After a cool and lingering spring, striper season is finally in full swing on Martha’s Vineyard. The sun is out, birds are diving, and stripers are here! From crushing squid in the rips in the morning to gorging on sand eels in the shallows at night, bass are hungry and eager to eat.
This is the perfect time to experience the ‘yard in all its glory. However, if you’re thinking of making the trip over, the water is still cold, and the tropical fly line you're using for bones and permit just won’t cut it here until later in the season.
Why do you need a specialized line for stripers?
First, most saltwater fly lines are made for fishing in hotter climates like Florida, the Bahamas, Belize, or the Yucatan. They’re formulated to withstand the punishing heat, but the same core that prevents them from turning into a big bowl of soft overcooked noodles in the tropics will stiffen them up in New England’s early season chilly surf. Striper-specific lines won’t stiffen in the cold but will wilt once the water temperature rises.
Secondly, most lines designed for tropical species like permit and bonefish have a longer, lighter taper with smaller flies and delicate presentations in mind. A bonefish line with a 50ft head will not be able to pick up and shoot a heavy 2/0 Clouser with as much authority as a striper line with a compact and heavy head.
However, these ‘shooting head’ style fly lines popular here in New England cast much differently than the traditional fly line you might be used to. Since so much mass is concentrated in the front, you won’t be able to carry as much line in the air. The key to effectively casting a RIO Outbound Short or Scientific Angers Sonar Titan is to lift no more than the first 30ft, then with one false cast and a good haul, shoot as much of the running line as possible. Once more, they’re more difficult to maintain accuracy and control: Think hand grenades and not sniper rifles.
The Cortland Striped Bass Line
The Outbound Short and Titan Taper have been tested and abused by striper anglers for years. They are our go-to for punching out heavy flies with few false casts into the pounding wind and grueling surf. However, they are HEAVY - An Outbound Short 9wt weighs 375 grains, three times heavier than a standard 9wt line! The Titan Taper nine is two sizes heavier at 330 grains. If you have reservations about casting these heavy lines but still want to be in the striper game, Cortland may have delivered a solution.
Cortland released its Striped Bass line last year and is available in four different densities: Float, Intermediate, Sink 8, and Blitz (floating running line with an intermediate head). The nice thing about these lines is that they are relatively light for a striper line. For example, the nine weighs 305 grains, and anglers who aren’t the most aggressive casters in the world may find it easier to cast.
I recently put the Sink 8 to the test just in time for schoolie season. While I had some reservations about the line's ability to turn over bulkier flies, I had little issue punching squid patterns into the surf. The line did an adequate job cutting into the wind and granted me better accuracy and control than similarly designed lines. My biggest issue was the running line tended to coil if I wasn’t careful. Even after stretching the line before each session, I still had this issue. Still, it casts well and could be the perfect striper line for intermediate anglers and those not casting the heftiest patterns out there.