Tying the Gurgling Sand Eel

By popular demand, I present the recipe for the Gurgling Sand Eel — a kind of love child of Ken Abrames, Jack Gartside, and Kelly Galloup.

Here’s the backstory. A couple years ago, the guys at Block Island Fishworks (either Hank or Eliot, I can’t remember, but I think it was Eliot) showed me a prototype of an articulated sand eel Gurgler at the Edison Fly Fishing Show. I was given one, fished it that summer, and I resolved to tie a few of my own.

Here’s the prototype from Fishworks. Their shank is a little shorter, and the stinger hook smaller. I used a longer shank and a bigger stinger hoping that they would discourage dink hookups; I’m pleased to say that that was the result during this summer’s field testing. They use a strategically placed double layer of foam; I went for the simplicity of one (although Jack Gartside’s Sand Eel Gurgler uses the double layer). I deemed the eyes unnecessary. And since I like the action of saddle hackles — think Abrames’ Big Eelie — I incorporated them into my variant.



The Gurgling Sand Eel


Thread: 6/0, tyer’s choice of color
Stinger hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0 or Gamakatsu SC15 2/0
Tail: 30 hairs bucktail; next, a 4″ pencil-thin saddle; next, 4 strands Flashabou; next, two 4″ pencil-thin saddles; next, 6 strands Krystal Flash. Tyer’s choice of colors.
Body: Pearl braid
Front shank: Fish Skull 35mm articulated shank
Underbody: Medium Polar Chenille
Shell: 3mm fly foam trimmed 1/4″-5/8″ wide, tyer’s choice of color


Tying notes: Tie the stinger assembly first. If you want to reinforce the thread wraps on the articulated shank, you can add cement. Start the shell just behind the eye, and bind down well. Attach the Polar Chenille near the butt end, and wind forward. Pull the foam over the top of the shank and secure with three wraps of thread just behind the eye.  Bring the thread underneath the lip and whip finish. Trim lip.

Yup. It works. I think the articulation adds another layer of action when you fish this with short, jerky strips. Bonus: it also works on the dead drift or on long pauses between strip sequences.




8 comments on “Tying the Gurgling Sand Eel

  1. Donald Rose says:

    Thanks for this recipe. I will have to tie a couple for my buddy who lives on the Maine coast. Are the shanks you used commercially available? Thanks again. Don

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Don. I’m not sure what you mean by commercially available. IIRC I got mine — probably a pack of 12? — from either UpCountry or online at JStockard. Hope that helps!

  2. jerry kells says:

    Steve have you ever thought if using dragon tails for these or other flies?

  3. Steve Culton says:

    Jerry, I haven’t and I probably won’t. Everyone has their threshold, and the Gurgler is about as plastic-y/artificial material as I get. For me, stuff like Dragon Tails feels too much like spinning lure dressing — not that there’s anything wrong with that — but it’s just too much of a blur of the lines for my tastes, and if I want to throw a lure I’ll get out the spinning rod. That, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t use them. 🙂


    • jerry kells says:

      do you ever use hollow flies

      • Steve Culton says:

        Hi Jerry, no, I do not. When it comes to bucktails for striped bass, I’m more of a classic/traditional New England-style (like Ray’s Fly) kind of guy. If the need is for a larger baitfish-type fly, then my default template is the flatwing. Thanks!

  4. […] try different pieces until you find one that fits. In this case it was as simple as switching to a Gurgling Sand Eel on point to make it a suspension rig. A couple mended swings into the shadows, and whack! Then, on […]

  5. […] to tie a few more of those. And then my experiments! I’m going to be playing around with some Gurgling Sand Eel variants this summer. To the vise! To the […]

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