Curl up baby. Curl up tight.

Back to the night shift. Dozing on the couch at 10:45, taking care to not really fall asleep because the bus is leaving at 11:30. On the road, JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Esplendido ceremoniously lit at the appropriate landmark. Now past midnight, and it’s raining. Maybe it will keep the yahoos away. Only a few cars in the lot. That’s good. The weather people said showers, but this is more like a fine mist. Three other guys out fishing, more than I expected, but better than Monday’s daytime lineup. There are fish around — the spin guy to my left just hooked up. Now it’s really raining. I didn’t order this wetness. Everyone is leaving, and I’m all by myself. Thirty minutes in. The rain stops. A few stars try to wink through the parting clouds. There it is, a sharp pull at the end of the greased line swing. My first keeper of the year? No way. It feels like a short. And it is. Not why I came out tonight, but the stink is off. Working the stretch of water down, then backing up the pool, even though there is no true pool to be backed up. Over an hour of meditative casting, mending, swinging, repeating. Alone. Magnificently alone. Let’s try up there. I haven’t caught a striper up there in a long time. The answer is no. Until the answer is yes. A better fish, struck on the second mend, but still a short. I can see Scorpio and the Summer Triangle and it makes me dream of being out alone on Block Island in July. There’ll be some keepers there for sure. There probably are a few here, but not for me or my Crazy Menhaden. Perhaps when next I return. Big girls. Ready to eat.

Undercover of the night.

That’s AM, people. Very AM.


Return of the Good Night For The Five Weight

Some day, I’ll have to tell you about the two nights in October many years ago when I caught seventy-five striped bass on the five-weight. But for Friday night, one was the number I happily settled for. It’s been a tough fall for me, with many hours put in for very few stripers. Such is the price of exploring uncharted potential big bass waters.

So Friday night I returned to some old haunts in Rhode Island. Even on the inside, a steady 15mph southwest blow made casting a chore. The first place I fished was a blank. I wasn’t feeling it from the start. So I went back to the truck for for Plan B, swapping out my three-fly rig for a single fly, a Crazy Menhaden flatwing/bucktail hybrid.

I spooked a bass on the wade out, so that was encouraging. Inside of five minutes, I had a follow and a missed hook set. Also encouraging. Then nothing during a half hour of casting, mending, swinging, and dangling. Weeds were a minor nuisance. Suddenly, bang. I was on. A twenty-four inch bass in a ripping current on a five-weight is about as much fun as you can have wearing nylon pants and rubber boots. If this were a Hardy Boys book, I’d say I chortled.

The last stop was anticlimactic. How far the mighty have fallen: this used to be a place I’d visit when I absolutely positively needed a striper. I don’t think I’ve taken a bass here for three years now. But the heavens were lovely and deep, and a shooting star was my reward for looking up at the right moment.

The wind was still blowing when I climbed into bed at 3am.

Crazy Menhaden flatwing/bucktail. Friday night, one of these in the 7″-8″ range made a crazy good-enough mullet.

Crazy CU

Dear Meatball*

Dear Meatball,

How are you? That was some wind last night. Cold, too, huh? The water was warmer than the air.

Technology is so cool these days, isn’t it? Cars, computers, phones…even headlamps. I remember the first one I bought for fishing. It was little more than a stubby flashlight attached to an elastic headband. Now, you get multiple LEDs with spotlights capable of throwing 45 lumens. Or more. You can see everywhere with those things.

But you already know that. You and your buddies sure got your money’s worth out of your headlamps last night. What’s on the shore? Let’s light it up! Gotta check my rig, or look at my reel? Light it up! Anything in the water in front of me? Turn on the high beams! Is that guy still fishing above us? Scotty, full power searchlights on him!

Here’s the thing: that guy was me. When I’m fishing on the dark of the moon, I want my eyes, which aren’t great in the first place, to adjust to what little ambient light is available. It’s tough enough wading around in the dark without stumbling over submerged rocks and gravel bars. Your 600 candlepower light bombs in my face aren’t making the job any easier. It’s also rude as hell.

What’s more, flashing bright lights in the water in the pitch black of night generally isn’t good for business. Scaring the fish and all that. Which is why I cannot put into words the extent of my delight when you and your Vegas light show packed up and left.

Once you were gone, a funny thing happened. I started to catch stripers. Sure, it could have been a matter of time and tide. Personally, I think it was not having your group trying to replicate the total aggregate wattage of Times Square. The bass came in nice and close, and took my Crazy Menhaden flatwing on the greased line swing with confidence.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for leaving.

Your pal,


Red lights at night, gentlemen. Red lights at night.


*With apologies to Billy Lagakis, from whom I so shamelessly stole this wonderful descriptor.

The Crazy Menhaden three-feather flatwing

This flatwing draws its inspiration from Ken Abrames’ classic streamer, the Crazy Menhaden.

The original pattern calls for eleven saddles. But what if you don’t have all the right colors? Or, what if you have precious few saddles? One solution – the one I’ve chosen here – is to use bucktail instead of saddles to complete the proper color blend that makes this such an attractive fly.


For this version of the Crazy Menhaden I’m using one white, one yellow, and one orange saddle to anchor the center of the fly, add length, and provide the swimming action flatwings are renowned for. (The exception is the biggest fly pictured, which has eight saddles.) The bucktail on the top half of the fly is tied like a Blonde, at the tail end of the shank and near the head. These fibers provide the bulk of the color and content, along with some flashabou accents and long peacock herl. The beige and yellow bucktail throat and sides remain true to the original pattern.

Along with the saddles, the rest of the color palette is bronze, pink, ginger, red, blue, chartreuse, olive, light green, and copper. The largest fly here is 12″ long; the smallest, just a bit over 7″.

I’ve had a lot of success with this fly at night on our rivers here in Connecticut. I like to fish it during the bottom of the tide, on a greased line swing.

You can find the original pattern in Ken’s book, A Perfect Fish, on page 93. When it comes to fly fishing and fly tying, I don’t usually speak in imperatives. But if you’re interested in flatwings and you don’t have this book, you need to get it. It’s the flatwing bible.


Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Tan
Platform: Orange and yellow bucktail, mixed
Support: White neck hackle
Tail: Natural white saddle, under 2 strands copper flash, under a yellow saddle under an orange saddle, under 2 strands red flash, under 30 total hairs ginger, pink and violet bucktail, mixed, under 20 total hairs pink and chartreuse bucktail, mixed, under 2 strands green flash under 20 total hairs blue and red bucktail, mixed.
Body: Bronze braid
Collar: Beige bucktail on bottom, yellow and beige bucktail, mixed, on sides
Wing: 15 hairs orange bucktail under 30 hairs olive bucktail
Topping: Peacock herl
 Eyes: Jungle cock

 A closer look at the head detail and the color blends: