Time to tie up some Soft-Hackled Flatwings

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.

SofthackledFlatwings

Here’s the basic template:

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: 6/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Body: Braid
Wing: 30-45 bucktail hairs, under 10-20 hairs contrasting color, under 2-4 strands Krystal Flash or flashabou
Collar: Blood quill marabou, tied in at tip, 3-4 turns; 1 turn mallard flank (optional)

Bonus fly: Rat a Tat Big Eelie Variant

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs black bucktail
Tail: A yellow grizzly saddle, under 2 strands each of gold and red flash, under a chartreuse grizzly saddle, under a turquoise grizzly saddle, under a yellow grizzly saddle.
Body: Gold braid
Collar: 3-4 turns ginger marabou, tied in by the tip.
~

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.

Eight-feather flatwing: Ken Abrames’ R.L.S. Rat a Tat

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hook: Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Platform: Black
Pillow: Chartreuse dubbing
Support: Chartreuse neck hackle
Tail: First, a yellow grizzly saddle, second, a chartreuse saddle, third, 2 red Flashabou, fourth, a turquoise grizzly saddle, fifth, a light blue saddle, sixth, 2 gold Flashabou, seventh, yellow grizzly saddle, eighth, a ginger saddle, ninth, 2 emerald green Flashabou, tenth, a fluorescent green grizzly saddle, eleventh, 2 red Flashabou, twelfth, a yellow grizzly saddle
Body: Gold braid
Collar: Bucktail, ginger, bottom and both sides.
Wing: Bucktail, yellow
Cheeks: Bucktail, 3 hairs each turquoise, orange, chartreuse, dark blue and emerald green
Topping: Seven strands of peacock here
Eyes: Jungle cock

~

A closer look at the zebra-like tail section reveals great gobs of grizzly goodness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Olive Fireworm Big Eelie Fireworks

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange Ruthless Single-Feather Flatwing Tying Video

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.

~
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hook: Gamakatsu SC15 sz 2
Thread: UNI 6/0 white
Platform: 30 hairs orange bucktail
Tail: 2 strands green Flashabou under a red saddle tied in flat, curve side down
Body: Webby orange hackle palmered over gold braid

 

 

 

Revisiting the Herr Blue: a three-feather flatwing-bucktail hybrid

Many years ago I adapted Ken Abrames’ R.L.S. Herr Blue bucktail into a large nine-feather flatwing. I was pleased with the result, and that fly produced many large bass for me. But the recent acquisition of a ginger saddle brought out the tinkerer in me. And since I never did a three feather flatwing-bucktail version of the Herr Blue, I went to work.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a flatwing/bucktail hybrid combines the seductive motion and swimming action of a flatwing (using three contrasting saddles) and the color-blending deliciousness and adding-the-illusion-of-mass properties of bucktail. I originally started tying these not only as a way to conserve precious flatwing saddles, but also to use bucktail in place of saddle colors I did not have. The template is Razzle Dazzle, with all strands of flash extending at least 3/4″ beyond the longest feather. (See the Rock Island and Crazy Menhaden three-feather flatwings.)  Bonus: they’re easy to cast for their size, and they swim beautifully on the greased line swing.

Obviously this fly is intended to imitate a river herring or alewife; it could also easily pass for other larger baitfish like menhaden. I tied two, one 8″ and the other 10″. So without further ado, I present the Herr Blue three-feather flawing. DIA. (Danke In Advance.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: White 6/0
Platform: White bucktail, 30 hairs
Tail: First, a white saddle; second, 2 strands silver flash; third, a pink saddle; fourth, a ginger saddle; fifth, 2 strands light green flash; sixth, 15 hairs light blue and 15 hairs pink bucktail, mixed; seventh, 10 hairs light blue and 10 hairs violet bucktail, mixed; eighth, 2 strands purple flash; ninth, 10 hairs orange and 10 hairs emerald green bucktail, mixed.
Body: Silver braid
Collar: White and ginger bucktail, mixed about 5:1 respectively
Wing: 15 hairs smoky gray bucktail and 30 hairs dark blue bucktail, mixed
Topping: 7-8 stands peacock herl
Eyes: Jungle cock

~

A closer look at the blend of nine different colors of bucktail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Three-Feather Flatwing/Bucktail Hybrid Preview

For the uninitiated, a flatwing/bucktail hybrid combines the seductive motion and swimming action of the flatwing (three contrasting feathers here) with the color-blending deliciousness and adding-the-illusion-of-mass properties of bucktail. (See the Rock Island and Crazy Menhaden three feather flatwings.) So, just a taste for now.  Details to come soon.

I don’t know how important color is to a striper at any given moment, but I really like the blends on this fly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA