Rare find for flatwing fans: R.L.S. Extra Long Saddle Hackles available

A selection of Ken Abrames R.L.S. Extra Long Saddle Hackles was recently put up for sale online. These are the genuine item — “New Old Stock” as we’d call them in the vacuum tube world — as originally sold by the creator of the modern flatwing. The saddles are in their original packaging and are in excellent condition. Many are unused; some are missing only a few feathers, leaving you hundreds of hackles to work with.

I want to make this very clear: I am not selling these, nor do I have an interest other than helping the seller offer these to people who may be passionate about tying and fishing flatwings. 

The saddles are priced from $45-$50 depending on color, which I believe is a very fair price (shipping cost varies). Available colors include — this is current to my best knowledge but of course will change as he sells these off — Claret, Off White, Off White Variant, Natural Black, Umber Brown, Ginger Olive, Olive (seller’s comment: “The same name on pkg but looks more like Emerald Green to me.”) and Eggplant Harlequin.

If you’re interested, please email georgejjohnson@gmail.com.

This was the original lot. Many of the colors shown are gone; jump on the remaining ones while you can.

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Striped Bass Podcast in the can

Or so they’d say in the days of film and reel-ro-reel tape. I guess the proper term now would be “on the drive.” Regardless, last week we recorded material for a podcast(s) about fly fishing for striped bass with a floating line, flatwings, sparse flies and other traditional fly fishing methods. There are over two hours of material to sift through — thankfully, not my job — and unfortunately, I don’t have a release date. But hopefully the editor will hop to it and we’ll have something fun and informative to listen to on long drives or — shhhh! — while goofing off at work. When I have more information on a completion date, I’ll let you know.

The boys are back from summer camp, so my three weeks of hedonistic binge fishing are over. Not to worry. I have brilliant plans for sneaking out to the water…

I haven’t been in ten days, but my spies tell me the Farmington continues to fish well. Plenty of cold water has the trout fed, fat, and happy.

As always, thanks for reading and following currentseams.

Flatwings. Floating lines. Traditional presentations. You too can learn the secrets of catching stripers that are measured in pounds instead of inches. Coming soon to a podcast near you.

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Why I love fishing for stripers with big flatwings on the greased line swing

After three very slow springs, things turned around a bit in 2017. It wasn’t as good as the old days. (Is it ever?) But the skunks were few, and the keepers more plentiful than in recent years. I wish I could say the baitfish were making a comeback. Sadly, I saw precious few swirls of mating herring. But enough with the negative. This is a celebration  of elegant flies fished with a traditional method — and the brute force of striped bass that can be measured in pounds.

The Rock Island flatwing saw plenty of swim time. It may not look it, but this is a legal fish, one of three I took that night.

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Another old favorite, the Razzle Dazzle. The Razzle Dazzle is responsible for my biggest striper on the fly from the shore, 30 pounds. This one is a wee bit less than that. Still, a good keeper bass on the long pole.

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We’re getting there. 15 pounds of power. I landed her at 1:00am after two hours of fishing without a touch. Since it was raining, I decided to end on a high note. A JR Cuban Alternate Cohiba Robusto was lit in celebration, and smoked on the long walk back to the truck.

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I don’t handcuff myself to the dogma of black flies at night. But occasionally, I do fish them. This spring I prototyped and tested a large, mostly black multi-feather flatwing (patience — recipe and photos to come). My intent was to have a big fly to silhouette against the dark of the moon sky in stained water. Here are my test results — all 20 pounds of it.

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Following the tides is a tough job, but some damn fool needs to be out while the rest of the world is sleeping.

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Cape Stripahs

Up at the Cape this weekend for my son’s soccer tournament, but they don’t play at night…so I did.

Saturday I hit two spots. The tides weren’t ideal, but I wanted to see how one in particular looked on the incoming (I’ve only fished it on the outgoing). Last year, same time, it was lit up like a Christmas tree. This year it was dead as Julius Caesar. I gave it 45 minutes of due diligence, then headed to a second mark. First cast, my line got all discombobulated. After I straighten things out, I pulled it in for a re-cast. Wait. Was that pressure a fish or some weeds? The answer was fish. I proceeded to get into a batch of micro bass, and one of their bigger brothers. Fished a three fly team and took fish on all three flies. Both the air and the water on the incoming tide were cold! I wished I’d brought my neoprenes.

Sunday met old UK pal Mike who got the outing off to a proper start by taking a bass on his first cast. We had schools of stripers, mostly 1-2 year-olds, come through in waves, so the action was either red hot or non-existent. There were a few larger — by that I mean sub-20″ers — in the mix. To cull these pipsqueaks, I tied on a 7″ Eel Punt on a 3/0 hook. (I should mention at this point that I’d forgotten my headlamp, so I did all this dancing in the dark). So while I still had bumps, I was spared the tedium of stripping in trout-sized bass. Meantime, the Meatballs showed up with their 40,000 watt headlamps lighting up the ocean, and — my personal favorite — into my face when I was playing a fish. I’d like to tell you I was sorry when they left, but that would be a lie.

I finally connected with a sub-legal fish that had aspirations of going on the reel, but I had other plans. A catch, a photo, a release, and a good way to end the festivities.

I haven’t fished an Eel Punt in years. This striper reminded me why it’s such a good fly, especially on the swing on a dark, mysterious night.

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“Mainly Misunderstood — Five Myths and Realities About Using Floating Lines For Striped Bass” in the current issue of American Angler

Why are floating lines so underused for striped bass fly fishing? Are intermediate lines  truly versatile? These questions and more are answered in “Mainly Misunderstood,” and you can read all about it in the current (May/June 2017) issue of American Angler. If you’re looking to open the door to a whole new world of presentation options, the floating line is the antidote to the mind-numbing metronome of cast-and-strip.

If you want to catch keeper bass like this with flatwings fished on a greased line swing, you’re gonna need a floating line.

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I love fishing floating lines in surf around structure.

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Of small streams, stripers, and stockers

I’m getting my money’s worth from the jolly old yo-ho-ho State of Connecticut this week. Monday I went small streaming. Tuesday was our semi-annual grandfather-father-son Salmon River outing followed by a little late night striper (non) action. Here’s how it went down.

Monday’s flow in the brook was medium-high, perfect for this time of year. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was enough to make the locals highly active. I saw charcoal gray stoneflies (size 16, and a few size 12), caddis (16), and Quill Something-or-Other spinners (10-12). No char were observed feeding on the surface, but they drilled the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) as well as the nymph (Frenchie variant size 18) and the micro-streamer (ICU Sculpin size 14). This parr-marked beauty took the dry.

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You can’t see the kype on this buck, but at 7-8 inches he surely is an old fish on this stream. He swung and missed at the dry, then crushed the dropper. I took two fish in the last pool I fished on the ICU Sculpin. The fly had barely slipped beneath the surface before each fish struck.

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Tuesday was one of the ten best weather days of the year: 75 degree air filled with blazing, brilliant sunshine. The Salmon was running clear and at a perfect height, and there were a lot of other anglers out taking advantage of the conditions. Here, the man who taught me how to fish reminds my sons that knots are not worthy of their trust.

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Gordo was fishing a Hi-Liter streamer with a couple BB shot on the leader when I saw his rod tip dip. I asked him if it was a rock or a fish. “Fish, I think,” he said. I told him that it’s a fish until proven otherwise. Next cast, bang! Hello, Mr. Recently Stocked Rainbow.

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I think if I were going teach a weekend-long class in nymphing, I might start by having everyone bounce worms along the bottom. I hadn’t caught a trout on a worm in decades, but I got back to my roots when my dad took a break and handed off his rod to me. Here’s my prize sulking on the bottom after release.

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All things must pass, including good fishing. So I finished off my piscatorial binge last night with a proper striper skunking. Lines were greased and flatwings were swung, but commotion near the ocean ’twas not to be. It must’ve been around this wee hour or so when I climbed into bed. Tired and happy is a most excellent way to fall asleep.

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FCF&GPA Awarded the Legion of Hot Dog Merit

Many thanks to the Fairfield County Fish & Game Protective Association for hosting me last night. One of the larger crowds I’ve presented to, and their clubhouse is a great venue. FCF&GPA understands that a fed presenter is a happy presenter, and since I thoroughly enjoyed my monster dog and chili, I hereby award them the currentseams Legion of Hot Dog Merit.

Much later, I went striper fishing. It’s a new spot I reconnoitered last year, and it looked fishy as hell in the daylight. It was a little creepy in the rain and the dark, and there wasn’t much sign of any activity, bait or predator. But I was standing in water throwing a Rock Island flatwing and fishing it on the greased line swing, and life was good. It got even better when I landed my first striper of the year, all 34 inches of her. Nothing like starting the season off with a bang — or in this case, a massive thud.

Gadzooks! The contest! I’m going to try to announce the winners in the next 24 hours.

The Rock Island flatwing continues to produce big bass. It’s become one of my confidence  patterns for stripers.

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