R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

What’s the best shrimp fly pattern? You could go with the philosophy of, “There ain’t no best,” and you’d get no argument from me. Or you could weigh in with the General Practitioner — and you wouldn’t be wrong.

General Practitioner = G.P. = Impressionistic shrimpy goodness.
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Trey Combs writes in Steelhead Fly Fishing that the original prawn was tied by Colonel Esmond Drury in 1953. The General Practitioner then got really famous as a west coast winter steelhead pattern. Today there are all manner of versions and colors; this one is a variant developed by Ken Abrames as published in A Perfect Fish.

Ken introduced me to the pattern many years ago. He handed me a black G.P., and with a knowing confidence, told me to fish it as part of a three fly team. Sadly, I’ve long since lost that fly, but I still have one of Ken’s olive G.P.s. tucked away in the never-to-be fished-again archives. When tied just so, G.P.s are magical creations that bask in their impressionistic glory. Picture this fly near the surface on a greased line swing or a dead drift, easily visible to a striped bass even in the mucky outflow of a salt marsh. Wait to feel the weight of the fish — and then hang on. Stripers love shrimp, and when they are keyed on this bait, feeding on station, they will often ignore all other offerings and stripped presentations.

R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

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Hook: Atlantic salmon 2-8
Antennae: Black and blue bucktail, mixed
Head: Black golden pheasant neck feather
Eyes: Golden pheasant tippet
Body: Gold flat tinsel
Ribbing: Gold oval tinsel
Hackle: Natural black
Carapace: Metallic black turkey feather
Back: Same
Tail: Same
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A view from below. You can imagine all those hackle fibers gently quivering in the current and whispering to a striper, “I’m alive…”

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Tying Notes: Ken called for an Eagle Claw 253, but I like the badass black of Atlantic salmon hooks. No gots turkey feathers? Me either, so I used dyed black pheasant rump. The majority of the black G.P.s I’ve seen use far too much bucktail; remember, you’re tying the antennae of a grass shrimp (the steelhead pattern calls for 10 bucktail hairs; I used 20) not an opaque jig. To form the eyes, cut a V-shape in the tippet and then lacquer with head cement. The “eye stalks” will narrow from the head cement. You don’t have to use the tinsels; gold braid works just as well. The body and top feathers are somewhat of a pain; tie in the carapace at the tail, then tie and wind the tinsel and hackle to the mid-point of the shank, tie in the back (like a little roof), continue forward with the tinsel and hackle, then tie in the tail feather, again like a little roof. Make a spiffy head and go fish.

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

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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.
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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.

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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

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

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The best sand eel fly is the one that gives you the most confidence. (Like the Bruiser Big Eelie.)

Here’s another sand eel fly pattern that I can’t do without: the Bruiser Big Eelie. Faithful followers know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie template is a tried-and-true favorite that lends itself to all kinds of color variations. “Bruiser” because it’s black and blue and purple — and because this fly has accounted for some of my biggest stripers. Perfect for those dark of the moon nights when the bass are looking up and tracking those telltale thin silhouettes across the surface. I’ve been fishing this fly for close to a decade now, and while the Bruiser has appeared elsewhere, I haven’t presented it here until now. Speaking of presentation: swing it, dangle it, dead drift it, and strip it in ultra-short jerky bursts (my favorite).

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Hook: 3/0 Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs blue bucktail
Tail: First, a purple saddle, second, another purple saddle, third, 2 strands blue flash and 2 strands purple flash, fourth, a black saddle, fifth, a black saddle. (All saddles pencil thin and tied in flatwing style.)
Body: Purple braid
Hackle: 3-4 turns purple marabou, tied in at the tip
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The Bruiser Big Eelie Rogues’ Gallery:
Block Island, 20+ pounds
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Olive Fireworm Big Eelie Variant

I was going through currentseams the other day and was surprised by how few fly patterns I’ve actually posted. Take the Big Eelie. I’ve been tying it in a seemingly endless series of colors for — well, for as long as I’ve been tying it — but I haven’t posted many of those variants. Let’s begin to remedy that with the Olive Fireworm Big Eelie. It draws its palette from the single feather flatwing of the same name found in Ken Abrames’ A Perfect Fish. The result is an explosion of bass-tempting pyrotechnics. Fish it on or around July 4th to celebrate Independence Day — or the fact that you’re out casting a fly to striped bass. Aw, heck. Fish it when ever you like. It is, after all, a free country.

The Olive Fireworm Big Eelie

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 10 hairs each orange, yellow, and chartreuse bucktail, mixed
Tail: First, a red saddle; second, 4 strands copper Flashabou; third, an orange saddle; fourth, a gray saddle; fifth, an olive saddle. (All saddles pencil thin.)
Body: Chartreuse braid
Collar: Hot orange marabou, tied in at the tip, 2-3 turns

 

 

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.

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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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