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″.

 

 

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.

 

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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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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600 Followers Contest Swag

I spent part of yesterday hunkered down at the bench, fingers flying around fur and feather. My intention was to get these out today, but it will have to wait until early next week. In the meantime, feast your eyes — and think about the potential glory you hold within each cast. On we go to 700!

Roger and Vince asked for striper flies. Here’s a starter kit, with many major food groups covered. They’ll be getting one of each. Clockwise from bottom: Orange Ruthless (clam worm), Ray’s Fly (silverside), Inconspicuous (anchovy), Eelie (sand eel), Grass Shrimp Solution, and Soft Hackled Flatwing (generic baitfish/attractor).

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Here are Paul’s soft hackles and wets. Left cork, clockwise, starting upper left: Partridge and Light Cahill (2), Hare’s Ear wingless, Red Fox Squirrel nymph, Squirrel and Ginger, BH Squirrel and Ginger. Right Cork, clockwise, starting upper right, Hackled March Brown, Grizzly and Grey wingless, Dark Hendrickson (2), Drowned Ant (2).

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Many thanks to everyone for your readership, kindness, and support. I have lots of good stuff planned for this spring and beyond, so stay tuned.

Going way back in the archives: “The Art of the Flatwing” by Tom Keer

“The Art of the Flatwing,” written by Tom Keer, appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Fly Tyer. I’ve had this article in pdf form for years — and now it’s got an online home. Speaking of flatwings, I interviewed Ken Abrames yesterday. Our focus was on the Razzle Dazzle-style patterns in A Perfect Fish: color rationale, nomenclature, genesis, anecdotes and other good stuff. I’m not sure what form it will take, but you’ll get to read/hear some of it in the future.

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Here’s my take on the Razzle Dazzle, one of the featured flies in the piece. Ken once described this fly as a caricature rather than a detailed painting or sculpture.

RLSRazzleDazzle

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Instead of peacock herl, the topping is an olive saddle and a silver doctor blue saddle tip.

RazzleDazzleTopCU

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What you leave out of a fly is as important as what you put in.

RazzleDazzleCU

 

 

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.

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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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February Stripers

Cold fronts and wind and snow and sleet be damned, I went striper fishing. This was virgin winter water for me; I looked at this place last year and wondered if any bass would care to stay though the cold months. I have my answer.

Only 20″, but a bass is a bass. Dagnabbit, now that I’ve done January and February, I guess I gotta go for 12 consecutive months with a striper on the fly.

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First Striper of 2018

The tide and weather and scheduling planets aligned last night, so I found myself standing in some very cold water casting a large flatwing and smoking an Alec Bradley Tempus Churchill.

It did not suck. (All of it.) Especially when about 15 minutes in I started to get a few courtesy taps. I couldn’t tell if it was small fish or a subtle cold water take. Covering water, greased line swinging, and then at the end of a drift, a tug, a re-tug, a hook set, and I was into my first striper of 2018.

It felt so good that not even changing a flat tire in a McDonald’s parking lot in the middle of the night in the rain bummed me out.

Twenty inches of striped wonderfulness. The fight was uneventful until I tried to move the fish over a sand bar into some shallows. He wanted none of that, and we had some surface-thrashing bull-in-a-china-shop runs to break the calm of the night.

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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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