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:
Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
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)
Eleven consecutive months of a striper on the fly from the shore down. One to go.
I decided to start this month’s quest early — ten hours into November, to be exact. The tide was outgoing, of an unremarkable height, slightly stained. I saw some small baitfish, but no birds were working. Another fly angler flogged the water across from me; two dudes with spin rods joined the fray as I was getting ready to leave.
To the fishing. I was using a 3″ September Night on a floating line. As so often is the case this time of year, the fish will hang out on the bottom. I gave it half hour with he floater, then switched to the full sink integrated line. Bingo. I was snagging the occasional mussel, but one time the bottom fought back. A fine 20″ striper, hooked neatly in the corner of the mouth. And since no one else was catching anything, I reeled up and headed back home.
Forgot the camera, but like this one, November’s bass was clean and bright and fresh from the ocean.
Last night’s mission was September bass. Success! But I had to work for it, which made it even sweeter. Got to the spot in plenty of time for the turn of the tide. The water was loaded with worried bait (silversides, peanuts, and even a few rogue mullet) but not a corresponding number of predators. I could hear an occasional frantic bait shower and a pop here and there, but where was that telltale tug? There. Fish on. Then: fish off. Despair. I kept at it, but nothing.
With rain and wind forecast for Monday, I made up my mind that I was staying out until I secured my prize. Off to Spot B which was dead as Julius Caesar. On my way to Spot C I passed Spot A and thought, wouldn’t it be funny if I made a couple casts and caught a bass? What a fine tale that would make. First cast, mend, nibble-nibble. Second, bump! I could tell what was going on: school bass were making hit-and-run passes through the bait balls. It was either a hair trigger hook set or wait for the weight of the fish. No right answer, only the one that works. I went with option B. And on my third cast, I caught a striper on the fly from the shore for nine consecutive months.
School bass like this that are feeding on bait balls can be devilishly hard to catch. Persistence, passive presentation, and a team of three flies are your ally.