Fly Fishing the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia

Over the last week, I’ve fished the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay three times:  Out of Machipongo, Virginia, out of Crisfield, Maryland, and out of Solomons, Maryland.

Out of Machipongo, I and a friend hoped to target speckled trout and red drum, but with strong southerly winds, we struggled to catch anything other than small speckled trout on the exposed grass flats we typically fish.  As is usual with fishing, you have to take your lemons and make lemonade.

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Small speckled trout were around, and wanted a slower retrieve, with long pauses.

With that in mind, we started looking in new areas, exploring where we were sheltered from the wind, and where the water was clear.  A few deep holes, full of bay grasses, between clam beds yielded lizard fish and small specks, but nothing of size.  We turned our attention to a sandy point nearby, where clam beds and old concrete debris provided breaks in the strong current.  Water depth was only three feet, and clear.  I started by casting a gurgler out, letting the current pull it near to the structure, and stripping in back.  Immediately, striped bass materialized from their stations, leaping clear from the water in their frenzy to eat the fly.  And so it began, lasting for a couple hours, and yielded fish from 15″ to 23″.  Truly outstanding fly fishing.

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A puffer fish that fell for a flash-tail clouser.

The next day, we headed, and repeated out cycle through the same spots from the previous day.  Again, we caught small speckled trout and lizard fish until we returned to the clam-bed covered point.  With the outgoing tide, and a bright clear sky, the striped bass were back…and hungry.  Gurglers and snake flies fished well, and we had to horse the fish from the sharp debris, losing more than one fish.

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Concrete blocks and debris near the clam bed field.

By the end of the tide cycle, we had caught a few dozen striped bass in the same size class as the day before, losing a few to the rocks.

Three days later, I had the pleasure of fishing with guide Kevin Josenhans out of Crisfield, MD.  Kevin has been fishing this region for twenty-plus years, and I’ve had a trip with him each fall for about 10 of those years.  The forecast was not in our favor, with heavy winds out of the East.  We fished the area close to the town, moving from place to place looking for clean water and fish.  We picked fish off here and there, but it was slow.

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Small striped bass outside of Crisfield.

By noon, we headed out to the barrier islands, hoping to find bigger fish, and trout.

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Winding through the creeks of Smith Island in Kevin’s beautiful Jones Brothers center console.

The fishing was better, but the size of fish did not change.  Heading back in to Crisfield, we found feeding gulls and terns at the puppy hole, and caught small striped bass and a few nice sized bluefish before ending the day.

My final trip of the week was out of Solomons on my own boat.  The weather was fair, with winds out of the North/North East.  Onboard was my coworker and his son, who fished with me last summer.  We headed North out of Solomons, looking for breaking fish.  Finding none, I hit the shallows of the Little Choptank.  The fishing was poor – the water was cloudy, and where it wasn’t, no fish were there.  Breaking schools of small stripers were nearby, and we caught a few before heading farther up the Choptank.  As we headed North, we found the chumming fleet:  A dozen boats within shouting distance of each other.  Seeing this, I struck out to deeper water, not expecting to find striped bass at any usual haunts while the water was full of bunker oil.

Thankfully, we found acres of breaking fish from the Little Choptank South to the mouth of the Patuxent, and caught fish after fish on metal jigs.  These were striped bass and bluefish in the 12″ to 15″ range, with the occasional bluefish.

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Lots of small fish in the middle bay right now.
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Father and son tossing metal to breaking fish.

I did wander up the Patuxent after we had our fill of little fish, checking points and drop-offs for that elusive nicer-grade of fish.  I never found them.

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