Going way back in the archives: “The Art of the Flatwing” by Tom Keer

“The Art of the Flatwing,” written by Tom Keer, appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Fly Tyer. I’ve had this article in pdf form for years — and now it’s got an online home. Speaking of flatwings, I interviewed Ken Abrames yesterday. Our focus was on the Razzle Dazzle-style patterns in A Perfect Fish: color rationale, nomenclature, genesis, anecdotes and other good stuff. I’m not sure what form it will take, but you’ll get to read/hear some of it in the future.

Feature.ArtoftheFlatwing.FlyTyer

Here’s my take on the Razzle Dazzle, one of the featured flies in the piece. Ken once described this fly as a caricature rather than a detailed painting or sculpture.

RLSRazzleDazzle

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Instead of peacock herl, the topping is an olive saddle and a silver doctor blue saddle tip.

RazzleDazzleTopCU

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What you leave out of a fly is as important as what you put in.

RazzleDazzleCU

 

 

A new flatwing from the Culton bench: The Bombardier

Long before I fished for stripers, I was aware of striper plugs. I’d see rows of them in gleaming packages in the local sporting goods store (remember those?) and think that some day I’d like to throw one and catch a big bass. I remember liking the blue and white glitter-flecked Atom plugs.

I also remember the Bomber. Something about that plug in basic black said badass cow catcher. Would that translate to a large flatwing? One way to find out.

Creating a striped bass fly that draws from the color and energy of a plug is not new. Ray Bondorew did it it in Stripers and Streamers with his Yellow Rebel. My goal was not to make a carbon copy of the Bomber Long A, but to capture its essence. So, lots of black saddles and bucktail. Some purple to jazz things up. A glowing core of light blue and chartreuse. High contrast jungle cock nails. And some seductive flash tied “Razzle Dazzle” (thanks, Ken!) style.

I like this fly 9″-12″ long. It shines when fished on the greased line swing. Cue up The Gap Band!

The Bombardier

Bombardiers

Hook: Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs light blue and chartreuse bucktail, mixed
Pillow: Black dubbing
Support: Black neck hackle, curve side up
Tail: First, 3 black saddles, second, 2 strands silver Flashabou, third, 1 black saddle, fourth, 2 strands light blue Flashabou, fifth, 1 black saddle, sixth, 2 strands red Flashabou, seventh, 1 black saddle, eighth, 2 strands purple Flashabou, ninth, 1 black saddle, tenth, 2 strands black Flashabou, all Flashabou to extend 1″ past longest saddle
Body: Purple braid
Collar: 2/3 black and 1/3 purple bucktail, mixed
Wing: 30 hairs black bucktail
Topping: 7 strands peacock herl
Eyes: Jungle cock
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A more detailed look at the Bombardier’s explosive energy.

BombardierCU

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You get the idea.

Bombardier&Plug

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The Bombardier Rogues’ Gallery:

Twenty pounds, short line swing, 2017

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Fifteen pounds, greased line swing, 2017

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Rare find for flatwing fans: R.L.S. Extra Long Saddle Hackles available

A selection of Ken Abrames R.L.S. Extra Long Saddle Hackles was recently put up for sale online. These are the genuine item — “New Old Stock” as we’d call them in the vacuum tube world — as originally sold by the creator of the modern flatwing. The saddles are in their original packaging and are in excellent condition. Many are unused; some are missing only a few feathers, leaving you hundreds of hackles to work with.

I want to make this very clear: I am not selling these, nor do I have an interest other than helping the seller offer these to people who may be passionate about tying and fishing flatwings. 

The saddles are priced from $45-$50 depending on color, which I believe is a very fair price (shipping cost varies). Available colors include — this is current to my best knowledge but of course will change as he sells these off — Claret, Off White, Off White Variant, Natural Black, Umber Brown, Ginger Olive, Olive (seller’s comment: “The same name on pkg but looks more like Emerald Green to me.”) and Eggplant Harlequin.

If you’re interested, please email georgejjohnson@gmail.com.

This was the original lot. Many of the colors shown are gone; jump on the remaining ones while you can.

RLSsaddles

 

Why I love fishing for stripers with big flatwings on the greased line swing

After three very slow springs, things turned around a bit in 2017. It wasn’t as good as the old days. (Is it ever?) But the skunks were few, and the keepers more plentiful than in recent years. I wish I could say the baitfish were making a comeback. Sadly, I saw precious few swirls of mating herring. But enough with the negative. This is a celebration  of elegant flies fished with a traditional method — and the brute force of striped bass that can be measured in pounds.

The Rock Island flatwing saw plenty of swim time. It may not look it, but this is a legal fish, one of three I took that night.

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Another old favorite, the Razzle Dazzle. The Razzle Dazzle is responsible for my biggest striper on the fly from the shore, 30 pounds. This one is a wee bit less than that. Still, a good keeper bass on the long pole.

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We’re getting there. 15 pounds of power. I landed her at 1:00am after two hours of fishing without a touch. Since it was raining, I decided to end on a high note. A JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Robusto was lit in celebration, and smoked on the long walk back to the truck.

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I don’t handcuff myself to the dogma of black flies at night. But occasionally, I do fish them. This spring I prototyped and tested a large, mostly black multi-feather flatwing (patience — recipe and photos to come). My intent was to have a big fly to silhouette against the dark of the moon sky in stained water. Here are my test results — all 20 pounds of it.

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Following the tides is a tough job, but some damn fool needs to be out while the rest of the world is sleeping.

401AM

 

Ray’s Fly Featherwing: A simple, sparse flatwing

Many years ago, I was having trouble with some bass that were feeding on silversides in a Rhode Island breechway. The fish were active, but I couldn’t get them to bite. Ken Abrames recommended that I try the Ray’s Fly Featherwing, a dressed-down flatwing version of Ray’s Fly. I remember him telling me that it was, at the least, another arrow  in the fly box quiver.

That was a long time ago. I remember tying some up, but I don’t know what became of them. I know I caught stripers on them. I think I lost my last one to a bluefish.

Recently, someone on one of the forums asked about a “Ray’s Fly flatwing.” I think the Ray’s Fly Featherwing is the fly he was referencing. I haven’t tied in a couple of weeks, so I went down to the bench this morning and churned out a few. So simple. And sparse. I’d be as inclined to use these for a sand eel as I would a silverside.

All saddles are tied in flat — flatwing style, as they say. Note that the olive saddle is tied in at the head. All you need to do now is add water.

Ray’s Fly Featherwing flatwing

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: White
Tail: 30 strands white bucktail under white saddle under 4 strands pearl flash under yellow saddle
Body: Pearl or silver braid
Wing: Olive saddle
Topping: Peacock herl

“Bill Peabody’s Flat-Wing Patterns”

A few years ago, Capt. Ray Stachelek gave me a copy of an article Bill Peabody had written in the May-June 1998 issue of Fly Fishing In Salt Waters. I mentioned it here, then mostly forgot about it. A few weeks ago, one of you asked if I could share the piece. With my Compleat Angler flatwing demo tomorrow, this seemed like a good time to do it.

Below is a pdf of “Bill Peabody’s Flat-Wing Patterns.” The quality is as good as I can make it, this being photos of a photocopy. I want to be clear that I did not write this piece. Bill Peabody did.  Enjoy!

Bill Peabody’s Flat-Wing Patterns

My rendition of Bill Peabody’s Flat-Wing Bay Smelt. The fly has not yet been shaped under water.

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