R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

What’s the best shrimp fly pattern? You could go with the philosophy of, “There ain’t no best,” and you’d get no argument from me. Or you could weigh in with the General Practitioner — and you wouldn’t be wrong.

General Practitioner = G.P. = Impressionistic shrimpy goodness.
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Trey Combs writes in Steelhead Fly Fishing that the original prawn was tied by Colonel Esmond Drury in 1953. The General Practitioner then got really famous as a west coast winter steelhead pattern. Today there are all manner of versions and colors; this one is a variant developed by Ken Abrames as published in A Perfect Fish.

Ken introduced me to the pattern many years ago. He handed me a black G.P., and with a knowing confidence, told me to fish it as part of a three fly team. Sadly, I’ve long since lost that fly, but I still have one of Ken’s olive G.P.s. tucked away in the never-to-be fished-again archives. When tied just so, G.P.s are magical creations that bask in their impressionistic glory. Picture this fly near the surface on a greased line swing or a dead drift, easily visible to a striped bass even in the mucky outflow of a salt marsh. Wait to feel the weight of the fish — and then hang on. Stripers love shrimp, and when they are keyed on this bait, feeding on station, they will often ignore all other offerings and stripped presentations.

R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

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Hook: Atlantic salmon 2-8
Antennae: Black and blue bucktail, mixed
Head: Black golden pheasant neck feather
Eyes: Golden pheasant tippet
Body: Gold flat tinsel
Ribbing: Gold oval tinsel
Hackle: Natural black
Carapace: Metallic black turkey feather
Back: Same
Tail: Same
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A view from below. You can imagine all those hackle fibers gently quivering in the current and whispering to a striper, “I’m alive…”

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Tying Notes: Ken called for an Eagle Claw 253, but I like the badass black of Atlantic salmon hooks. No gots turkey feathers? Me either, so I used dyed black pheasant rump. The majority of the black G.P.s I’ve seen use far too much bucktail; remember, you’re tying the antennae of a grass shrimp (the steelhead pattern calls for 10 bucktail hairs; I used 20) not an opaque jig. To form the eyes, cut a V-shape in the tippet and then lacquer with head cement. The “eye stalks” will narrow from the head cement. You don’t have to use the tinsels; gold braid works just as well. The body and top feathers are somewhat of a pain; tie in the carapace at the tail, then tie and wind the tinsel and hackle to the mid-point of the shank, tie in the back (like a little roof), continue forward with the tinsel and hackle, then tie in the tail feather, again like a little roof. Make a spiffy head and go fish.

Striper report: So that’s why no one was here

An empty parking lot is can mean several things, among them: it’s a ridiculous time of day (it wasn’t). No one is hip to the spot (everyone is). There are no fish there (ding-ding-ding). So I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary with an EP Carillo corona gorda and tried to enjoy some blissful solitude. Even a constant, soaking rain couldn’t wreck my casting practice. And so it goes.

Why I like RLS Easterly colors (grey dun, silver, peacock, fluorescent yellow) during an easterly blow. Even in dingy water, this soft-hackled flatwing really pops.

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Striper report: Everyone Knows It’s Windy

Yeah. Hard times for fly casters yesterday with a sustained 15 knot southwest blow in our faces (and an especially unfavorable quarter for lefties) with some stronger gusts mixed in. I debuted my new custom two-hander, but I don’t have the right lines for it yet and it wasn’t the synergy I know I’ll eventually enjoy. Still, some small bass were brought to hand, and they felt like giants in a ripping moon tide.

A Soft Hackled Flatwing in RLS Easterly colors (grey dun and fluorescent yellow) caught the eyes of several feisty schoolies. The colors really popped in yesterday’s conditions.

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TU 225 awarded the Order of the Triple Jalapeño Burger with Octoberfest Clusters

You know it’s going to be a good night when you sit down at the table and moments later a server brings you a cold, crisp Octoberfest — which you didn’t order, but would have. Sometimes things just fall into place. Many thanks to my good friends at the Narragansett Chapter of TU who demonstrated once again their mastery of the concept of a fed presenter is a happy presenter. Always a pleasure talking fishing over dinner. The topic for the club was “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass,” and we had a some good Q&A afterwards. Now, I gotta make a new presentation for next year!

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve got. (And if it’s stripers like this, you’re probably doing something right.)

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The best sand eel fly is the one that gives you the most confidence. (Like the Bruiser Big Eelie.)

Here’s another sand eel fly pattern that I can’t do without: the Bruiser Big Eelie. Faithful followers know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie template is a tried-and-true favorite that lends itself to all kinds of color variations. “Bruiser” because it’s black and blue and purple — and because this fly has accounted for some of my biggest stripers. Perfect for those dark of the moon nights when the bass are looking up and tracking those telltale thin silhouettes across the surface. I’ve been fishing this fly for close to a decade now, and while the Bruiser has appeared elsewhere, I haven’t presented it here until now. Speaking of presentation: swing it, dangle it, dead drift it, and strip it in ultra-short jerky bursts (my favorite).

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Hook: 3/0 Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs blue bucktail
Tail: First, a purple saddle, second, another purple saddle, third, 2 strands blue flash and 2 strands purple flash, fourth, a black saddle, fifth, a black saddle. (All saddles pencil thin and tied in flatwing style.)
Body: Purple braid
Hackle: 3-4 turns purple marabou, tied in at the tip
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The Bruiser Big Eelie Rogues’ Gallery:
Block Island, 20+ pounds
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“Soft Hackles for Striped Bass” from the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler

With striper season in full swing — if you’ll pardon the expression — this seemed like the perfect time to share “Soft Hackles for Striped Bass.” Many of you know me as a devotee of soft hackles and wets for trout, but interestingly enough, I was using soft hackles and wet fly tactics for stripers years before I tried them on trout. This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler. It features six patterns, three from Ken Abrames and three of my own doing. All of them are proven bass catchers. So get out your vise and your floating line and deliver these impressionistic wonders to a waiting, hungry mouth.

Soft Hackles for Striped Bass

The world-famous Jimi Hendrix-trippy-acid-flash-light-show striped bass photo. Nearly 40″ long, Miss Piggy (look at that full tummy!) fell for the seductive nuances of the Big Eelie, a soft-hackled sand eel.

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Tales from the Bass-o-Matic

I don’t usually publish these things but clearly the word is out, as evidence by overflowing parking lots and anglers massed together like so many sardines — the spring striped bass run is on. (And then some.) It’s been about ten days now. I caught it the day it turned on, and I returned yesterday for round two of the hysteria. Both days I stopped counting after 25 fish. (The intrepid angler, if he or she had several hours, could easily reach or surpass the century mark.) It’s rather insane, to the point where you go through stretches where you literally are catching the proverbial fish on every cast. The fishing isn’t technical: find a rip, cast, strip, fight, release. I’ve been using a full sink tip integrated line, a short (2-3 feet) leader, and an assortment of soft-hackled flatwings 3-4″ long. I have a limited interest in this kind of fishing, but I gotta admit that it’s a lot of fun while I’m doing it.

So: If you fish on the Cape, start sharpening your hooks. There’s a whole heaping helping of stripers heading your way.

These stripers are uber-aggressive gluttons who are wanton and reckless in their need to destroy your fly. Most are in the 14-20″ class, with a few bigger bass in the mix. They make for a decent battle in a ripping current. Yesterday I caught them on the strip, swing, dangle, and even with my eyes closed.

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Four members of the Connecticut Surfcasters each hauled out a bag of garbage they collected on their walk back. I know you’d like to join me in thanking them for their efforts. Pictured here are Charlie and George. Well done, gents.

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So far, I’m giving this season a very enthusiastic striper thumb’s up.

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