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Night Fish and Chill

August is the best month to wait until the sun goes down for some species in our coastal Virginia waters. We took full advantage of that, but also made sure we stayed busy when we could on the fish out in the bay. Every trip this month brought fish to hand, and hopefully everyone had as much fun as I did being out there. Got to have some people back on the boat in August, but got to meet some new folks as well, and I can't wait to see what the next few months bring as the temperature falls!

Between bluefish, ribbonfish, and spanish mackerel out in the bay, and the way the redfish, croaker, spot, and flounder were responding inshore - August was a banner month for variety and for getting some PB's in the boat!

Bluefish master!

Matt McClellan brought his Dad and his son, Robbie, out on the boat so that Robbie could get some saltwater action while they were in town. Matt wanted a little more than the couple of hours of fishing for Robbie on a kid's trip, but wanted to make sure that it was still focused on the little guy. Karma had a hand in that decision, though, as the first fish that got brought in was an almost-citation award Spanish Mackerel on Matt's rod that was just shy of 25". Robbie immediately followed with a Taylor Bluefish and he had a taste for it. The bite in that area slowed a bit - so we made a run closer to the CBBT where we got to spend some time observing dolphins in the lower bay, and then get on a school of small blues that held together for the better part of an hour. Throughout the trip Robbie 1) was a very polite and patient young man, 2) was a fast learner and improved his casting over the course of the short trip and 3) counted every fish and made sure everyone knew how many he had brought in. Self-proclaiming that he was the "Bluefish Master", everyone was happy that he had a great time, and he wasn't alone. I will say that Matt picked up on altering the presentation to let the lure sink before starting the retrieve - keeping the school that had been beaten up, eating. Perhaps the first generation bluefish master still has some lessons for his protege after all! It was a perfect morning, and couldn't have been better company out on the water.

Jeff on the pseudo trip

After being away for vacation and visiting family a little bit, I got to fish with my Legends Of The Fly teammate Alex Howell, and his friend, Jeff - that I had coincidentally met at the Lynnhaven Boat Ramp a couple of weeks prior. Being as out of sorts as I am when I'm on any boat that isn't mine - I proceeded to leave a box of topwater lures on Alex's boat. Being the kind man that he is (and the fact that there are no fish in Charlottesville that will eat a 5" one knocker with 2/0 inline replacement hooks) Alex gave those to Jeff, and for returning them - off we went to pick on night time redfish. Jeff hadn't thrown flies at redfish at night, but he took to it right away and hooked up on the first dock we visited. After a rough outing on flats further up the bay a couple days prior that only led to a few bites (and a BIG redfish on Jeff's line that came unbuttoned near the boat) - it was just the trip we needed and was either super hot or not-at-all. Luckily the biting lasted longer than the down time, and lead to some great fishing.

Benzo. No, not the mid-70's disco drug.

Ben and his friend Enzo came down to take advantage of the night fishing this time of year, as well, and man did they ever! Ben has booked me in the past, and makes it easy with his smooth casting - but this was his first time hitting dock lights, and brought his friend Enzo down, as well, to get on the local saltwater fish. Enzo had only been saltwater fishing once before, and it was for Cobia a few weeks prior, where he landed multiple big fish. He followed that up with pulling a gorgeous redfish out of Dey Cove on his second cast. Some people will never know the suffering apparently. Ben on the other hand, a skilled angler with lots of saltwater experience, had a tough time with a hook up on the first light - decided he wanted to switch to a topwater, and had a red of unknown size (albeit clearly not small) nail a gurgler. It immediately turned to run and Ben's estimate of the fish's strength was off as it quickly snapped the gurgler off the line and took it back to the safety of the dock. That happened once more before the fish tightened their lips so we went on a few long runs to find others. We caught some decent stripers, and had more shots at reds, including a few big ones that teased us by swimming near the top, but couldn't convert on those. Longer run through a bay and one side of the basin to the other - and we wound up finding an aggressive school that made the water look like it was boiling. We took advantage of that, catching nice redfish with accurate casts from Ben and Enzo on the way in and again on the way out - hit a couple more spots, and then called it a day...errr...night... umm morning.

Note to Ben: In the intro I said that every trip brought fish to hand this month, and I forgot about our trip early this month with a very specific goal. There were obvious reasons that didn't work out, but there will be a concerted effort moving forward with that particular goal from our side, and if you'll work with me - we will make that happen in 2023.

Wrong weatherman pays off

For the full week leading up to a Saturday morning trip Chris and I were keeping up with what the weather had in store for us. We were also dealing with an algae bloom in our planned zone, so about 24 hours out, we made our final call to push back the plans from the morning until the evening. The next morning we awoke to gorgeous skies and very little wind. Christopher took advantage of this with a hook up as he DIY'd a trip in our original planned fishing area - but it wasn't the banner day that he'd hoped for. Luckily, we still had the alternate plan in place, and boy did we get into them! Chris has a really cool goal of 100 fishing trips this year, and he's currently on pace! That kind of practice keeps you and your cast well conditioned, and Chris took advantage of it. We saw fish immediately, but they were a little apprehensive. After seeing the way Chris could throw feathers, we approached the next dock more cautiously and left a little more distance. When an excellent cast laid down just uptide of a piling, it only took one strip before an explosion in the water was matched by Chris' "Whoa" and a doubled over fly rod. Drag started heading out and after a back and forth between the fish and the client, Chris landed a 25"+ redfish that had shoulders and a bad attitude. That was just the beginning as we ended up finding several striped bass that were over 20", and several more redfish that were either spooky or careless - with little inbetween. If I had to guess, we boated more than 10 fish that night and well into the morning - before a tired Christopher had to head home to make sure he got to take his kids to see "Hamilton" the next day. With the number and quality of fish he caught the night prior, it wasn't only the lead in the musical that could say, "I probably shouldn't brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish". Great fishing, Chris - I'm already looking forward to doing it again!

That's no 16" mackerel!

Bill Gnall made the trip down from Northeast Pennsylvania for a family vacation, but couldn't sit still long enough to go without an adventure trip while the family enjoyed sleeping in. He'd been saltwater fishing before, and spent a lot of time fishing freshwater, but wanted something with a little more size, so we were on the hunt. The weather was perfectly calm, and we knew we were going to be in for a hot one, so we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to start the day. We got started with some flounder and had no problems getting a bite, but the size was just not that impressive. When I promised chasing bigger fish - this was not at all what Bill and I had in mind, so we moved deeper into the marsh. We saw lots of bait and several mullet wakes that got a second glance in the maze of spartina grass, but no definitive signs of big reds. The tide had started to shift so we moved back into the larger channel and worked the shallow edges near deeper cover, and not long after getting out there, Bill hooked up with a 28" redfish in less than two feet of water. This thing ran up and down the channel, under the boat, took drag, and did everything it could to get away, but Bill kept cool and brought her to hand, all whille chanting, "This is GREAT. This is great." It was his largest saltwater fish to date, so we continued with similar areas, but as the tide started pulling out, it was clear that we needed to move on if we were going to make it to our next target while we had enough water to get there. We had to move slowly at times, but wound through a maze of creeks to our destination. Slicing up fish, setting up chum and prepping the big rod took a few minutes, but we got everything in place. No sooner did Bill ask, "How long does it usually take for them to find the bait", that we heard the "click, click, click, drag, zinnnnnnngggggggggg" of the reel as line peeled off. I cranked the drag, and it barely slowed the fish. I pulled it from the rod holder, and the line immediately went slack. I was glad that Bill saw what a big shark could do, but was upset he didn't get to feel it. Luckily we were there as the tide dumped out, so we got 3 more takes - including one that SCREAMED as Bill couldn't do much more than hold on. "This is great" turned into "Holy S***" and I knew that the "something bigger" job had been accomplished. That wasn't the only reason I patted myself on the back, though. The monster shark that had made a 6500 series reel look like a kid's zebco ended up breaking a 120 lb. wire crimp, while my knot held. With one bait and rig remaining, there was no time for gloating, and Bill made the most of it by bringing a 5 ft Sandbar (Brown) Shark to the boat. We went for a long run and came through a school of Spanish Mackerel, threw for bull reds, positioned ourselves for bigger blues, but several boats were in that location at that point and it was a stark contrast to the peace and solitude we'd felt in the marsh and the oceanside of Virginia's barrier islands. It was a great day, and if you make it back to Virginia Beach - I'd be ecstatic to do it again, Bill. You'll have a spot faster than I can try horrendously to pronounce "Wallenpaupack".

Thank you to everyone who took a trip with me during August, and I hope that we get to do it again, soon. Enjoy the "heading into fall" fishing, and if there's anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to reach out. Thanks for making some great memories with me and VB Backwater!!!!

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