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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Captain Brady sent me pics of some beautiful flies he tied for the flats. His clients will be fortunate if he actually lets them fish those beauties. He got me thinking about what I want is a flats fly.

Ask ten fly tiers to tie a fly for a species and a particular area and you will get ten different flies. They may all catch fish but some will catch better than others. I come to fly fishing for stripers not like most guys. Many guys start as fresh water trout fishermen. Their flies are influenced by that. I come to it from many years of catching stripers on lures. I am not constrained by tradition. If I think some characteristic of the fly will make it catch better, that is what I will tie. Most of my striper flies are a variation of the Clouser Deep Minnow, the Lefty Deceiver or the Half and Half. I look for certain things in a striper fly for the flats. Here are some of those:

1) The hook is the heart of the striper fly. I like the wire size to be relatively thin and light, but it must be strong. For big strong fish this most likely means not a SS hook which tend to be soft. High carbon steel hooks give you the most strength for the wire diameter and weight. Prefer wide gap hooks. I like to be able to roll my little finger between the material and the hook gap. A long shank hook gives you more options for making a long fly. One such hook is a Owner Cutting Point Straight Worm Wide Gap XXX Strong, 5/0 #5103-151.

2) Bright colors work best in stained water. There is no need to match the hatch. The first requisite for the fish to eat the fly is that he has to sense it or see it. Chartreuse and white work well but there are other bright colors that may work well too. A herring certainly does not have any chartreuse on it, but it is more important that the striper sees the fly than making it look exactly like the bait.

3) Like lots of flash. Normally use both crystal flash and flashabou. I have caught too many fish on a 17 Tony spoon and chrome blue swimming plug to think that you can have too much flash.

4) Make a broad profile. I wrap estaz grande on the hook shank to help lift the buck tail and make a broader profile without using too much material.

5) Make the fly as sparse and light as you can for castability. We can tie flies the size of a mop that may catch fish, but who wants to cast them?

6) Hook point up. The Susky Flats has lots of obstructions on the bottom and dead, slimy SAV in many areas of the bottom. Deceiver flies without weight with the hook point down will snag more stuff. I like fishing them where the bottom is cleaner or where you do not need to get to the bottom to catch the fish.

7) Flash tail. I like to let the flash stick back behind the bucktail. It will flutter when stripped.

8) I like striper flies about 7" long for the flats, where there is big bait and big fish. In the ocean in winter I go a little bigger.

9) Rattles. They make rattles for flies. I do not use them because the are small and I cannot see them making any difference. Some guys swear by them for the stained water on the flats. If I could make a fly rattle like a rattletrap of big plug with rattles, I would use them. Fly rattles are too small and feeble, IMHO.

I am not a professional fly tier and have never taken a course, so many may disagree with some or all of these points and that is fine. I do have lots of confidence that my flies will catch big fish because they have many times.

The fly below is not looking too pretty right now because I just tied it and moistened the hackle to make it more manageable. It is still wet. It will be more fluffy and full in the morning.



Here is the same fly tied with all bucktail--a second clump tied in at the hook bend to create the length.



Fly caught striper on the flats.



Hope to get another fly caught striper like this yet this year.
 

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Thanks for the advice Bill. You might recall a post I made this winter about my hooks being straightened. I was using a Owner Cutting Point Straight Worm Wide Gap XXX Strong, 2/0-3/0. I really like those hooks, but they weren't strong enough. I guess I need to step up to the 5/0 like you mentioned. I recently tied some flies using Partridge hooks..Uptide 5/0. The "Extra" looks a bit too heavy, but strong. The "Universal Predator" hooks look similar to the Owner Worm hooks. Have you had success using any of them?

Arthropod Bait Tail Fish Electric blue
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I do not think a striper will straighten the 5/0 version. Too many strong hooks are too fat to penetrate easily and too heavy for ease of casting. Some also have too small a gap to suit me. Another great hook for big stripers is the Gammy SL12S. I use the 6/0 on my large ocean flies. The Gammy hook is even stronger than the Owner. The hook shank is not as long but many striper flies do not require an extra long shank.

Am not familiar with the "Universal Predator" hook. I stick to the two I mentioned. Buy the Gammy hooks in box of 100 from number two's to 6/0. It is a great hook that will never let you down on albies, stripers, blues or redfish. Very sharp out of the box also.
 

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Wild Bill, excellent post! You & I think a lot alike! The vast majority of the flies I use for Stripers are also variations of Clousers, Deceivers, Half & Half's & Seaducers. All old patterns that been working for a long time.

I also like chartreuse & white, just don't have a pic of one. These are about 8 inches long, and tied on 5/0 spinner bait hooks. Also tie them in black & white, and all black for different water clarity. Like you've said, not matching the hatch, just making them visible.
Grass Terrestrial plant Circle Net Art
Water Liquid Grass Aqua Circle
Liquid Water Fluid Terrestrial plant Grass
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Wild Bill, excellent post! You & I think a lot alike! The vast majority of the flies I use for Stripers are also variations of Clousers, Deceivers, Half & Half's & Seaducers. All old patterns that been working for a long time.

I also like chartreuse & white, just don't have a pic of one. These are about 8 inches long, and tied on 5/0 spinner bait hooks. Also tie them in black & white, and all black for different water clarity. Like you've said, not matching the hatch, just making them visible.
View attachment 58795 View attachment 58796 View attachment 58797
They look just like mine. They would fit right in my striper box. Thanks for posting. I came to my decisions about flies on my own, and figured no one was tying flies like mine or would even want to. Small World.

You have some fine looking bucktail. That is the hardest part of tying big striper flies. I just cannot warm up to the synthetics.

Would you like to PM me your source? :eek2:
 

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No need for PM's. Don't have a secret source. I've actually collected bucktails from various sources over the years. I tied commercially for many years, and would buy a couple of hundred at a time, then sort thru them. Never found a single source that always had "perfect" tails. I still have a decent stock to tie with. When I bought bucktails, I would look for the tails with the finest texture hair, that gives the best movement, then the longest hair for longer flies. I would combine both to get what I wanted. The flies in the pictures are all tied with hair that is only 4-5 inches long. Just a little of the longer hair is used to give length, and the rest is shorter to provide the profile. The hair is tied along the shank to aid in providing length, longest hair at the rear.

Frankly, I stumbled onto these type of flies for Stripers. I had a client who wanted big flies for South American Peacock Bass, so this is what I came up with. Turned out they worked very well for big Stripers too.

I tie with synthetics some, but agree with you on natural materials. I much prefer the natural, and good materials are getting harder to find.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I had a great guy who tied professionally and could get me super quality bucktails. Unfortunately, he would not tell me where he got them, and more unfortunately he slipped in a stream and died last year. He had some tails with 10" hair. I never saw any like them.

No need for PM's. Don't have a secret source. I've actually collected bucktails from various sources over the years. I tied commercially for many years, and would buy a couple of hundred at a time, then sort thru them. Never found a single source that always had "perfect" tails. I still have a decent stock to tie with. When I bought bucktails, I would look for the tails with the finest texture hair, that gives the best movement, then the longest hair for longer flies. I would combine both to get what I wanted. The flies in the pictures are all tied with hair that is only 4-5 inches long. Just a little of the longer hair is used to give length, and the rest is shorter to provide the profile. The hair is tied along the shank to aid in providing length, longest hair at the rear.

Frankly, I stumbled onto these type of flies for Stripers. I had a client who wanted big flies for South American Peacock Bass, so this is what I came up with. Turned out they worked very well for big Stripers too.

I tie with synthetics some, but agree with you on natural materials. I much prefer the natural, and good materials are getting harder to find.
 

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Tails with 10" hair is an exception, you were very fortunate to have a source like that. I think the longest I ever recall seeing was about 8", and there wasn't much of it! Like you, I started as a warmwater & tidalwater fly angler. I've done a bit of trout fishing, but don't consider myself a trout angler. I've been tying since I was 11, and I'll be 57 this year. I've learned to make due with what I could get, when I couldn't get what I really needed! Where there's a will, there's always a way! :yes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I never got any of the 10" tails. I think he landed them years ago. The ones he got me had some 5" to 5.5" hair in the middle. The ones you see in fly shops have been picked over many times before you ever see them and you are lucky to get 4" hair.

A bud brought some assorted tails from a butcher shop that had a few with 5" hair but many scrubby ones. The price was right, the butcher gave them to him. If I had a reliable source for 5" hair, I would pay $10 a tail undyed. It is not like I need a huge number. I can only use so many flies and give away about as many as I use.

Tails with 10" hair is an exception, you were very fortunate to have a source like that. I think the longest I ever recall seeing was about 8", and there wasn't much of it! Like you, I started as a warmwater & tidalwater fly angler. I've done a bit of trout fishing, but don't consider myself a trout angler. I've been tying since I was 11, and I'll be 57 this year. I've learned to make due with what I could get, when I couldn't get what I really needed! Where there's a will, there's always a way! :yes:
 

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The other issue with getting good tails, is the hair itself. Too many of the big tails, with longer hair, the hair is often way too coarse, or at least more of it than I like. When I sorted out tails I would get, the coarser hair was saved for tying bigger jigs, but I would sometimes make use of it in flies if it was long. A little for length, then finer hair around it.

I also used to tie a lot of hair jigs for bass when I was tying commercial, and would buy medium & small tails. Generally, I found that size tails would often have hair that was finer textured, making them better for tying jigs or flies, and surprisingly, I would get plenty of tails with hair over 4 inches. Since I often bought in bulk, I usually got a better price on the smaller tails too.

I would sometimes get tails from friends who hunted too, usually in return for flies or jigs. Most I had to buy.
 

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Don't mind me gentlemen, I'm being a "Fly" on the wall and taking all of this in. Great stuff. I started tying my own flies last year. Most are really ugly but improving. I need to tie my flies a lot bigger. They are all medium in size tied on 2/0 or 3/0 hooks. I'm just finding it difficult to make them bigger profile without looking chunky/heavy/fat. Any more advice to "lengthen" my flies? Thanks.
Mike
 

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I use a bunch of different ones still, but most commonly use big Clousers like yours, Bucktail Deceivers and in the summer, Siliclones, surf candies and Gartside Gurglers.

My Bay box as it were...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Mike, I will try to take a few quick and dirty pics of a very simple way to tie a long Clouser without using hackle, and how to increase the profile without using as much hair as in a 4" paintbrush.

Fifteen years ago when I first started tying my own flies, I showed them to Bob Clouser. He was very complimentary but what I really wanted was criticism. Not talking about my flies (but maybe he was), Bob said you are not going to paint a barn with striper flies. Over time I have used less and less material and worked to get the profile I want. My flies would still be considered full by many.​
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yes, the ideal bucktail is big, has some 5"+ hair, has fine hair and it is all the same length. If only those deer would cooperate a little better. A big buck tail wholesaler told me what I was looking for represented 1/2 of one per cent of the deer population. No wonder they are hard to find.

The other issue with getting good tails, is the hair itself. Too many of the big tails, with longer hair, the hair is often way too coarse, or at least more of it than I like. When I sorted out tails I would get, the coarser hair was saved for tying bigger jigs, but I would sometimes make use of it in flies if it was long. A little for length, then finer hair around it.

I also used to tie a lot of hair jigs for bass when I was tying commercial, and would buy medium & small tails. Generally, I found that size tails would often have hair that was finer textured, making them better for tying jigs or flies, and surprisingly, I would get plenty of tails with hair over 4 inches. Since I often bought in bulk, I usually got a better price on the smaller tails too.

I would sometimes get tails from friends who hunted too, usually in return for flies or jigs. Most I had to buy.
 

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Would another animal, like Elk have longer tail hair? Maybe its too coarse? Its also hard to find long/wide saddle hackles..
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yes the hackle situation is terrible. It was bad enough before, but since women started weaving feathers into their hair, it had become critical. Women should stick to tatoos. :wink44:

The hackle I used in the fly I tied last night was not good. It try to avoid hackle. I like the all buck tail Half and Half better.
 

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I know there are a group who like to tie with what is called "flat wing" hackle, and it certainly makes a nice looking fly. But, since the hair craze they've become impossible to get, or at least at a decent price. I've always used whatever strung saddles I can get, and on flies like Deceivers, strung neck hackle. Have even used strung Schlapen quite a bit. Those flat wing flies are great and have their place, but they're not the only flies that catch fish.

For most of my life, I've also been a hunter & did a lot of fur trapping at one time. I've experimented with all types of fur & feathers for tying various flies. The best substitute I've found for long bucktail has been Yak hair. Problem is it's not cheap. Another sub is Skunk tail hair, which can sometimes be obtained at a decent price, but you have to look around. Problem with Skunk is getting consistent, all white hair, as the tails are not all white. But, if you tie both black & white flies you can get more use out of a Skunk tail. I've combined bucktail with Skunk many times too. Skunk, and most other hairs can be bleached, but I'm not one who spends much time doing that, and bleaching damages the hair a bit IMO. I don't mind dyeing however.

Mike, I will try to take a few quick and dirty pics of a very simple way to tie a long Clouser without using hackle, and how to increase the profile without using as much hair as in a 4" paintbrush.

Fifteen years ago when I first started tying my own flies, I showed them to Bob Clouser. He was very complimentary but what I really wanted was criticism. Not talking about my flies (but maybe he was), Bob said you are not going to paint a barn with striper flies. Over time I have used less and less material and worked to get the profile I want. My flies would still be considered full by many.
There is an attitude among most who tie, that flies need to be sparse, and I can certainly agree with that somewhat. However, I've also found that they need to have a certain amount of fullness to get a desired affect, and particularly when targeting larger fish. Lefty has a saying about showing them the groceries, and pencil thin flies just don't get it done. Time & place for everything.

Anyone ever see one of Norm Bartlett's "TB" flies? TB stands for trash bag, because they're tied with strips of plastic from trash bags, making them as large as possible. They work too. I recall reading an article many years ago about a guy who used strips of trash bag, and other colors plastic bags to fish for big LM bass. Same concept, bigger fish eat bigger things, so to me it makes little sense to always tie sparse flies.

Don't get this wrong, not all flies should be full either. I like to get to some of the smaller creeks around & catch schoolie Stripers, and use smaller, sparser flies. I've also learned that when there are bigger fish around that can be targeted, you just need bigger flies that appeal to those bigger fish, and of course as Wild Bill has already so appropriately mentioned, and still be able to cast them! :clapping2:

One more thing, there is a material used by the hair dressers called kanekalon. It's a synthetic hair. I'm not a big fan of synthetics, but have started to experiment some with them. This particular fake hair can be used sparingly to add some length to bucktail flies, and can be used alone. To me, fake hair does not have the movement that real hair does & tends to knot up. In the little bit I've used it, the kanekalon hair has been the closest I've found to real hair. Just throwing this out there because it gives another option for tying bigger & longer flies. :yes:
 

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Great post Bill - and great responses too. Thanks all for sharing your fly-tying tips. Can't wait to catch a big one on a fly up the Flats.
 
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