The misty fog slowly drifts across the San Francisco Bay before gently covering the marina in Larkspur. This morning I am the only one departing the ferryboat. The customers line up to get on board for their daily commute to the city. Across the street from the marina, a Starbucks Coffee shop seems as good a place as any to wait for my ride. Momentarily Captain John Quigley arrives in his Jeep. From there it is a short ride to his home on Corte Madera Creek. The 22 ft. Boston Whaler docked behind his house is rigged and ready to go. Thankfully he has one of the Sage fly rods equipped with a right-handed retrieve reel.This article was originally published in blog:
Being retired and the only fly-fishing in guide on the Bay, Captain Quigley has the luxury of fishing when wants. I could tell he was a bit apprehensive about consenting to take me when we spoke on the phone yesterday. "Last week the fish were here, but looks like they may have moved on", he told me. "Plus the temperature has dropped over 10 degrees as this cold front moves in. Could be a good breeze out there as well." Having traveled all of the way from South Carolina I had only one day to fish, it is now or never I thought. "I'll go if you're willing to take me," I said. He thought about it for a minute, then took me down to the dock behind his house and handed me an 8 wt. fly rod. "Let's see what you can do," he said. Fly-fishing for stripers is not entirely like anything else I had done. For one thing the sinking line is much different than our floating line used for redfish back home. Knowing this to be the case I tried reading about it but had never actually casted sinking line. "Just bring all of the backing in and leave 20ft of fly line out," the Captain then gave me a few simple instructions. I observed as he made a few perfect casts then he walked up to the house. "Give it a try and see how it goes," he announces as he walks back to the house. After a few tries I actually have control of it, making long casts fairly easily once I got the knack of clearing the line from the water.
October, and early November is the best time to pursue Stripers on the bay. The nicest weather conditions of the year, light winds, clear water, and schools of stripers returning from the ocean beaches all combine to make this the time of year to fish for Striped Bass on the bay. They call it the “Fall Run” or “World Series” time since the best fishing on the Bay corresponds to the MLB playoffs and World Series. The nicest weather conditions of the year, light winds, clear water, and schools of stripers returning from the ocean beaches all combine to make this the time of year to fish for Striped Bass on the bay. Due to tides and changing wind conditions, half-day charters are recommended. Casts of at least 60 feet are needed, with 80 or more feet preferred. The Bay is not a place to learn how to cast these heavy lines and flies and it's very helpful to know how to double haul. Catch and Release is encouraged and the use of barbless hooks is easier on the fish and safer for the caster.
Leaving the shelter of the Corte Madera Creek cove we enter the back end of San Francisco Bay, things are a bit different out here. It is slow going as the white caps pound the starboard side of our craft. Moving slowly we are at least staying dry as we cross over to Paradise Cove. Here there is a short section of rocky bank that is fishable. Captain John cuts the motor on the Whaler. Rigged for fly-fishing, it has two stern mounted electric motors for precise maneuvering. These are controlled by a device he has on his belt. "130 pound thrust from these babies," he shouts. He positions us to drift about 60ft from the shore. Casting is a challenge but the heavy line actually makes it easier to punch a cast through the 15-20 knot wind. Ten minutes into the drift we round the point and are sheltered from the wind as we pull in behind a high rocky bluff. Suddenly the depth finder erupts as we drift over a school of stripers. "Cast one behind the boat,” he says. Being out of the wind, I am better able to launch a cast and land it a good distance behind the boat. "Nice cast now let it sink to the bottom and then give some firm strips". First strip lifts it off the bottom; second strip brings the fly into the area that we had targeted the school. "Make sure you keep that rod in the exact same direction as the line in order to feel the strike.” No sooner had Captain John said it the bite was on. At first a small tap then once I felt more resistance I gave a good strip to set the hook. Immediately it's on! "Nice fish," I said as line is running. These stripers are not big runners more so they pull hard like a bull. I am trying to get him on the reel but Capt. John says to strip him in. “OK if you say so,” but to me he seemed a bit big for that. As the fish approaches we can tell he is a good one. At least five pounds, that's a nice size for out here. “Not bad for your first striper on the fly,” acknowledges the Captain.
Capt. John Quigley is an accomplished guide in the San Francisco Bay area whose specialty is targeting striped bass using fly gear. In addition to that primary business, he applied his experience both as a guide and a fly fisherman in creating some of the best furled leaders on the market.
(to be continued)