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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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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