There’s a calming rhythm to baiting stripers in July

The early morning dawn bears the lingering grasp of a night laden with humidity as the sun pecks it’s orange head above the horizon with the promise of another oppressive day – a day filled with July’s answers to January’s complaints.

With all my gear stored aboard, the gas tank full and the promise of yet unlived angling moments straight ahead, I cast off from the dock. Slowly the boat gains headway across a bay full of the tangerine reflections of a newborn sun as I head for a few hours of piscatorial escape.

High above in a brightening sky, the dawn-tinged clouds float about in tranquil laziness as winter white gulls zip by on a faint morning breeze. Their plaintive calls mimic cats, dogs and other worldly creatures.

I’m off to that little spot – you know the one – that unobtrusive outlet of freshening water spilling into the bay where the finger-sized minnows dart about in hopes of growing older in a hostile world of always bigger predators.

The warming hint of the bright orbs energy is upon my back as I tie on a creation born one cold midwinter’s eve while thoughts of a day just like this one helped ward off the chill.

The bow is steadied and my place in the stern is held down as I begin false casting feathered fantasies wrapped with threads and unfulfilled promises of fooled fish yet to strike. Cast, cast, sink, strip, strip – the line goes out and back in a relaxing rhythm, over and over, again and again. The fly glides out, lands softly upon the water and zip, zip – swims back to the boat.

No luck here, and no time to linger, as the day is coming on like the breath of an angry dragon out to scorch this July day. Time to move.

Quickly I motor over to the rippling sand bar with the clear, deep channel where success has kissed the efforts of days past. A likely place to be as the tide turns in the perpetual pattern set by the ever-changing moon.

Frantic baitfish tumble through here, swept up by the flow of the currents drawn to the sea beyond. Drawn to the waiting maws of hungry stripers who know the ways of tidal changes.

No need to changes flies – this offering is as good as any I would take time to replace.

Time only to cast, cast, sink and strip in a rhythm that these fish cannot seem to pass up. Cast, cast, sink, strip, strip. The pattern has a soothing syncopation to it that relaxes, yet offers the challenge of concentration required to respond if the occasion demands.

The sun oozes higher in its searing arc across a sky now bleached a pale blue. Time is getting the upper hand in this brief respite from the workaday world.

Nothing yet. Cast, cast, sink, bump, thump. Strike!

The rod tip reacts. The fish feels the bite of the hook sink into its jaw and with a head twisting belligerence takes off to shake this obtrusive nuisance limiting his freedom. The rod bows in a graceful arc as the striper bores for the depths of the bottom some 25 feet below.

Grasping tightly I reel in any slack line to let the drag do its designed job. Line goes out, line comes in – back and forth the battle is waged with the obvious end getting closer with each passing moment.

Finally, with a boatside surface flourish, the striper surrenders and awaits his fate. Carefully I hold him – firmly by the lip while his body remains in the water, I slip the hook from his lip and gently move him about to revive his spirit and his stamina. With a tail-splashing burst he breaks free and zips back to the depths from whence he came.

I rinse off my hands and momentarily forget the sun’s scorching intensity.

Dipping my hat into the cool water, I place it back on my head and sigh as the water slides down my neck and refreshes my being. Renewed by the fight of one fish, I figure that maybe, just maybe, there is time left to hook up once again.

Maybe a big brother waits for that next offering. Cast, cast, sink, strip, strip – a nice way to pass a summer’s morning.

Gordon Lewis can be reached at