When The Mayfly Project announced it’s first annual 25 on the Fly tournament a little over a year ago, I knew participating would soon become an annual tradition. Framed as an angling Scavenger Hunt, this nationwide, mixed bag tournament would challenge teams of two anglers to chase 25 eligible species over the course of a weekend. At the end of the weekend, species counts would be tallied, and the team with the highest total would be declared the winner.
Recruiting my cousin, Jake, as my partner, we would go on to fish our way across upstate New York and into Rhode Island during this inaugural event. And while we admittedly fell just short (finishing 4th in the final standings), we were hooked and already planning for 2022 before the 2021 results had been finalized.
When that 2022 format was released, however, we were thrown for a bit of a loop as major changes had ensued. Gone were the high point species like Tiger Musky and Grass Carp from the year prior. In their stead were a series of “Challenges.”
An attempt to even the nationwide playing field, the 25 eligible species had been replaced by 18 species and seven challenges. Further, points (a tiebreaker in the past) now usurped Total Species as the key scoring metric. It was clear we’d have to completely rework our game plan if we intended to compete.
Worse still, the new high point species, Gar & Drum, were among the rarest fish found in New York & New England. An easy 600 points had we elected to fish in Louisiana, we’d now have to struggle to locate and catch two species that equated to the value of the ten lowest value species combined!
Our work cut out for us, we revamped our plans as the date approached. Finally, on May 18th, I hopped a plane to Providence for two days of pre-fishing.
Cold and Rainy with a Chance of Stripers
Arriving at Jake’s around 1 AM on Thursday morning, we allowed ourselves four hours of sleep before heading for the water. While striped bass represented only one of the 18 species we would need to target, Jake had long wanted me to experience the striper fishing he had enjoyed for years living in Providence. Friday already committed to pre-fishing freshwater, we agreed to devote Thursday to chasing striper along the Rhode Island coast.
Waking to rain and temperatures in the low 50s, the day would be a frigid (but productive) one as striper came to hand at each location. Throwing a large Clouser’s minnow early before switching to a Mushmouth, the bite remained consistent throughout. And while the fish started small, their size increased as the day progressed.
In fact, my largest of the day was my last. A beautiful fish taken shortly before sunset, it took me into my backing early before I regained control. In the upper 20″ range, it was an impressive fish and one that put up a battle equal to any similarly sized redfish. When a Striped Searobin fell for my EP Shrimp, that was just icing on the cake.
Calling it a day shortly thereafter, we were in bed by 11. We’d have five hours to rest before starting all over again.
With the 2021 tournament under our belts, we were entering 2022 with our plan of attack largely in place. The tweaks to the format and scoring would certainly play a role in how we approached things, but many of the common species remained unchanged.
For this reason, we skipped a number of our primary spots on Friday and instead spent the day scouting a series of backup options should our primary spots fail come tournament time. The result was less productive fishing than we may have liked, but we still encountered a variety of species in the process
One urban pond in particular produced a variety of species including Pumpkinseed and, my lifer, White Perch. Others produced bass, pickerel and bluegill.
The trout streams, in contrast, proved unproductive, but a small Spotted Turtle found along the roadway added another highlight to our afternoon.
Ending the evening once again chasing striper, we finalized our game plan for the first day of the Tournament.
Up at 4 AM, we’d start our day chasing Stipers before turning our attention to Brook, Rainbow and Brown Trout. From there, we’d move on to crappie. Then off to an urban stream and known carp pond. With any luck, we’d check off sunfish, pickerel, bass and yellow perch along the way.
If all went well, we’d finish the day chasing larger striper for the 10 pt/inch length bonus. Then five hours in the car to Syracuse, where it would all start over again.