Long before breathable waders and UV-cured resins, fly anglers began fishing the salt for stripers. They brought with them their corpus of freshwater knowledge – and also their flies. Saltwater fly fishing (and therefore saltwater fly tying) was in its infancy. So it only makes sense that they would borrow tackle and tactics and flies from whence they came.
I have a particular interest in traditional fly fishing and tying methods, whether for trout or stripers. For several years now I’ve been tying and fishing these legacy striper patterns, and I’d like to share one of my favorites with you: the Magog Smelt Bucktail.
The Magog Smelt Striper Bucktail
The Magog Smelt is an old landlocked salmon fly. It takes its name from Lake Memphremagog, located between Vermont and Quebec. It was the favorite striper fly of an old Rhode Island sharpie named John Abrames, who taught his son, Ken (you may have heard of him) to fish for striped bass with it. Ken in turn told me about the Magog Smelt, and now it’s one of my favorite bucktails and color schemes.
Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Body: Silver braid
Throat: Red marabou
Wing: 30 hairs white bucktail, under 2 strips silver flash, under 30 longer hairs yellow bucktail, under 25 hairs longer purple bucktail, under 5-7 strands peacock herl
Cheeks: Teal flank tip
Tying notes: I tie the Magog Smelt Bucktail the Ray’s Fly format, from three to five inches long. The fly here is about 3 ½ inches. Keep each group of bucktail nice and sparse, and make each progressively longer. I treat the teal almost as a veil over the body braid. Back in the day, the old-timers painted white eyes with a black pupil on the head, but you could use jungle cock or leave it blank as I did here. I’ve never tied this fly with eyes, and the stripers love it au natural.
The Rhody Flatwing is an old pattern that was developed by Bill Peabody (of Bill’s Bodi-Braid fame). Being a Rhode Islander, Bill is said to have drawn his inspiration from fellow Ocean Staters Ken Abrames (flatwing design template) and Ray Bondorew (Ray’s Fly colors).
The result is pattern that makes a superb generic baitfish imitation. By altering the size of the fly, the tyer can match all manner of baits. The original pattern calls for a sparse tie. You can see from the picture that what I’ve used is more than enough material. Also note that there are no eyes on this fly – they’re just not necessary. Of course, if you must have eyes, jungle cock would be the appropriate choice.
This dozen was tied for a local fly shop, and the flies are about 5” long. Delicious!
A Dozen Rhody Flatwings
Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0-3/0 Thread: White 6/0 Support: 30 hairs white bucktail Pillow: White Tail: 2 strands gold Flashabou under yellow or olive saddle hackle Body: Pearl braid (Bill’s if you’re going for homage and tradition) Collar: 30 hairs short white bucktail on bottom, 30 hairs long white bucktail on top Wing: 15 hairs yellow bucktail under 8 hairs light blue bucktail under sparse olive Krystal Flash under 20 hairs olive bucktail Topping: 5-7 strands peacock herl
Tying notes: The Eagle Claw 253 is a classic hook choice for flatwings. It is light and has a short shank that helps prevent fouling. You can use either an olive or yellow saddle –well, heck, you can use whatever colors you like. Try all black. Try all white with a hint of pink or chartreuse. I like a hollower, springy bucktail fiber for the support on this fly. I made the collars an even length because that’s what looked right to me. Adding flash to a fly is like applying cologne: easy does it. Less is more.