Big Eelies and Banana Squid, or: striper soft hackles galore

I went on a wee tying binge, and when the feather dust settled I was left with an 8-pack of Big Eelies. Some are old favorites, and a few sport new color combinations. That’s one thing I love about this pattern: it lends itself supremely well to all manner of color experimentation, and the stripers almost always seem pleased with your work.

Big Eelies hot off the press. Clockwise from lower left: pink/chartreuse/olive, grey/olive, Crazy Menhaden colors, Olive Fireworm colors, black/chartreuse, pink/olive/brown, then the two of the original classic. I can already feel that forceful tug at the end of a twitching strip.

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The Banana Squid, another classic from Ken Abrames. It’s different from most other squid patterns, and it looks nothing like what books would lead you to believe  a squid should be. Add the magic ingredient of water, and it transforms into a living, breathing organism than looks good to eat. Fished slowly and deliberately, it relies on organic movement and impressionism to fool the fish.

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Black 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs grey bucktail
Tail: Three white saddle hackles tied in flat, then four ginger saddles (I used golden tan) to veil the white saddles, then sparse purple Krystal flash on both sides, then a short badger hackle on both sides, then a webby grey saddle tied in flat, then a full plume of amber marabou
Body: Purple braid tied to 3/8″ from the hook eye
Collar: A sparse layer or yellow bucktail one hair thick to extend to the end of the amber marabou, then a sparse layer of blue bucktail one hair thick, then a sparse later of red bucktail one hair thick
Hackle: Brownish marabou tied in near the butt of the stem, then wound and doubled 3-4 turns

Hammonasset Chapter TU awarded the Order of the Meaty Pie (and a striper report)

When they serve pizza at events at my kids’ school, it’s always cheese. Plain, boring, dull cheese. Dairy rubber on flatbread. Now, the fine folks at the Hammonasset Chapter of TU know how to do pizza. The pies last night were so meat-ladenly delicious, I thought my mouth had died and gone to bacon/pepperoni/sausage/meatball heaven. And of course, a fed presenter  is a happy presenter. So, thank you for the hospitality, and thanks for the engaging post-presentation (“The Little Things”) Q&A/discussion. (Bonus: great to see so many familiar faces!)

Afterwards, I went on a little striper expedition to some (for me) uncharted waters. Didn’t like the moon (waxing gibbous), didn’t like the wind (cold front coming, northwest at 10 mph), didn’t like the walk (quite a hike through the woods), but loved the water. A classic funnel with outgoing tide recklessly hurtling to the sea. There were silversides and peanuts, and sadly, precious few predators. Three of us fished two hours to catch a single striper and a lonely shad. But we brought some beer, and I think that helped.

I don’t usually share prototypes, but this sparse soft hackle is a work in progress. It’s based on a peanut bunker bucktail pattern. I think I will add a sparse, flared bucktail throat. It accounted for last night’s shad. Really like the colors and energy of this fly.

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First stripers. First EnCon encounter.

Yesterday evening was raw and windy and and at times rainy, but there were a few stripers out and about. It always feels good to break the seal. I even played around with surface flies (deer hair head and the good old Gurlger) after I witnessed a wake behind my fly on one retrieve. There’s nothing like the hysterical leap of a striper as it flails at a topwater presentation. Fishing partner Bob Griswold had an equally splendid time.

Speaking of firsts, EnCon was out checking licenses at dusk. I’ve never had that happen to me in nearly 50 years of fishing. Here’s a reminder to make sure your license is current, and that you’re carrying it on your person.

My apologies for no outing photos. Here’s one from the archives.

Little guy big mouth

 

Another fun Saturday at the Compleat Angler

Many thanks to the Compleat Angler in Darien, CT, for once again being such gracious hosts. A comfortable, well-lit setup, and Scott and crew know how to keep a tyer happy (turkey, provolone, lettuce and a little bit of mayo on a hard roll). If you’ve never been to the shop, it is very well-stocked, from rods and reels and lines, to books and tying supplies. Highly recommended.

It goes without saying (but we’ll do it anyway): thanks also to everyone who took the time to come watch and ask questions. You made my day an enjoyable one.

Implements of destruction and the resulting construction. Clockwise from bottom left: Orange Ruthless, Soft-hackled grass shrimp, Ray’s Fly, September Night, Herr Blue, Big Eelie.

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“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

Soft-Hackled Flatwings, Ready to Swim

Fresh off the vise and ready to be eaten. Grey dun/fluorescent yellow, pink/chartreuse/olive, and white/blue/mallard flank. Of course, endless color variations are possible. Sparse, yet full. These are all three-and-one-half inches long.

SH FW Hybrids

Here’s the basic template:

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: 6/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Body: Braid
Wing: 30-45 bucktail hairs, under 10-20 hairs contrasting color, under 2-4 strands Krystal Flash or flashabou
Collar: Blood quill marabou, tied in at tip, 3-4 turns; 1 turn mallard flank (optional)
This is one of my favorite patterns for early season stripers.