Thanks to the Saltwater Edge for tonight’s flatwing class

I spent a very enjoyable two hours tonight at the Saltwater Edge tying flatwings. We kept it simple with single-feather and two-feather patterns, like the Morning Glory and the September Night. Another great group, very enthusiastic, with lots of good questions. It is a privilege and a pleasure to be able to teach tying these magnificent flies. Thanks to Peter Jenkins and his gracious crew for having me. And thanks to Ken Abrames for leading the way.

Some flatwing-bucktail hybrids. Even at rest, they have a palpable energy.

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Today’s Blue Plate Special: the Rhody Flatwing

The Rhody Flatwing is an old pattern that was developed by Bill Peabody (of Bill’s Bodi-Braid fame). Being a Rhode Islander, Bill is said to have drawn his inspiration from fellow Ocean Staters Ken Abrames (flatwing design template) and Ray Bondorew (Ray’s Fly colors).

The result is pattern that makes a superb generic baitfish imitation. By altering the size of the fly, the tyer can match all manner of baits. The original pattern calls for a sparse tie. You can see from the picture that what I’ve used is more than enough material. Also note that there are no eyes on this fly – they’re just not necessary. Of course, if you must have eyes, jungle cock would be the appropriate choice.

This dozen was tied for a local fly shop, and the flies are about 5” long. Delicious!

A Dozen Rhody Flatwings

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0-3/0
Thread: White 6/0
Support: 30 hairs white bucktail
Pillow: White
Tail: 2 strands gold Flashabou under yellow or olive saddle hackle
Body: Pearl braid (Bill’s if you’re going for homage and tradition)
Collar: 30 hairs short white bucktail on bottom, 30 hairs long white bucktail on top
Wing: 15 hairs yellow bucktail under 8 hairs light blue bucktail under sparse olive Krystal Flash under 20 hairs olive bucktail
Topping: 5-7 strands peacock herl

Tying notes: The Eagle Claw 253 is a classic hook choice for flatwings. It is light and has a short shank that helps prevent fouling. You can use either an olive or yellow saddle –well, heck, you can use whatever colors you like. Try all black. Try all white with a hint of pink or chartreuse. I like a hollower, springy bucktail fiber for the support on this fly. I made the collars an even length because that’s what looked right to me. Adding flash to a fly is like applying cologne: easy does it. Less is more.

Thank you, UpCountry Sportfishing and today’s wet fly class

Another great class today at UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford, CT. UpCountry is my home shop, and it’s always nice to be tying along the banks of the Farmington River. We covered the same basics as yesterday’s class, took a few new directions, but the result was the same. We all learned something, and a splendid time was had by all.

Steelhead Spiders or Soft-Hackles

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Next up: flatwing demo Thursday night at the Saltwater Edge in Newport, RI.

Thanks to everyone who attended my wet fly class at River & Riptide.

I love tying flies, but teaching others how to tie runs a close second. I am fortunate enough to be able to do it at a number of area fly shops. Today’s was at River & Riptide in Coventry, RI. Great group of guys, all eager students. It’s amazing watching the transformation that happens in someone’s tying in just a few hours. Our focus today was on wet flies. We covered basic soft-hackles, wingless wets, winged wets, and fuzzy nymphs. Thanks to R&R for letting me teach, and thanks to everyone who made the afternoon so enjoyable.

Drowned Ant Soft-Hackle

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I’ll be doing the same class tomorrow at UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford, CT.

Thanks to the FRAA for hosting me tonight

Tonight I gave a presentation at the Farmington River Anglers Association meeting on wild brook trout and fishing small streams. I’d like to thank the group for their hospitality and welcoming spirit. I had a lot of fun.

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If your group is looking for a speaker, I currently have presentations on the Farmington River and Wild Brook Trout/Small Streams. I hope to be adding Wet Fly Fishing and perhaps Striped Bass on the Fly in the near future.

The Crazy Menhaden three-feather flatwing

This flatwing draws its inspiration from Ken Abrames’ classic streamer, the Crazy Menhaden.

The original pattern calls for eleven saddles. But what if you don’t have all the right colors? Or, what if you have precious few saddles? One solution – the one I’ve chosen here – is to use bucktail instead of saddles to complete the proper color blend that makes this such an attractive fly.

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For this version of the Crazy Menhaden I’m using one white, one yellow, and one orange saddle to anchor the center of the fly, add length, and provide the swimming action flatwings are renowned for. (The exception is the biggest fly pictured, which has eight saddles.) The bucktail on the top half of the fly is tied like a Blonde, at the tail end of the shank and near the head. These fibers provide the bulk of the color and content, along with some flashabou accents and long peacock herl. The beige and yellow bucktail throat and sides remain true to the original pattern.

Along with the saddles, the rest of the color palette is bronze, pink, ginger, red, blue, chartreuse, olive, light green, and copper. The largest fly here is 12″ long; the smallest, just a bit over 7″.

I’ve had a lot of success with this fly at night on our rivers here in Connecticut. I like to fish it during the bottom of the tide, on a greased line swing.

You can find the original pattern in Ken’s book, A Perfect Fish, on page 93. When it comes to fly fishing and fly tying, I don’t usually speak in imperatives. But if you’re interested in flatwings and you don’t have this book, you need to get it. It’s the flatwing bible.

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Tan
Platform: Orange and yellow bucktail, mixed
Support: White neck hackle
Tail: Natural white saddle, under 2 strands copper flash, under a yellow saddle under an orange saddle, under 2 strands red flash, under 30 total hairs ginger, pink and violet bucktail, mixed, under 20 total hairs pink and chartreuse bucktail, mixed, under 2 strands green flash under 20 total hairs blue and red bucktail, mixed.
Body: Bronze braid
Collar: Beige bucktail on bottom, yellow and beige bucktail, mixed, on sides
Wing: 15 hairs orange bucktail under 30 hairs olive bucktail
Topping: Peacock herl
 Eyes: Jungle cock

 A closer look at the head detail and the color blends:

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A Classic Bergman Wet: The Fontinalis Fin

This is a fly with a great backstory.

The Fontinalis Fin Wet Fly

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Hook: 6-16 (this is a 1x short, 2x strong Orvis 1641 size 10)
Thread: Black
Tail: White hackle fibers
Body: Orange wool with fine gold tinsel rib
Throat: Furnace hackle fibers
Wing: Orange mallard married to a thin strip of black or natural grey mallard, then a slightly thicker strip of white mallard

The old-timers up in Maine (or down East, if you’re going for authenticity) who were fishing for brookies thought their quarry was highly territorial. So after they creeled a fish, they’d clip off one of the fins and use it for bait. And what an attractive bait it was: shiny, deep orange, contrasted against dramatic black and white bands.

An enterprising fly tyer named Phil Armstrong realized he could replicate this bait in the form of a married-quill wing wet fly. And thus was born the Fontinalis Fin. “Fontinalis” from the second half of the brook trout’s taxonomic name, Salvelinus fontinalis. “Fin” for rather obvious reasons. What a brilliant concept.

The real McCoy

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While it’s tempting to look at the flies featured in the color plates of Berman’s Trout (this fly appears on plate 10) as more of an exercise in tying legerdemain than practical fish catchers, I can tell you from experience that this fly does work. It’s pretty simple as far as married quill wings go, and the rest of the pattern is something anyone with basic tying skills can do.

Tying notes: If you’ve never tied a quill wing, don’t start. Your first quill wing can be the fly-tying equivalent of the Bataan Death March. While I was kidding (mostly) about not starting, I think it took me over a half hour to tie my first quill wing — and that was accompanied by a generous use of rather colorful language. Once you get it, though, the process becomes easier. I’m often asked at classes and demos, ‘How do you glue the different quill sections together?” You don’t. The edges of quill fibers are like velcro — they stick together quite nicely. There’s a specific technique to matching quills (the wings should be a mirror reflection of one another) and marrying the sections. Perhaps someday I’ll post them. In the meantime, you can probably find a good how-to by doing a web search. Also, the quill wings should sit a little higher on the shank so as to not hide the body; I was in a rush to finish this fly, so I plead sloth.