The Crazy Menhaden Big Eelie Variant

It happens, if you’re lucky, once a season. It does not define you as angler. It makes no promise of future success. Like all glory, it is fleeting. But oh, does it make you feel like the king of the world. It is the moment after a wildly successful session when someone breathlessly approaches you with the words, “Excuse me, I’ve got to ask. What fly were you using?”

The first time I fished the Crazy Menhaden Big Eelie was a humid, overcast June night on Block Island. A substantial school of bass in the ten-to-fifteen pound range was feeding on sand eels near the surface. They had the bait pinned in a three-foot deep trough between the beach and a sand bar that dropped off into deeper water. For the better part of three hours, I took bass after well-fed, rotund bass. They relished the fly, even after it was reduced to two saddles and some frayed bucktail. As I began the walk to my Jeep, the angler to my right hurriedly reeled in his line and chased me down the beach, eager to pop the question.


As its name suggests, this fly takes the color scheme of Ken Abrames’ Crazy Menhaden and applies it to the template of the Big Eelie. Together, they create an insanely potent brew of form and function.

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Tan
Platform: Orange and yellow bucktail, 30 total hairs, mixed
Tail: (All saddles pencil thin) Pink saddle, under two strands each of red and copper flash, under yellow saddle, under chartreuse saddle, under blue saddle
Body: Gold braid
Collar: 2-3 turns ginger marabou, tied in by the tip

Tying notes: As with all Big Eelies, make the saddles thin. Tie them in flat. I like this fly about four and one-half inches long. Treat the marabou as a veil, not an opaque blob.

Crazy Menhaden Big Eelie Rogues’ Gallery:

(Please forgive the fish-unfriendly photo. This was the only striper I beached to shoot. I lipped the rest).


Here I am

I have not disappeared (like this brown is about to).


I’ve been on a little vacation. Even starving writers occasionally get to go somewhere warm and breezy in the middle of winter. Yes, I managed a little fishing. Yes, there will be a story. But for now, these three items:

On Wednesday night, February 26, I will be presenting “Wet Flies 101” to the Narragansett Trout Unlimited chapter. You can get directions from their website (

Saturday, March 1, I will be at The Compleat Angler in Darien, CT, from 10am-2pm to present a tying demo, “Flies for Small Streams.” I will be covering wets, nymphs, dries, and streamers, along with tactics and presentations. Directions at

Last but not least, I just finished an article for American Angler on matching the hatch with wet flies. It will be in the spring trout issue.

As always, thanks for reading.

Pizza is your friend: Thanks to CVTU for hosting Wet Flies 101

When you travel around the northeast making evening presentations to fly fishing clubs, you learn to keep a stash of protein bars in your case. Especially if you get grumpy when you’re hungry.

Or, you could just present to the Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter. They trot out a spread of cheese pizzas, and invite you to have at it. So, thank you, CVTU for being such gracious hosts. I really enjoyed presenting “Wet Flies 101” to such an engaging group.

One of the many gorgeous creatures you can expect to catch with wet flies.

CUFarmyBrown 7:13

I also thought I’d make this thank you note a little more appealing to those who weren’t in attendance. At the end of each presentation, I open the floor to questions. Here are a few topics we covered.

Q: Where do you attach weight to the leader if you want to quickly sink the flies?

A: One BB shot to start, just above the knot that forms the middle dropper.


Q: When your team of wets is downstream, how do you re-cast them? Do you water load the rod and shoot them upstream?

A: It depends on where I want to make my next cast. If it’s upstream, and doesn’t require a precision or a long cast, yes, I’ll water load the rod and shoot the whole works. But mostly, I like to aerialize the line before I cast. Still, I like to keep false casting to a minimum.


Q: How long do you dangle?

A: Shocking! I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors. But seriously, the issue is how long do I leave the flies dangling in the current below me? If I know a fish is there, I might leave it for several minutes. I might also animate the flies by slowly raising and lowering the rod tip, perform a hand-twist retrieve (with the rod tip raised), or sweep the flies back and forth in the current with side to side mends.


Just a reminder that my next presentation (also Wet Flies 101) is to the Narragansett (RI) TU Chapter, Thursday, February 26. You can get directions at their website,

Saturday, March 1, I will be doing a small stream tying demo at the Compleat Angler in Darien, CT. Their website is

Thanks to today’s “Wet Flies for the Farmington River” class at UpCountry Sportfishing

We had a sellout crowd at today’s class — thanks to everyone for taking the time to come. Really good group, very enthusiastic, and we spent as much time talking about wet fly tying, theory, and fishing as we did tying. I had fun, too — so much that I couldn’t believe it when I looked at my phone and it was 1:40pm. Like a soccer match, we added some extra time, and in the spirit of one more cast, squeezed in another tie. I’d also like to take this opportunity to formally warn the trout in the Farmington River: there are now five more anglers who are going to be fooling you on regular basis. For your own safety, stay within the TMA.

Busy, busy, busy. Time flies — did I really just write that? — when you’re tying soft-hackles.


Tying and talking. Do not try this at home.


Just a reminder that I will be giving a presentation, “Wet Flies 101,”  Tuesday night, 2/11, at the CVTU meeting at 7pm at Armando’s Restaurant, 47 Stony Hill Rd, Bethel, CT. Hope to see some of you locals there!

2/4/14 Farmington River Report: Sunny with a chance of trout

Today was going to be the warmest day of the week. I had to go to UpCountry to pick up my new vise. Chance of a couple hours of fishing, 100%.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person who thought it would be a fine afternoon to fish the Upper TMA. Spots A and B were on lockdown, so I settled for C. And C it was on the old grade point scale, with the guy in spot A bailing trout, the guy in spot B catching a few less, and me coming in with a rock-solid average. Still, hard to complain about fishing on a weekday when the sun is out and there’s only a little ice in your guides. Especially after I lengthened my leader and added another BB shot to adjust for the depth of the water. I indicator nymphed with a size 18 (2x short) soft-hackle BHPT on point and a size 16 (2x short) BH Squirrel and Ginger as top dropper. They liked the S&G. Best fish of the day was a some-teen inch Survivor Strain brown with riveting black spots and fins the size of a barn door.

Didn’t see any bugs. Water temp was 35 degrees. Air temp just under freezing. Flows about 350-400.

A failed attempt at an art shot. But I like the effect of the water, the sunlight, and the spotting in the upper left. This was the Survivor Strain brown. I couldn’t distinguish an elastomer, but the adipose fin was clearly clipped.


After getting locked out of my first two chosen spots, I headed to a third. Crapass. This guy was fishing right where I would have been swinging streamers. So I figured I might as well get a good photo out of it.


Currentseams one year later: where we’ve been, and where we’re going

January 31 marked the first anniversary of this website. WordPress sent me a little reminder valentine, which is nice because it had completely slipped my mind.

I was unsure what to expect when I started currentseams. People had been suggesting to me that I start a blog, but I hated that word. Blog, to me, sounded like some affected entity that had the massive potential to come off like, “Dear diary…today I went fishing!” Not for this man. I knew I needed a website for my guiding, fly tying, writing, and speaking business; I was blowing it off because there was no way I was going to put a out sucky product. Finally, I ended up at WordPress, found a format I liked, and waded in.

And here we are, 112 (Really? Wow!) followers later. I want to say thank you to all of you. I appreciate your readership.

Looking to the present and future: in addition to the more of the same high-quality content, I have some new ideas for currentseams. One of those is that I am starting to add outside links to other sites. These will be fly fishing industry-related, anything from shops to magazines to other blogs. I’m starting with UpCountry Sportfishing and Great Feathers. UpCountry is the primary shop I teach out of, and your single source for all things Farmington River. Great Feathers has a comprehensive selection of wet fly tying materials, including some harder-to-find hooks. You can find the links in the right hand column of currentseams.

The second bit of news is that I am close to (finally!) doing a some tying videos. I think the wait will be worth it.

That’s all for now. Thanks again for reading.

P.S. When I ran the 100th Follower contest, I really enjoyed hearing from so many of you. Feel free to leave a comment (especially some of the new folks). I read them all.

I’m way happier about the one-year anniversary of currenseams than I look here. Really. Honest.


Thanks to everyone at the CFFA Show

I was humbled by the number of people who stopped by my tying table today. Old friends, new introductions, online names to connect with faces, an excess of positive energy, talking fishing and tying, and some really good questions. I’ve been going to the CFFA Show for years; this was my first time as tyer/exhibitor. The CFFA was a terrific host. I value the little things in life, like finding out that they had a spiffy little box lunch set aside for me. Feed me, and I’m happy.

I did manage to sneak away and do a little shopping (thanks, Gary and Todd for watching my swag). Found some goodies like a bag o’ wood duck feathers, an el cheap jungle cock neck (the nails need some work, but a little wax and some flexible cement and they’ll be quite passable). My master score was two large white bucktails with scads of straight fibers over 5″ long. $5 each!

I just know there was a saddle suitable for flatwings hiding somewhere in that room. Perhaps next year.

Pardon my humble setup: some MDF screwed to 2x4s and my Universal No. 2 clamp vise that I bought from Clapp & Treat in 1976 for $13.95. Sadly, it’s on its last legs. There’s a new toy on the way, but nothing will ever replace my baby who has served me faithfully for so many years. “It’s not the arrow, it’s the indian.”