Cape Cod Fly Fishing Tips

With an average temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, Atlantic Ocean water is much colder than the Caribbean and Caribbean waters. However, as this article demonstrates, the Cape Cod area provides some of the best fly-fishing opportunities in the country, and the Cape Cod Fly Fishing Club can help you plan your visit.

As any fishing enthusiast will tell you, the best way to catch fish is to not scare them away. Here are a few tips for fishing Cape Cod, including how to catch the elusive Cape Cod striped bass, with tips from some of the region’s experts.

Fly fishing is one of the adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventures that many people enjoy, and it can be a great way to spend time with family and friends. But even if you’ve never given it a try, you might want to learn more about it. A good way to learn more about fishing is to study up on what you should know before you go. So, here is a list of important information that will make your trips to the water more enjoyable.

The yellow fly line had gone blue by the time my brain had completely processed the idea that I should glance down at my screaming reel. As a wave smashed straight into my face, almost filling my waders and reminding me that I was already far off the shore and beyond the breakers, I thought, “That’s my backing.” It didn’t make a difference. An huge striped bass had swallowed my fly and was heading towards the North Atlantic somewhere in front of me.

The geologic anomaly of Cape Cod was left behind by the last Ice Age. The massive sand bar that constitutes the easternmost part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was formed by receding glaciers. In addition, the glaciers left behind habitat that is critical to the Atlantic striped bass fisheries. Traveling schools of striped bass may find all they need to eat, rest, and prepare for their next migration phase along Cape Cod’s long shoreline. During the summer, striped bass prey species may be found in salt ponds, flats, estuaries, bays, inlets, jetties, and offshore currents. The abundance of excellent striper habitat and prey also produces one of the most difficult aspects of striper fishing in this area: there is so much good water and so many choices for fishing sites and techniques that it may be overwhelming.

The yearly striped bass migration, served by a silver fish with black stripes, is some of Mother Nature’s finest seasonal enchantment for anglers. As I stand in the parking lot of Beach Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham, MA, watching the first light of May’s final day touch the eastern horizon, this idea comes to mind. As I go to the surf line, holding a 9-weight rod and a green-and-white Clouser minnow I made during a winter blizzard 5 months ago in New Hampshire, waiting for skiable conditions and thinking about stripers, I get butterflies in my stomach.

Fly Fishing on the Beach

My 50+-year-old legs could only bring me so near to a sight from my youth. Just beyond the surf line, I saw several schoolies feeding. Their silver bodies mirrored the sun as they were framed by the following 3-foot wave’s rising wall. I raced down the beach into the southwest wind, hoping to get into position for a throw, grateful for the two big seals who were keeping baitfish and chasing stripers at bay for the time being. I couldn’t stop laughing, which must have sounded like a child chasing a playground kickball. I launched a downwind throw and connected on the third strip after finally getting ahead of the school. Fly-casting for stripers in the Atlantic surf of Cape Cod is a thrilling experience.

Cape Cod Striper FishingThe massive sand bar that makes up Cape Cod was created by glaciers.

Surf fishing may be an exhilarating, wind-in-your-hair, salt-spray-on-your-face experience that isn’t for everyone. Casting to rising trout beside a peaceful riverside is hardly a pleasant experience. It’s more like casting in a storm while standing inside a washing machine. Surf fishing for bass is a wonderful experience throughout the summer, but it’s probably best early in the season when the bass are hungry and full of sea lice. There are far too many excellent beaches on Cape Cod’s Atlantic coast for surf fishing to mention them all, so I’ll just describe two of my favorites and leave the rest to you to find.

Nauset Light Beach

2 to 3 hours before complete low tide, the finest water starts to show itself. A 9-weight is ideal for bombing throws beyond the waves and dealing with the wind in a southwest or south-southwest breeze. Continue north along the beach after checking out the surfers at the foot of the beach-access path. As the tide recedes, large rock formations that resemble ancient lava flows provide holding places for tiny bait and are magnets for feeding stripers. As you go north, hummocks between sand bar fingers create catchment regions where stripers ambush schooling baitfish and eat them. As the water recedes, these regions gradually acquire shape. As the fish stack erect on the surf line at full low tide, forgo the long throws in favor of shorter, more frequent ones. There are many of beach features in this region where you may throw from close to the waves, making casting for fish much simpler.

Beach of the Coast Guard

Off the beach, right in front of the walkway from the parking lot, there is a building that continues prominently as I go south. The beach contours on Coast Guard Beach are considerably more prominent than those on Nauset Light Beach (which is right next to Coast Guard). Coast Guard Beach has a lot more to offer than simply surf fishing. The entrance to Nauset Harbor, which links several neighboring bays and a huge salt pond, is located at its southernmost point (adjacent to the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center).

Stripers gather near the entrance and the ocean, anticipating easy food washed their way on an outgoing tide. Cast to the center of the inlet and swung on the ebb flow, sand eel, shrimp, and crab imitations may be pursued by multiple fish at once, providing for some heart-pounding action. One word of warning while fishing this area: keep an eye on the tides, since access ways flood rapidly on an incoming tide, and deep channels divide excellent fishing spots on the inlet and the beach. On each side of low tide, it’s best to fish for approximately an hour.

In the Wind Fly Fishing

Wind is nearly always present, and the direction of the wind is clearly important. Summer winds are often from the south-southwest to the southwest, so check the forecast and prepare appropriately. An onshore wind and an approaching tide make for a difficult day. It may be preferable to locate a beach chair and a nice book under these circumstances.

boat striperSummer brings south-southwest to southwest winds.

Seals from Cape Cod

Discovering seals, whether you like them or not, typically means finding fish. Seals are beneficial because they pin their food to the sand, making it simpler for us to locate and throw to the fish. The seals increase in number as the season advances and the fish become more abundant. It’s debatable if seals constitute an angler’s competition; nevertheless, it’s certain that seals in the water change the behavior of striped bass. Fish that are in fear of their life are less likely to stop and eat. Also, keep in mind that seals are prey for some of the ocean’s most powerful predators. Keep an eye on what’s going on in your immediate vicinity!

Management of Fly Lines

Fly line, as we all know, has a life of its own, winding itself around everything and everything. Reduce the amount of things the ever-present wind may do to your line by tucking it in, taping it down, or otherwise.

Excess slack line in the surf is a nuisance that may quickly turn into a catastrophe. Only cast with as much line as you can reliably cast, then gradually extend your casts as circumstances warrant. Casting the whole length of line every now and again helps maintain it stretched and prevents annoying snarls in the stripping guides.

On every downward strip, make touch with the stripping basket with your hand to ensure your line lands within the basket rather than going overboard. If you drop a pile of line in the surf by accident, it will create a bird’s nest around your feet in the waves. When this occurs (and it will), reel in a lot of line and start making small casts to stretch the line out again. When the line is sufficiently stretched, add more line to lengthen future casts.

Jetties, inlets, and estuaries

Kite surfers on West Dennis Beach could be heard behind me as I stood on the jetty at the Bass River’s inlet. I managed a poor throw of a meaty deceiver pattern on a sinking line to what I thought were bass waiting for supper at the river’s mouth with the wind in my face. A loud “Whoooop!” signaled that one of the surfers had just caught some air. Just as a semi-truck struck my fly near to the jetty and went off straight into the water flowing down the middle of the river, I automatically glanced in that direction. When the fish raced into the opposing ocean wave at the river’s mouth, my drag grumbled and I was convinced my leader was going to separate from my fly. It swung around and sped back inland against the incoming tide, burrowing low and snagging line until it wore out and landed in my net. My grill’s upper shelf is the next destination….

Fishing on Cape Cod’s inlets and estuaries is enjoyable and accessible to almost everyone. Fishing them might be a full-time job and continue almost all year, given the density and quantity of the terrain, since a few bass always remain behind when the majority of the migration goes south for the winter. During the harsh New England winters, these holdover fish provide sustenance to dedicated striper anglers and keep hope alive.

Bass River breakwallBreakwalls around port and bay mouths attract bait, which puts stripers into fly-casting range.

Jetties that create prey-holding structures typically guard river inlets, making them fast and simple to reach, but also ensuring that you will have lots of company. While crowds and fly casting don’t mix especially well, you may find a time and tide that suits your jetty-fishing needs. The western end of West Dennis Beach (at the Bass River’s entrance), the inlet to Waquoit Bay accessed either from the west by Washburn Island State Park or from the east by Mashpee Town Beach, and the entrance to East Bay in Osterville via the jetty adjacent to Dowses Beach are all excellent fly fishing spots.

Look for an outgoing tide and imagine “swinging the fly” in the water as you would a trout streamer. Baitfish, crabs, and other bass favorites are carried out by the tide to waiting bass from adjacent marshes and inland beaches.

When casting from the jetty, carry a sinking line with you since the outgoing flow may be fast and keep a fly on an intermediate line too near to the surface. You can fish the whole water column with a sinking line. Cast slack and adjust the speed and duration of your retrieve when you need additional depth. Casting a floating line with a topwater fly (e.g., a “gurgler”) onto the riprap of a jetty from a boat is another method that may result in some explosive takes. This is something that every striper fisherman should attempt at least once. While topwater flies may seem paradoxical at first, if a big bass smacks your fly on the surface, you’ll be persuaded.

Gypsy Soul guide Adam Aronson offered me some excellent advice about fishing estuaries. “Large fish are often caught on tiny flies throughout the season. Throwing tiny tandem flies is one of my favorite techniques. Consider two size 2 Ray’s Flies or olive and white Clousers. Depending on how you fish them, they may mimic a broad variety of baitfish, from silversides to sand eels. When throwing two flies, remember to open up your loops.”

Flats for Fly Fishing in Cape Cod

Standing in waist-deep, soon-to-be-chest-deep water right off Paine’s Creek in Brewster, I thought to myself, “Well,” but nothing else came to me. I’d tried every fly and line I had out there, and my right arm was numb after hours of casting an 8-weight. There were enough of fish to go around, so that wasn’t a problem. During recess, the water resembled a school of fish. A fantastic beach day and scary bass were the result of flat calm conditions and brilliant sunlight. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” was the first thing that sprang to mind. I hoped the forecast for the following day included a few clouds and a little wind that would ripple the water on the flats.

Many of Cape Cod’s estuaries and streams drain into bigger bodies of water in flats, which are vast, level regions. While the word “flats” may conjure up thoughts of Andros Island or the Florida Keys, Cape Cod is home to the biggest flats system in North America. At low tide, the Brewster Flats stretch for almost 10 miles from Barnstable Harbor to North Eastham, exposing approximately 12,000 acres. The distance from the parking lot to the “edge” may exceed a mile (an always-retreating or advancing surf line). Anglers may readily observe the vastly different shapes of the bottom when the flats are exposed, providing hints on how predators like striped bass utilize this habitat to their advantage when eating.

Brewster Flats’ terrain is very varied. A few feet separate an ankle-depth plunge from a sharp plummet into a deeper, faster-moving channel. Sandbars and deep cuts may be found all over the place, and they are continuously shifting due to periodic storms. It’s easy to find oneself on a sandbar, encircled by a fast-moving flood tide, with no obvious way back to dry ground.

Flats Fishing Cape CodAnglers have the chance to sight fish for cruising stripers on the flats of Cape Cod Bay.

If you have to make a deep wade, keep your phone, keys, and other valuables in a submersible container (or possibly a short swim). Better better, plan ahead of time to know how to go back to shore before the tide comes in. The tide flows in and out nearly as quickly as you can walk on Brewster Flats, thus the surrounding environment may change dramatically in a matter of minutes.

Make sure to do some preliminary study on the region you’ll be visiting, or better yet, go fishing with a local guide to get a feel for the place before venturing out on your own. While Brewster Flats is the most well-known and biggest on Cape Cod, don’t overlook Pleasant Bay and the region around the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Stage Harbor near Chatham. From the upper to lower Cape, there are many big and small flats-fishing possibilities.

Anglers tend to be on the move while scanning for and stalking fish, which are in continuous motion. Sight-fishing in sunny weather on the flats is similar to hunting—anglers prefer to be on the move while scanning for and stalking fish, which are in constant action. Bass are often frightened under these circumstances, so a quiet approach is essential. Long throws to far-off fish are frequent, followed by quick casts to fish swimming within close range. This technique of capturing stripers is both difficult and rewarding since it requires quick, precise throws that fall gently in the path of an approaching fish. Small flies may capture large fish on the flats, and a little surface chop could make them less skittish. While fish are more readily visible in bright sunlight, don’t assume that just because it’s overcast means you can’t see them. On gloomy days, blind-casting to known bass congregation locations, such as places where tidal flows squeeze between contours and concentrate prey, may be fruitful.

The ideal time to fish the flats is an hour or two before or after low tide. Arrive a few hours before low tide if you have time, and watch what occurs as the outflowing tide becomes lower and lower. Your observations of which prey species are plentiful may help you decide which flies to employ.

Fly Fishing Equipment for the Flats

If the fish are skittish, a two-rod technique may be beneficial. To keep a crab or shrimp imitation near to the bottom, use an 8-weight with a clear intermediate line and a 9-weight with a sinking line. When preparing your gear for flats fishing, keep in mind that these species will not have access to deep water. When you’re hooked, your only choice is to go towards the horizon, so be sure you’ve got a lot of backup.

Brewster FlatsThe Brewster Flats are North America’s largest area of tidal flats.

A compass, a tidal chart, a means to determine the time, and a mechanism for asking for assistance are four items that no one should go on the flats without (e.g., a cell phone or distress whistle). Weather, darkness, and (particularly) fog may strike without warning. Anglers have perished while attempting to return to shore on a rising tide due to fog.

Striper Migration on Cape Cod

At the same time, the Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman 23 departed Saquatucket Harbor in its thick fog. As we traveled south, the contour of Monomoy Island became more visible, and the fog began to lift. I attempted to comprehend the tremendous variety that occupied such a tiny geographic area as I listened to the captain’s explanation of the environment we were passing through. As the numbers on the depth finder became larger in a rush, Monomoy Point passed on our left. Bearse Shoal, Pollock Rip Channel, and what I thought to be a personal-best striped bass on the fly waited over Butler Hole’s abyss.

The idea that larger fish live in bigger water isn’t always accurate, but it’s often enough that every fisherman who wants to catch stripers on Cape Cod should use this method (as often as feasible). Locations where tidal currents in deeper water meet with shallow undersea features like shoals or bars are ideal for locating offshore stripers. Standing waves are created by these offshore current “rips,” trapping and holding prey species. The shoals off Monomoy Island, which stretch south from Cape Cod’s elbow, produce miles-long current rips that provide for excellent striped bass fishing. According to Captain Patrick Cassidy of Cape Cod On The Fly, “There aren’t many locations with a virtually season-long surface bite that offer fly fishers a great chance at catching large fish on any given day, but the shoals surrounding Monomoy are one of those unique spots.” With decades of expertise fishing the Monomoy rips, Cassidy is one of the area’s best guides.

Anglers may launch big baitfish or shrimp patterns on throws that drift fly into the calmer water and eventually get dragged into the turmoil of the rip. Long and forceful stripping back towards the boat when a fly is swallowed in the rip may cause bass to feed. Strikes are most common in the rip’s initial few standing waves, a favored spot for bass to ambush startled prey from below. When choosing a pole for fishing from a boat, focus on battling fish rather than casting. Because hooked fish are more likely to make a noise, choose a rod with excellent pulling capabilities. The appropriate instrument for the task is usually a sinking line (sink tip or complete sink) with a short yet strong leader. Casting from the bow platform of a boat tilting on waves produced by clashing ocean currents is like sending and mending line while standing on a roller coaster, if casting in the surf zone is like casting while standing in a washing machine. Begin by casting small distances and feeding line into the drift. As you gain confidence in your ability to throw, increase your casting distance to cover more water.

Boat StriperRips are a fantastic way to get a fly in front of hungry stripers, but you must maintain excellent balance.

Stripers schooling offshore often force bait to the top, confining it in the two dimensions of space left for simple plucking. The disturbance produced on the surface and the clamor of diving marine birds seeking for a free meal are readily recognized as the blitz created by the following feeding frenzy (all of which are often closely followed by a fleet of boats carrying similar-minded anglers). The blitz occurs unexpectedly and with little warning, lasting seconds, minutes, or even longer. Because fish are always on the move, boiling close to the boat and then 30 yards away the next instant, chasing the blitz necessitates a floating or intermediate line and frequently some rapid casting. In this scenario, a 10-weight rod won’t harm, particularly if you’re after bigger fish or trying to make long, fast throws in a strong ocean wind.

Larger fish like to hide at deeper depths, so getting your fly past the schoolies on top to the larger fish below may be difficult. One caveat: sharp-toothed bluefish often join the fight, and a mono or fluorocarbon leader may quickly be shredded. Blues have claimed many a fly, so use wire leads wherever feasible.

Aim for the edge of the bait ball, letting the fly rest for a few seconds before making short, erratic strips to imitate a shocked baitfish that has broken away from the school and is attempting to flee.

This is how Captain Cassidy describes his overall strategy to the Cape Cod striper season. “At the start of the year, I prefer to concentrate on the Brewster flats, as well as the Cape Cod Bay creeks, coves, and coastline, where big bass often appear after passing through the Cape Cod Canal. It’s particularly gratifying to catch the season’s first fish when waist-deep in water and somewhat chilly (despite wearing waders). As the water off Monomoy and the outer beaches warms in late June and early July, I move my attention there. With the introduction of squid and other bait, the boat becomes essential for determining where the bass are on any given day and whether or not the blues have arrived. It’s also the beginning of sight-fishing the Monomoy flats, which is a whole other experience.

Cape Cod MarshEarly and late in the season, marshes and backwaters offer chances to capture stripers on the fly.

“As the season continues and patterns form, I continue to check and fish the bay, particularly early in the morning and later in the evening on any of the tidal creeks or flats where bass feed on sand eels, crabs, and shrimp. When August arrives, go where the fish were last seen, then move on to a different location. That’s the fun of fishing Cape Cod: it’s always an adventure, and it’s a wonderful feeling to discover fish in a new location after doing the legwork to establish it has promise.

“As bass fatten for the journey south, fall brings more blues and albies, as well as the potential of blitz fishing. I concentrate on the Outer Cape, but I travel quickly when required since the season will pass me by before I realize it. Also, keep in mind that fish move, and you should as well.”

Cape Cod and striped bass fly-fishing are a great match since this very adaptive species can be found in a wide variety of water types, and Cape Cod contains nearly all of them.

Cape Cod is known as the fly fishing capitol of the world, and the water here is truly unbelievable. The water is clear, the water is clean, and the fish are hungry. The fish that are on the cape are giants, they are the largest fish in all of North America, and they are put on the cape to keep the prices down. They are also the ones that are most fun to catch.. Read more about striper fly fishing setup and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to fish the Cape Cod Canal?

The best time to fish the Cape Cod Canal is during the summer months, when there is a large population of baitfish.

How do you catch striped bass on a fly?

You can use a fly rod, or you can use a spinning reel.

What time of year is best for fly fishing?

The best time for fly fishing is when the water temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • striper fly rod setup
  • cape cod fly fishing report
  • kayak fishing brewster flats
  • surf fishing guide cape cod
  • cape cod on the fly