Fly Fishing the Eastern Shore of Virginia – June

After more than half a year, I joined my friend down on the ESVA, with fingers crossed for cobia and big houndfish on fly.  As usual, things did not work out exactly as hoped, but plenty of fun was had.

A Carolina Skiff with a cobia tower.  This thing looks like a death trap.

Day 1 saw light morning winds and an outgoing tide at the creek we were fishing.  We started the day poling along a sandbar, looking for red drum or houndfish to sight cast to with flies.  No drum appeared, but the bar was alive with stingrays and a single pack of a dozen houndfish.  All of the houndfish were about 3′ long, and would follow, but not strike, a variety of flies I threw.  We changed postion at the end of the outgoing tide, and found a few willing houndfish.  I hooked up to one, and after a few minutes of fight, brought it to the boat.

Houndfish on fly.  While not big, they can move faster than anything else in the Chesapeake.

These fish, while fast, are easy to injure, and while preparing to gently remove the hook and do a “grip and grin” photo, the fish threw the hook.

We headed in around noon, and went back out a couple hours later, this time to chum for cobia.  No cobia were had this day, but we did hook a 40 pound southern stingray, a nice sized sandbar shark, and a single whiting.  The water was dirty, full of grass, and all of the action came as the tide changed to outgoing (marked by a sudden, strong redirection of the current), over a 30-45 minute span.

Tight to a monster ray, forearms burning.

The next day, the tide was even lower in the morning, and we anchored the boat on a sandbar to wade around a series of clam beds.  A school of juvenile striped bass began blitzing baitfish at the edge of a nearby sandbar, and we waded over and began landing fish after fish on fly rods and floating lines.  After a dozen or so fish, the dumbell eyes on my only clouser fell off, and I continued to catch fish on the damaged fly.  Occasionally a houndfish would enter the fray, and my friend hooked up to a 4′ fish that promptly threw the hook.

As the water rose with the incoming tide, the action slowed and finally stopped.  We waded back to the boat, and headed over to another flat to look for drum.  The area was empty save more southern stingrays and a single pod of two-foot stripers that I nearly stepped on.  Climbing back into the boat, a couple casts with a spin rod caught one of those stripers in two feet of clear water.

Nice ESVA schoolie.

After that we set out to sight cast for cobia and jig nearby wrecks.  No cobia were sighted on nearby buoys, so we set off to jig a wreck with 5 oz bucktails and 7 inch gulp tails.  The fishing was slow – not a single red drum – but we did land a odd-yet-colorful oyster toad.

Oyster toad on a lure far too big for it.

Leaving the jigging behind, we drifted over the wreck, hoping to cast our backtails and find a cobia on the surface.  We were surprised to see huge schools of large spadefish just under the surface.  A couple swam up to look at the boat, hovering facing me in the water.  Casting a lure into their midst made them scatter immediately.

We drifted off the wreck, and began to see stingrays all around.  With my polarized sunglasses and the calm conditions, I could see 200′-300′ away, and began to sight cast to every brown shape I saw with my 5oz jig.  After 20 minutes, I saw a narrower looking brown body, cast to it, and ripped the bucktail back to the boat.  Following the bucktail at warp speed was a 3′ cobia.  Letting the bucktail fall by the side of the boat, the cobia stopped chasing it, made a quick circle, and then disappeared.

With that failure, we left, and I began the journey home.

My friend, on the other hand, went back out to chum for cobia, and hit pay-dirt:  Two cobia to 41″.  As they say…that’s fishing.

Finally cobia…after I had left.

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