Striper Report: Grass Shrimp Basstravaganza

I love me some topwater grass shrimp action. Even if the bass are on the small side, there’s so much soak in: the metronome-in-molasses turning of the tide; the bottle rocket-like traces made on the surface by hundreds of mating shrimp; and the percussive pops and swirling boils of the diners.

The method was a floating line and three fly team, presented with a combination of swings, mends, dangles, and animating the flies by raising and lowering the fly rod. I took the first fish, then handed the rod over to #2 son Cam, who spent the next gleeful hour catching stripers. Cam reported that he could feel the bass sucking the fly in — the first tap — and then waiting to feel the second tap or the weight of the fish to set the hook. What a great job he did (said his proud papa). Cam had the bonus excitement of his first double hookup, a riot with two feisty schoolies in tow.

Droppers are the fastest way to find out what the fish want, and last night they wanted all of the below. The Grass Shrimp Gurgler was on point; Orange Ruthless clam worm in the middle. If you’re not fishing droppers during small bait/lots of bait events, you are missing out on a proven, strategic advantage — not to mention plain old fun. You can read more about how to tie and fish dropper rigs for stripers here.  

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Orange Ruthless Single-Feather Flatwing Tying Video

The Orange Ruthless has long been one of my favorite striper flies. It’s a simple pattern, and a good place to start if you’re just getting into flatwings. I like this fly about 2 1/2″ long, but I’ll tie it even smaller if the bait size warrants. The Orange Ruthless gets a lot of swim time as part of a three-fly team; I tend to place it in the point position. Although it’s a clam or cinder worm, it does double duty as a grass shrimp (or at the very least something that looks alive and good to eat.)

The SC15 hook does not sharpen well, but it is sticky sharp out of the pack and holds its point for a long time. I chose it because it’s easy to find and very light. You can get away with strung hackle for both the tail and the body, but make sure the feathers have plenty of web.

If you have Ken Abrames’ A Perfect Fish, you’ll find a fly called the “R.L.S. Ruthless” in the chapter on single-feather flatwings. This is a variant of that pattern, taught to me by Ken himself at a Tuesday night tying session many years ago. It was the first striper fly I ever tied, and I had the good fortune to be seated next to the artist, lashing bucktail, flash, and feather to hook under his watchful eye.

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Hook: Gamakatsu SC15 sz 2
Thread: UNI 6/0 white
Platform: 30 hairs orange bucktail
Tail: 2 strands green Flashabou under a red saddle tied in flat, curve side down
Body: Webby orange hackle palmered over gold braid

 

 

 

“Soft Hackles For Striped Bass” in American Angler

The November/December 2015 issue of American Angler hit the newsstands and fly shops last week. “Soft Hackles For Striped Bass” covers some salty soft hackle basics, and features six patterns: three from Ken Abrames, and three from yours truly.  I interviewed Ken for this piece, and there are plenty of good quotes to dig into. As always, I try to go beyond straight how-to and inject a little fun into things. I hope you enjoy reading it.

You can find “Soft Hackles For Striped Bass” by Steve Culton in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler.

Nov/Dec 2015 American Angler