Ken Abrames’ Eelie: the sand eel pattern where thin is in

Many of you know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie is my favorite sand eel fly. I use it primarily when the bait is at least 3″ long, or when I’m fishing an open beach or need a sand eel searching pattern. Oh, did I mention that it’s my favorite fly for Block Island? But smaller bait requires a smaller fly. Enter Ken’s Eelie, little brother to the Big one. The Eelie is basically a Big Eelie minus a saddle and the soft hackle. I rarely tie the Eelie longer than 4″; 3″ seems just about right. I love this fly as part of a three fly team; that’s how I most often fish it. Like the Big Eelie, the Eelie lends itself to all manner of color variations (try white, chartreuse, and olive, with a chartreuse body).

The Eelie is an exercise in sparse construction (some bucktail and a few hackles), simplicity (it’s a fast, easy tie), and impressionism (no eyes). The key to the Eelie is its thinness. I’ll quote Ken from Striper Moon: “The secret of tying effective sand eel flies is how thin you make them. Sometimes, an eighth of an inch thick is too heavily dressed.” You’ve been so advised by the master himself.

Ken Abrames’ Eelie. Hook: Eagle Claw 254 sz 2-1/0. Tail: White bucktail, then a white saddle, then pearl flashabou, then a yellow saddle, then an olive saddle. Body: Pearl mylar tubing. Wing: None

Tying notes: Ken’s original recipe is listed above. I make a few changes when I tie the Eelie. For years, I’ve been using the Eagle Claw 253 1/0 and some smaller hooks from brands like Gamakatsu; the key is to find hooks that are short shank, wide gap, light and strong. I match thread color to body color (here I used UNI 6/0 white). Instead of tubing, I use pearl braid for the body. Follow Ken’s instructions for thinness, and you’ll make the bass — and yourself — very happy.

For sand eel flies like the Eelie, thin is always in.

6 comments on “Ken Abrames’ Eelie: the sand eel pattern where thin is in

  1. Bob Huddy says:

    I sometimes prefer black with a hint of red

  2. Pierre Sauvé says:

    Very nice. You suggest to “try it in white, chartreuse, and olive, with a chartreuse body”: chartreuse body for all three?

  3. Steve Culton says:

    Hi Pierre, and thanks for the question. I meant make the tail white, chartreuse and olive. You could make the body pearl or chartreuse. I kind of like the chartreuse body. Play around with colors and the stripers will tell you when you get it right. 🙂

  4. David says:

    Thanks for sharing Steve. Have you ever tried to use synthetics instead of the saddle? ( I have lots of synthetic and can’t invest right now on a handful of saddles ). The saddle might behave differently in the water but could synthesis be close ( not the same) to instigate a take?

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi David. No, I have not tried tying these with synthetics. Aesthetically, the thought horrifies me. 🙂

      If you have access to them, it would be worthwhile to open a few packs of strung saddle or even Whiting bugger packs to see if they have any long, thin, supple saddles. Those would be cost effective options of varying degrees.

      If not, you can certainly tie these with synthetics. Many sand eel patterns do. The fish will very likely eat them. Of course, they won’t be true Eelies. But the fish won’t know. 🙂

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