A new flatwing from the Culton bench: the Rock Island

Rock Island Flatwings

Depending on your cultural exposure, Rock Island Line is a blues, country, or skiffle song. I won’t go into the details of the story, but there’s a railroad and a train involved. It takes place ‘way down south, miles away from the Metro North line, but that’s the route I take when business calls in the City. That train parallels the shoreline, and it goes over plenty of marshy, salty estuaries — you know, the kind stripers like to hang out in. If you’re a bass angler, you can’t help but notice them, especially that rocky island right next to the channel that’s just got to be holding some decent size fish.

The Rock Island is a flatwing bucktail hybrid about 8″ long. Like a lot of the flies I make up, the tying process wandered around a bit before the pattern discovered where it wanted to be. For example, I started with black thread, then switched to purple. Then changed some of the bucktail color blends. I really like the contrast in this fly from bottom to top.

The Rock Island will get fished on a greased line swing on a cool May night when the herring are in. A’board!

A closer look at the head detail:

Rock Island CU

Thread: Purple
Pillow: Pink
Platform: Gray bucktail
Tail: Pink saddle, under 2 strands blue flash, under lavender saddle, under blue saddle, under 2 strands red flash, under 30 total hairs royal blue, amber, and olive bucktail (mixed), under 20 total hairs dark blue and red bucktail (mixed), under 2 strands purple flash, under 20 strands purple bucktail.
Body: Purple braid
Collar: Pale blue, light blue, and gray bucktail, mixed
Wing: 15 strands purple and 30 strands black bucktail, mixed
Topping: 7-8 strands peacock herl
Eyes: Jungle cock

15 comments on “A new flatwing from the Culton bench: the Rock Island

  1. Pat Brennan says:

    Nice fly Steve !

  2. Pat Brennan says:

    Question for you. Why use a floating line
    for a greased swing especially in a fast
    moving river environment. Won’t the fly
    ride exceptionally high? I lack
    the experience in this method and was just wondering.

  3. Steve Culton says:

    Hi Pat,

    I’m glad you asked. By its very name and nature, a greased line swing requires a floating line.

    “Greased line” is an old Atlantic salmon technique. It comes from the days of yore when anglers did not have the benefit of SuperDuperHiFloatAirCell line technology. They literally had to grease their lines to keep them afloat.

    A greased line swing is executed by an angler standing at a fixed point. Let’s say that angler is casting straight across to the opposite bank. After the cast, the anger begins a series of upstream mends. This keeps the fly broadside, in full profile, to the fish as the fly moves downstream and across. At a certain point in the drift, the angler then comes tight to the line and lets the fly swing directly down below.

    Without mending, the fly will make a classic wet fly swing, and will start to turn from full side profile to tail-view much earlier in the drift. That’s not necessarily bad, but with a greased line swing, the striper gets to see more of the fly for a longer period of time. The fly appears to be swimming across the river, dangerously exposed to any bass ready to ambush it. It’s a wonderful way to fish flatwings, which shine as presentation flies.

    Why a floating line, then? You cannot mend a sinking line. No mending, no greased line swing.

    When I fish these big herring patterns at night, a typical scenario has the bass feeding right near the surface. You can hear the telltale POP! and the splashing of worried bait. All I’m doing is putting the fly where the fish are most likely to take it.

    Now, don’t be mislead by the words “floating line.” A floating line is a great way to present flies deep, in current (what kind of line do nymph fisherman use to get their flies to the bottom of a river?). But, that’s another whole subject.

    I’m doing a piece on the greased line swing for Fly Fishing in Salt Waters. I’ll let everyone know when that’s coming out.

    Hope this helps, and thank you for your kind words 🙂


  4. stevegalea6953 says:

    Very well tied and elegant. Being so far from the ocean, I’ve never fished salt water but I suspect that thing will catch any predatory fish you swim it by. I can hardly wait to see the results of your field testing. Good job on the post.

  5. Have tied up a few variants of your pattern to try up here this spring. As well as a few that are more perch-like for bass and pike when I make my annual pilgrimage up there this summer.


  6. Kelly L says:

    Outstanding work here Steve. BEAUTIFUL.

  7. Jack Denny says:

    I’d fish it for sure, looks action packed with some size. Sweet!

  8. […] the color-blending deliciousness and adding-the-illusion-of-mass properties of bucktail. (See the Rock Island and Crazy Menhaden three feather flatwings.) So, just a taste for now.  Details to come […]

  9. […] with all strands of flash extending at least 3/4″ beyond the longest feather. (See the Rock Island and Crazy Menhaden three-feather flatwings.)  Bonus: they’re easy to cast for their size, […]

  10. […] Not from last night. But I did fish a Rock Island flatwing (eaten below), a high confidence herring pattern I developed many years ago. You can read about the Rock Island flatwing here. […]

  11. […] Rock Island Flatwing/Bucktail Hybrid in progress, secret sauce […]

  12. […] hand, silvery sub-slot bass that nailed Toby’s surface swimmer. Not a touch for me, fishing a Rock Island flatwing/bucktail, and then a deer hair head whatchamacallit. There’s not much for me to tell, other than I saw […]

  13. doug carver says:

    is this on a you tube clip by chance??

    • Steve Culton says:

      Doug, I wish I could say yes, but sadly the answer is no. I wish I could say I’ve found the time to do more tying videos, but same answer. Comments like yours are important to me because it lets me know what you’d like to see…if you have any specific questions, I’m happy to answer them.

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