Big Eelie Variant: The L&L

While I am loathe to use the phrase “go-to-pattern,” I beg to report that whenever there are large sand eels around, Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie is my go-to pattern.

The Big Eelie differs from 95% of other sand eel flies in that it is not an attempt to carbon copy the bait. Those legions of epoxy- and tube-bodied flies with eyes certainly work, but you can get away quite nicely with something far more impressionistic (if that’s your fancy) like the Big Eelie or Ray Bondorew’s Marabou Sand Eel.

The classic Big Eelie is a four-feather flatwing/soft-hackle hybrid; it’s colors are white, yellow, olive, and blue. I’ve discovered over the years that the Big Eelie works in all kinds of color schemes. One of my favorites is taken from Ken’s three-feather flatwing, the L&L Special. This tart mix of yellow, fluorescent yellow, white, and chartreuse shines on sand flats, day or night.

The L&L Big Eelie


Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs fluorescent yellow bucktail
Tail: A white saddle, under one strand each of gold and silver flash, under two chartreuse saddles, under two strands purple flash, under a yellow saddle.
Body: Pearl braid
Collar: 2-3 turns chartreuse marabou, tied in by the tip.

Tying notes: Sand eels are a slender bait, so make your saddles about the width of a pencil. You don’t want a flaring broom shape for the platform, so likewise make it slim, and take the bucktail from near the tip of the tail. All the saddles are tied in flat. The marabou adds the magic here, as it veils the body when wet, creating movement and an almost glowing effect. Feel free to play around with different colors on this pattern; some of my favorites are blue/black/purple and white/pink/olive. Stripers love them all. I like to tie this fly about 4  1/2 inches long.

8 comments on “Big Eelie Variant: The L&L

  1. Donald Moore says:

    What do you mean by a “platform?”

    • Steve Culton says:


      A “platform” is flatwing-speak for the support mechanism of the hackles. In this case, we have four very slim, light saddle hackles. They rest upon a platform of bucktail. You can see the bucktail in the photos. In many flatwings, the platform is constructed in a fanned out style, almost like the shape of an old straw broom. I favor a far slimmer profile for this fly (to better match the bait). Platforms should be sparse — in many of Ken’s patterns, he calls for 30 hairs.

      Does that make sense?

      • Donald Moore says:

        Got it – thanks!

        One more question . . . In the tying instructions above I find the use of “under” and the sequence a bit confusing.

        In tying this is the yellow saddle the first element tied in? Then the two strands of purple flash, etc.?

        Tail: A white saddle, under one strand each of gold and silver flash, under two chartreuse saddles, under two strands purple flash, under a yellow saddle.

      • Steve Culton says:

        Think of it this way: first, you tie in the platform. Then, the white saddle. Then, the gold and silver flash. (The white saddle is now under the gold and silver flash). Then the two chartreuse saddles. (The gold and silver flash is now under the chartreuse saddles). Etc. Does that make sense?

      • Donald Moore says:

        Yes, thanks. I still think it’s confusing and the word “under” isn’t really necessary. Maybe “followed by” would better explain the sequence. Thanks, I’ll give one a try!

  2. […] used to be an L&L Big Eelie. An epic night of big Block bass on sand eels reduced it to a shell of its former self. And they […]

  3. […] that the stripers have a preference. But now my mind is wandering in to places of color and length. The Big Eelie in L&L Special colors is one of my favorite, high-confidence Block flies. It’s got a lot of chartreuse. […]

  4. […] of variants (do a search on this site for recipes, and I’ll even start you off with one, the L&L Big Eelie). And of course, the original colors (white/yellow/olive/blue) remain deadly as […]

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