…you can sharpen it fairly easily to extend the life of your fly. This RLS Rat-a-Tat had an unfortunate encounter with a rock, dulling its point. Not to worry! Out came the mill file, and a few strokes later we’re ship-shape and sticky sharp. This fly is now a year-and-a-half old and no worse for the wear. News flash: the biggest striper I ever caught came on a big flatwing that was four years old and had undergone numerous sharpening.
Tucked away in the back pages of Ken Abrames’ masterwork A Perfect Fish are three squid patterns you should have in your box: the R.L.S Indigo Squid, the R.L.S. Orange and Blue Squidazzle, and today’s tying feature, the R.L.S. Mutable Squid. Don’t be mislead by the fact that these patterns didn’t make the main squid chapter of the book; Ken thinks highly of them, particularly the Orange and Blue Squidazzle. Perhaps the under-rated gem of the bunch is the Mutable Squid.
If you do know diddley-squid, you know they can change their colors in an instant, so the name is apropos. I only fished this fly once, and it produced — stripers love squid — so I figured it was time to have another in my box. And here it is, hot off the vise, for your viewing and tying pleasure.
R.L.S. Mutable Squid
Tying Notes: Construction should be intuitive. I used 6/0 thread and a 3/0 hook. I chose hair from the lower part of the bucktail for the collar and wing to get a bit of flaring action (the fly has not yet been shaped). The flash is 1″ longer than the saddles, giving this tie a total length of 8 1/2″.
It’s that little bucktail wing over the tail. It adds just the right amount material (70 total fibers) to create the illusion of mass — and gives the tier the opportunity to create a seductive blend (6 colors here) of color.
A Rock Island Flatwing/Bucktail Hybrid in progress, secret sauce complete.
I started adding this rear wing as a way of making up for a lack of saddles in the colors needed for some of Ken Abrames’ multi-feather flatwings. I first tried it with Ken’s Striper Moon and Crazy Menhaden. The bass loved them. A few years later, I created the Rock Island, now one of my signature patterns. I don’t know if the stripers care, but I love the way the bucktail does the heavy lifting of color blending without adding mass — not to mention all the secondary and tertiary colors it creates.
You asked for it — heck, some of you demanded it — and here it is. (After all, what could be more appropriate for a Tuesday night?) We’ll talk a little bit about a lot of things re Ken Abrames’ brilliant creation: the modern saltwater flatwing. This will be fun. See you Tuesday!
I also wanted to clue you in on a nifty little webinar that’s going down tomorrow AM: How to be an effective advocate for striped bass. It’s being put on by the ASGA. Here’s their copy: We know you care about fisheries policy but are probably frustrated with the process. We have designed this webinar to give you the tools needed to be an effective advocate. Spending time arguing on social media won’t get the job done. Let us show you how! We have special guests, case studies, and tons of useful information on how to make the best use of your time advocating for the resource. Join us at 11:00AM on Tuesday, May 26 for this free webinar. Also, be on the lookout for more webinars coming up in the next two weeks. You need to pre-register for the webinar, and you can do that here.
Finally, we remember and honor those brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. A solemn and sincere thank you.
I wrote about Bill Peabody’s Rhody Flatwing pattern on currentseams seven years ago. Three years earlier, I’d posted the pattern on a public forum. It’s funny how these things play out, because someone recently followed up on that old forum post with a Rhody Flatwing timeline that didn’t make sense. I don’t know when Bill Peabody created the pattern, but it had to be some time after 1980. Before his death, Peabody clearly stated that Ken Abrames’ flatwings were the inspiration for the Rhody. I’ve also had conversations with Ken where he talked about sharing some of his flatwings with Bill. The point is: Ken didn’t start experimenting with the modern saltwater flatwing until the late 1970s, and he did not share them with the Rhode Island fishing community until the early 1980s. So. The Rhody Flatwing had to have come after that.
Here’s a link to the original Rhody Flatwing currentseams piece.
Below is a pdf link to an excellent article by Tom Keer from the Summer 2001 Fly Tier. Part of it is about Ken and how and when he developed the modern saltwater flatwing.
So simple, so elegant, so effective. The Soft-Hackled Flatwing borrows from many sources, all of them wonderful and good. I love this fly for early season school bass, and it makes a fine generic baitfish year-round. Just tailor the color and length to the bait you’re matching et voila! And remember: eyes on flies catch anglers. Not stripers.
Impressionism rules the day. If you’re interested in learning more about soft hackles for stripers, read “Soft Hackles for Striped Bass” from the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler.
Here’s the basic template:
After tying the original large R.L.S. Rat a Tat flatwing, I couldn’t help but begin to imagine a translation into a Big Eelie. Those of you who are long time readers (and few of you who have stumbled across me on the beaches of Block Island and wondered, “What fly is that guy using?”) know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie is a Steve Culton summertime striper staple. (A little alliteration to jump start your post-lunch brain.) You also know I think it’s a profile and action fly, and that while colors may be irrelevant, I nonetheless love to play around with different combinations. I have to admit I’d never think of grouping these colors in a sand eel pattern. But I’ve got a hunch this is one is going to produce a big bass for me. And for you as well!
Rat a Tat Big Eelie
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. I like to tie this fly about 4 1/2 inches long.
I’ve been eyeballing the RLS Rat a Tat in the back of A Perfect Fish for about as long as I’ve owned the book. At first I didn’t really know what to make of this pattern. Over the years, its energy grew on me. Finally, this winter, I found the saddles I needed to tie it. Ken described the Rat a Tat’s genesis this way: “That’s a fly I designed just to irritate fish. It’s the kind of a fly that will get a reaction strike.”
I’ll be sure to hold on tight.
Ken once told me that he sometimes includes yellow elements in a fly to indicate the presence of fat, so this should make a fine greasy baitfish pattern (think herring or menhaden). Note how naturally the jungle cock nail integrates with the random black of the grizzly. Lots of magic going on here.
Ken Abrames’ R.L.S. Rat a Tat. This tie is about 11″ long.
A closer look at the zebra-like tail section reveals great gobs of grizzly goodness.
Flies don’t catch fish — anglers do. Still, I sometimes like to fish by feeling, and the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie is my traditional choice on the 4th of July.
On our nation’s birthday, this 15-pound striper said yes to the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie. What a tremendous battle. I’m always in awe of the power of Block Island bass.
The Orange Ruthless has long been one of my favorite striper flies. It’s a simple pattern, and a good place to start if you’re just getting into flatwings. I like this fly about 2 1/2″ long, but I’ll tie it even smaller if the bait size warrants. The Orange Ruthless gets a lot of swim time as part of a three-fly team; I tend to place it in the point position. Although it’s a clam or cinder worm, it does double duty as a grass shrimp (or at the very least something that looks alive and good to eat.)
The SC15 hook does not sharpen well, but it is sticky sharp out of the pack and holds its point for a long time. I chose it because it’s easy to find and very light. You can get away with strung hackle for both the tail and the body, but make sure the feathers have plenty of web.
If you have Ken Abrames’ A Perfect Fish, you’ll find a fly called the “R.L.S. Ruthless” in the chapter on single-feather flatwings. This is a variant of that pattern, taught to me by Ken himself at a Tuesday night tying session many years ago. It was the first striper fly I ever tied, and I had the good fortune to be seated next to the artist, lashing bucktail, flash, and feather to hook under his watchful eye.