The Magog Smelt Striper Bucktail

Long before breathable waders and UV-cured resins, fly anglers began fishing the salt for stripers. They brought with them their corpus of freshwater knowledge – and also their flies. Saltwater fly fishing (and therefore saltwater fly tying) was in its infancy. So it only makes sense that they would borrow tackle and tactics and flies from whence they came.

I have a particular interest in traditional fly fishing and tying methods, whether for trout or stripers. For several years now I’ve been tying and fishing these legacy striper patterns, and I’d like to share one of my favorites with you: the Magog Smelt Bucktail.

The Magog Smelt Striper Bucktail


The Magog Smelt is an old landlocked salmon fly. It takes its name from Lake Memphremagog, located between Vermont and Quebec. It was the favorite striper fly of an old Rhode Island sharpie named John Abrames, who taught his son, Ken (you may have heard of him) to fish for striped bass with it. Ken in turn told me about the Magog Smelt, and now it’s one of my favorite bucktails and color schemes.

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: Black
Body: Silver braid
Throat: Red marabou
Wing: 30 hairs white bucktail, under 2 strips silver flash, under 30 longer hairs yellow bucktail, under 25 hairs longer purple bucktail, under 5-7 strands peacock herl
Cheeks: Teal flank tip

Tying notes: I tie the Magog Smelt Bucktail the Ray’s Fly format, from three to five inches long. The fly here is about 3 ½ inches. Keep each group of bucktail nice and sparse, and make each progressively longer. I treat the teal almost as a veil over the body braid. Back in the day, the old-timers painted white eyes with a black pupil on the head, but you could use jungle cock or leave it blank as I did here. I’ve never tied this fly with eyes, and the stripers love it au natural.

9 comments on “The Magog Smelt Striper Bucktail

  1. stevegalea6953 says:

    Very neat. Steve I have never fished saltwater. What weight of fly rod do you use to throw these things?

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Steve,

      It will come as no surprise to you that I fish for stripers a little differently than most people. My saltwater tackle is likewise unconventional. The default striper rod on the east coast is a 9-foot 9-weight. I haven’t used one of those in years. The rod that gets the lion’s share of my action isn’t any weight, but rather is a rod designed for a range of grain weights. It’s a Salmo Saxatilis #3. It’s 10.5 feet long, and it is designed for line grains of 160-320 — but it can handle way more than that. Single-handed (it’s a switch rod) I use a Rio Outbound 9-weight, which I believe is 375 grains. Two handed I use an Outbound 12 (510 grains). Love, love, love that rod. Plenty of power on nights when it’s blowing big swells off a jetty, and enough finesse that an 18″ schoolie feels substantial. The Salmo Sax is a slower-action rod with a very forgiving tip (it excels as a steelhead rod).

      Then, there’s my infamous five-weight, a TFO TiCr 9-foot that I use with the Rio Outbound 9-weight line. I can throw a team of three flies with that setup, as well as a large flatwing. Love that rod for stripers, and I’ve easily landed stripers in the double-digit pounds range, in current.

      • stevegalea6953 says:

        Neat.Thanks for the insight. I’ve never been to either coast in North America. Flown over them and seen the Mediterranean but that’s about it…

  2. Pat Brennan says:

    Ah all this talk lately about smelts. Nice fly Steve.

    • Steve Culton says:

      I know. I’ve been Magog crazy on currentseams. I have one more variant to share, hopefully in the next couple weeks, and then I’ll give it a rest. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Charlie G. says:

    Great looking fly, I will have to give it a try.
    Steve if I read and understood your one statement right, you at times use multiple flies as your presentation ?
    If so I wonder if in the future you could diagram how you rig your leader for that. I have fished one time with a dropper fly in front of a flatwing but I am wondering how you setup your leader if you use multiple flies or droppers. I am going to try a multiple fly presentation more this year in the back bays. It will take me some time to figure out what flies will work together in the surf for multiple presentations.
    Great job with your blog, I always look forward to your new entries.

  4. Steve Culton says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I am a big fan of dropper rigs, fresh and salt. Droppers are always the quickest way to find out what the fish want. Great idea on the diagram/article for currentseams. I shall effort it. In the meantime, if you do a google search on my name and “dropper rig,” you can find an article I wrote on the subject a few years ago.

    As far as what flies to use, the general rule of thumb is this: unless you know for sure what the bait is, give the stripers a choice: different sizes, colors, species. A typical default dropper rig for stripers is a clam worm, a shrimp, and a baitfish.

    Here’s a picture of a small, 2″ clam worm fly on a dropper tag. The tag allows the fly to swim freely and makes it easier for the fish to eat it.

    Clamworm dropper

  5. […] a perfect place to fish a team of three. I had 2″ long Ray’s fly on top dropper, a Magog Smelt bucktail in the middle, and a micro Gurgler on point to do double duty as a suspender and waking fly. I was […]

  6. […] The Magog Smelt Bucktail didn’t make the article, but it’s another fall favorite of mine. You can find out more about this pattern here. […]

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