knowledge to be mined from someone who has been fishing the striper coast for forty years.
Thomas McGuane's The Longest Silence is, in my not so humble opinion, the best contemporary book written about fly-fishing. While only one story is devoted to striped bass fishing, all the stories remind us just why we have the salt in our veins, written in that distinct McGuane style that is a pleasure to the eye and ear. Angler's Coast by Russell Chatham is a series of stories detailing the quest for anadromous fish species, including the striped bass. Chatham's style, like McGuane's, is more literati, less guide, with as much attention paid to the flow of words as to the flow of water. Both are a delight to read. And no reading list would be complete with out the fly-fishing bible. No, not Ike Walton's The Compleat Angler, a ponderous tome written, I'm convinced, to discourage people from fishing, but Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It (in which Paul says of Walton, "the bastard doesn't even know how to spell complete").
"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life," observed Robert Louis Stevenson, and books about fishing are a poor substitute for wetting a line. But if you are land bound and need a fix of the brine to get you through, the above books should provide solace until you can once again cast a line into the crashing surf.
Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
Copyright © 2003 - 2013 David Micus, All Rights Reserved