Fly anglers are always looking for the next best thing. Especially when it comes to fly patterns. But often, “new” doesn’t translate to “better.” Some of these patterns are decades old, but they still get eaten because the stripers haven’t gotten any smarter. So if you want to see what’s in my fly box this fall — and at the end of my leader — read “These Old-School Striper Patterns are Still Deadly During the Fall Run,” brought to you by our good friends at Field & Stream.
Stripers love finger mullet, and I love this finger mullet fly. You’ll find the September Night pattern in Ken Abrames’ classic Striper Moon, and now right here. (And, of course, in my 2015 American Angler article Soft Hackles For Striped Bass.) I was already planning on making this post today, and when I spoke with Ken an hour ago he — unprompted — mentioned that it was indeed September Night time. To the bench!
Hook: Eagle Claw 253, 1/0-3/0; Thread: white 6/0; Tail: 30 gray bucktail hairs, then two white saddle hackles tied in flat, then two strands silver Flashabou; Body: silver braid; Throat: sparse, long white bucktail tied as a 3/4 collar, both sides and bottom; Collar: white marabou, folded or doubled 3-4 turns; Wing: 30 long white bucktail hairs, then 15 purple bucktail hairs, then 2 strands blue Flashabou, then one natural black saddle hackle.
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:
At the gigs just keep on coming! I’m a last minute replacement speaker for next Thursday night, September 28, at the Connecticut/Rhode Island Coastal Fly Fishers meeting. The presentation will be “The Little Things,” and it’s at the Elks Club in Groton, CT. You can get more information from their website. Hope to see you there — and man, do I need to get out out and do some fishing.
Time to tie up some September Nights! It’s a two-feather flatwing (three if you count the topping) with some sexy, soft marabou into the bargain. My favorite mullet fly. Did I mention it also works on trout? Do an internet search for the recipe.
Wednesday night I fished for stripers in the kind of water that I love: current, structure, and bass feeding on station. The bait was silversides, and the stripers had them cornered. All the predators had to do was wait for the meal to come to them. I did very well; the spinning guy to my right with the plug did poorly (wrong presentation, wrong size lure) and the guy to my left with the intermediate line and the stripped sinking fly did poorly (wrong presentation, fishing in the wrong part of the water column) as well.
After they left, I started thinking about how I approached the situation. I realized that all I had been doing was fishing wet flies. If more striper anglers applied wet fly principles to their fishing, they would surely catch more bass. Here’s where anglers using wet fly tactics have an unfair advantage:
Wet fly anglers know that they can master the current with a floating line. The simple act of mending slows the swing of the fly to a speed that is far more agreeable to fish — especially those unwilling to chase. By casting to the outer edges of the bait ball, and mending, I was able to make my flies swim along its periphery, moving at the same pace as the naturals.
Wet fly anglers know the value of sparse, impressionistic, unweighted patterns. The Partridge and Orange. The Starling and Herl. The Pale Watery Wingless. None of them look exactly like what they’re supposed to imitate. None of them are bulky. But they can be fished anywhere in the water column, particularly just below the surface where the fish are feeding. The flies I was fishing looked and did likewise.
Wet fly anglers know that droppers are the fastest way to find out what the fish want. I was fishing a team of three. Top dropper was an Orange Ruthless. Middle dropper was The Tick (small isopod/crab larva/shrimp). Point was a September Night or a Morning Glory. The bass eagerly took the top dropper and point flies. And I was covered in case they switched to something small.
Wet fly anglers know that sometimes the best retrieve is no retrieve. I’m lazy. So are predators. I didn’t catch any fish on the stripped fly. It was all on the swing, mended swing, or dangle. Explosive hits generated by fish feeding in confidence. Why would a fish chase bait when it is being delivered to them by the current?
Where’s the beef? Nowhere on this sparse, impressionistic single-feather flatwing, the Morning Glory. (You can find the recipe by doing an internet search for “Morning Glory striper fly”.)