Fly Fishing for Striped Bass
Author: Rich Murphy
Reviewed by Bob Petti
All it took was one quick skim through this book for me to come up with the
theme of my review.
"I'm not worthy!"
Really. I don't think I am. Wow.
Wild River Press, the publisher behind this and a few other new books, is setting
the bar extremely high for the genre of fly fishing information books, where
the author doesn't offer a quick overview - a "101" class - but rather
an in depth master's course. "Fly Fishing for Striped Bass" continues
that trend, and in doing so kicks it up a notch. The author simply blew my socks
off. I don't know if I know that much detail about anything, nor do I think
if I did, I could write it down with such clarity!
Since I really don't feel qualified to offer an informed opinion on the text,
I'll rather offer an overview of the book.
First, as with the other books from Wild River Press, you get a very high quality
book for your money. It is visually stunning, chock full of full color photographs
that leap off the page. The layout of the text, and the way the chapters are
introduced, leave you with the impression that nothing was spared in putting
the book together. The graphics and artwork, the fonts used in the text, even
the weight of the paper - all top shelf. The "packaging" of the book
matches the quality of the text. Bravo, Wild River Press. Well done.
The first chapter, "Sax", gives us a sort of day in the life of mature
wild striped bass.
"She is the queen of her world. But sovereignty was not her birthright.
She usurped it from fate by surviving a constant stream of mortal challanges
that started as soon as she emerged from the ruptured chorion of her eggshell
22 years ago."
As you would expect, most of Sax's day is spent chasing food. I've read other
pieces like this and I find them endlessly fascinating. The chapter does an
excellent job of giving the reader an appreciation of the fish, and it sets
the stage well for the chapters that follow.
Of course, there will be a chapter on striped bass biology, and that follows
the first chapter as it should, since the knowledge of the fish's biology -
what it eats, how it eats, where it eats, how it finds foods - is required to
appreciate the flies, tackle, and fishing techniques that follow later on. As
a trout fisherman, this sort of knowledge is very welcoming, as the foundation
of trout fishing is based on the understanding of trout as predators, and clearly
the foundation for striped bass fishing - all fishing - follows that same route.
A striped bass is a migratory fish that spends most of its life either looking
for food, shelter, or a place to spawn. Like salmon fishing, fishing for striped
bass is a game of "right place at the right time", and the third chapter,
"Life On The Run", helps us understand bass movement along North America's
coastal waterways. I live close to the Hudson River in New York, which gets
a good run of striped bass every spring, but I had no idea the extent to which
these bass move on an yearly basis, nor did I understand the triggers that spark
the annual runs.
At this point, the book turns toward traditional topics of flies, tackle, and
tactics. I have seen a lot of "RM" flies in magazines before, but
here we get to see these Rich Murphy flies in rich detail, along with the naturals
they are created to imitate. Each fly is wonderfully photographed and is accompanied
by the pattern recipe, a small box of tying notes, and lots and lots of supporting
text. For fly tyers, this chapter is pure fun. It is such a joy to read a fly
tyer's thoughts about the flies they design and how they are intended to be
The chapter on tackle is huge! I can't think of a single topic that is not
addressed, whether it be the appropriate rod and reel, the leader design, or
even proper footwear. There is even a section on the history of tackle used
for striped bass fishing. How surprised was I to see a lengthy section on the
use of a double handed rod for beach fishing? How cool is that? Not only does
Rich describe the appropriate tackle, he delves into the reasons why it is appropriate,
and the where's and how's of its use.
The final chapters of the book are tactical - dealing with the different fishing
situations that occur in striped bass fishing. The big four - beaches, estuaries,
rocks, and flats, are all considered in great detail, with supporting graphics
to enhance the text and photos. This is no different than the descriptions of
fishing for trout in riffles, runs, pools, and flats, but on an oceanic scale.
I've been on some beaches in Maine that are miles long, so it's not like you
can just blind cast your way from one end to the other like you may be able
to do in a trout stream, hoping to luck into a fish. Well - I supposed you could
- but I bet your arm would be pretty sore after awhile. Knowing how to locate
fish in such a huge area is critical, and then when finding them figuring out
how to approach and cast to them, and what flies to use, is just as important. Same as
trout fishing - just different. And bigger.
I don't know Rich Murphy, but if I met him I would want to shake his hand and
ask him - "Where did that all come from?". This is a very impressive
book, and while the cover price might seem a bit steep for a fishing book -
for the content inside it is a bargain. Every time I look at the book, I shake
my head in amazement. Rich - well done.