Tying the R.L.S. Mutable Squid Flatwing

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

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Gray
Platform: Light gray
Support: Gray neck hackle
Tail: First, a medium-gray saddle, second, a ginger saddle, third, 4 pearl Flashabou, fourth, a pink saddle, fifth, 5 strands Flashabou one each red, gold, blue, emerald green, purple, sixth, a medium-gray saddle.
Body: Light blue braid
Collar: Bucktail, medium gray, bottom and both sides
Wing: Bucktail, medium gray
Cheeks: First, 3 hairs each orange, turquoise, chartreuse, violet, pink; second, Lady Amherst pheasant tippets, one each side.
Eyes: Jungle cock

 

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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″.

 

 

Zoom thanks and summer Zoom hiatus

Thanks to everyone for another well-attended Zoom. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see so much interest in flatwings! I know Ken was pleased to hear about it.

As far as future Zooms go: this has been great. But now that summer is unofficially here, I’d rather we all spend our Tuesday evenings fishing. So we’ll take a summer hiatus after next week’s Zoom. Depending on how things shake out, this is something we may resume (get it?!?) in the winter. Stay safe, be well, go fishing!

More flatwing/bucktail hybrid secret sauce. This one’s on a Crazy Menhaden: 70 hairs, 6 colors. 

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Tuesday Night Zoom: “Flatwings: Tying and Fishing Basics,” May 26 at 8pm, plus an ASGA Webinar on Advocating for Striped Bass

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!

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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.

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Finally, we remember and honor those brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. A solemn and sincere thank you.

 

For your listening pleasure: “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass with Steve Culton,” a Saltwater Edge podcast

I’m pleased to share a new podcast hosted by the Saltwater Edge. Peter Jenkins, Saltwater Edge owner (and one of the tireless heroes behind the American Saltwater Guides Association) hosts and asks questions. Yours truly does most of the talking. So…what two striper flies can I not live without? Why are intermediate lines so limiting? How important is presentation? Where’s the best place to fish off a jetty? What’s all this trout fishing for striped bass nonsense about anyway? Listen in and enjoy!

Listen: Trout Fishing For Striped Bass With Steve Culton.

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Revisiting the Rhody Flatwing (and a little flatwing history for good measure)

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.

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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.

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Small Stream B Comes Through; Big Stripers Continue Their No-Show

I wrote about my first springtime small stream outing last week. It was at a brook that has been on a bit of a slide in terms of numbers, and this disappointing trend continued. Small Stream B, however, continues to go great guns. I fished it for 75 minutes, first time this spring, and I pricked dozens. Fished a bushy dry on top and a size 14 Stewart’s Black Spider dropper for most of the trip, and the char went nuts for the dry despite the elevated water levels. Did a little micro streamer action, too, which is always fun. Bravo, Mother Nature!

Most of the action came topside, but this lovely gem fell victim to Stewart’s Black Spider.

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If you’re looking for a new way to have some fun on a small stream, try a micro Zoo Cougar. I usually tie these on size 2-6 streamer hooks, but I believe this is a 14. Chuck it or drift it (the deer hair head keeps it on the surface) down the pool, then make some drunken, frantic strips back. The fly will wake and dive and drive the brookies absolutely out of their minds. Color is probably insignificant.

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Now to the stripers. You’ve heard me say that every year is different, and with 2018 and 2019 goes the proof. Whereas last year was off-the-charts good for big bass, this year is not-so-much. I spent some time late last night greased line swinging a proven run that was dead as Julius Caesar. (Sigh.) Well, persistence will hopefully pay off.

Striper report: Everyone Knows It’s Windy

Yeah. Hard times for fly casters yesterday with a sustained 15 knot southwest blow in our faces (and an especially unfavorable quarter for lefties) with some stronger gusts mixed in. I debuted my new custom two-hander, but I don’t have the right lines for it yet and it wasn’t the synergy I know I’ll eventually enjoy. Still, some small bass were brought to hand, and they felt like giants in a ripping moon tide.

A Soft Hackled Flatwing in RLS Easterly colors (grey dun and fluorescent yellow) caught the eyes of several feisty schoolies. The colors really popped in yesterday’s conditions.

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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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Best of 2018 #1: A Striper on the Fly from the Shore for 12 Consecutive Months

Whew! After nine December outings, over 30 hours of fishing, four different locations, it all came together at the 11th hour (both figuratively and literally). I didn’t think it was going to happen. December was by far the toughest month, with high and cold water, wind and subfreezing temperatures, and a maddeningly inconsistent bite. It only proves that catching a striper on the fly from the shore for twelve consecutive months takes skill, planning, perseverance, and — this cannot be understated — luck. Am I going for 13? Maybe. Stay tuned.

It all began on a whim. It was a warm(er) January night, and the tide lined up with some free time. Forty-five minutes in, there he was. I was crazy enough to try again in February, succeed, and off I went.

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Once you get past March, things get a little easier. They certainly get warmer, as you can see from the gloveless, submerged (not happening in February) July water hand. 

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WHACK! I was dragging the deer hair head streamer across the surface to change it out when the fish hit. What a great story about how I caught my December bass! But wait. What is that? Not a striper. Nope, it’s a five-pound Northern Pike. I can’t remember ever being so depressed about catching a quality fish on the surface in 35 degree water. Good thing I didn’t lip it.

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I planned on paying homage to a friend (who’s had a very tough go with cancer this year) by catching the December fish with one of his flies, but I lost one on the bottom, and I wanted to keep the other. Ultimately, the winning fly was a three-feather flatwing/bucktail hybrid version of the Crazy Menhaden. I called Ken on the way home to tell him about it, and he said, “You should call that fly the ’12 Consecutive Months December Striper On The Fly From The Shore Crazy Menhaden.'” Who am I to argue?

Crazy CU

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Cold but happy Post-December Striper Flashlight Hat Man.

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Best of 2018 #3: Big stripers, and lots of ’em

Every year is different, and where 2017 (if you’ll pardon the expression) fell short, 2018 was off-the-charts good for legal bass. Many, many stripers over 28″, with one that went a good 25 pounds and missed the magic 40″ mark by half an inch. I already mentioned Block Island in this countdown, which came back with a big striper vengeance. What’s my secret? Put in your time. Follow the tides. Floating lines. And as Ray Charles so eloquently sang, “Nighttime is the right time to be with the one you love.” (You can find out more at my presentation “Targeting Big Stripers From The Shore” at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Destination Theater Room A 10am Saturday 1/19.)

Yeah, baby. Love the colors on this one. Whenever possible, I try to keep the fish in the water for the photo op. Does it get any better than keeper-size summer stripers feeding on sand eels? As it turns out…

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…yes it does. I dubbed her “Long Jean Silver.” Hope she makes lots of baby bass next spring.

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Some stripers should be measured not in pounds or inches, but rather: could this fish eat a small dog?

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