Guide Flies

Guide Flies

The Summer 5

  • By: David Skok
  • Photography by: David Skok

Click image for slideshow.

jLONG after striped bass shed their springtime sea lice, and warm water sends most of them offshore to cooler environs where the herring play, a few tricky individuals remain, tempting the most dedicated angler’s patience and pride. Bass of all sizes, no longer as aggressive as they were just a month or two before, feed with discretion.

You’ll find these fish near the beach, along the mussel bars and among the rock piles, lazily feeding on whatever they can scrounge before fall’s young-of-the-year baitfish are available. These summer stripers are picky, the equivalent of a spring-creek brown trout, and it takes patience, stealth and prime flies to catch them.

The following flies are my go-to summer patterns in Massachusetts, and they could be the ticket in New Jersey or on Long Island and other places, too. If you’re up for the task, cast these proven flies and see if you can beat the heat for tricky summer stripers. w

Hook: Gamakatsu SP11-3L3H, 2/0 to 4/0

Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon

Tail: Mixture of neck hackles, saddle hackles and schlappen, surrounded by bucktail

Collars: Bucktail, tied 360 degrees, pulled back and canted hollow-style

Flash: Optional; pearl Flashabou and/or holographic Flashabou

Eyes: Optional; jungle cock or XL prismatic tab eyes

Hollow Fleye Deceiver

Bob Popovics’ Hollow Fleye is a must-have streamer for striped bass, and I fish it all season long. Adding a Deceiver-style tail to this fly makes it even more appealing. During the dog days of summer, few herring remain near shore, but greedy bass still scarf down Clupeid imitations if you present them properly. I like to fish this fly at night, in current, with a floating line and a slow retrieve. Tie them as big as you can throw them, with maximum casting distance being a major concern; the difference between a surfcaster's success and a fly fisher’s failure is often just a few yards. So, again, make them big, but not too big.

Beastmaster General

Boston Harbor’s muddy bottom and summer’s prevailing southwesterly winds often yield questionable water clarity. Stripers, like most fish, love prowling edges and are frequently found hunting the mudline, searching for an easy meal. Jack Gartside's Beastmaster General uses wide hackles for the tail and spun deer hair to catch a striper’s attention, even in clouded water. Gartside frequently fished this fly on or near the surface with a skittering retrieve. He was also known to attach a couple split-shot to his tippet, which allowed him to fish the Beastmaster with a jigging action. Both tactics work well—let the stripers tell you which they prefer. If sand eels are present, tie this fly like Lou Tabory would, sparse with a tail of ostrich herl.

Hook: Mustad 34011 or other long-shank hook, size 6 to 2

Thread: Danville 3/0 Monocord, tan

Weight: Dumbbell eyes, small or extra-small, painted brownish/ginger

Rostrum: Crinkly cream/tan/ginger guard hairs—calf, badger or fox

Eyes: Small epoxy shrimp eyes, or burnt monofilament

Legs: Wood-duck flank fibers or mallard flank dyed to match wood duck, and/or ginger Sili Legs

Body: Mixed hare’s ear and ginger goat dubbing, trimmed on top and lacquered

Hook: Gamakatsu SP11-3L3H, 1/0 to 3/0

Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon

Tail: Mixture of neck hackles, saddle hackles and schlappen, surrounded by bucktail

Collars: Blood-stem marabou, wound—three collars with two feathers in each, spaced evenly from bend to deerhair head

Body: Optional; Bill’s Bodi-Braid, pearl or other color

Flash: Optional; pearl Flashabou and/or holographic Flashabou

Head: Spun deer belly hair, trimmed to blunt shape

Sand Shrimp

Studies show that, in some locations, more than 50 percent of a striped bass’ summer diet consists of sand shrimp. These speckled shrimp live in and around estuaries and beaches and are available to bass all summer and into fall. I never tie these the same way twice. But, invariably, I incorporate some mixed hare’s ear and ginger goat dubbing with wood-duck flank feather fibers. If I don’t have wood duck I’ll use speckled Sili Legs. When alarmed, sand shrimp dart away in a defensive posture and then settle into the top layer of sand. When fishing the sand shrimp, a few short pulls followed by a definitive pause is the way to get a bite.

Black Sea Bass/Bergall/
Small Tautog/American Eel

Schooling baitfish might be tough to come by during the dog days, but bottom dwellers are still hanging around and stripers love to eat them. A good-size black, brown or olive Clouser is often the ticket when brighter patterns are spurned. I usually ditch the Clouser’s dumbbell eyes when fishing around rocks so I don’t hang up every other cast.

Hook: Gamakatsu B10S, size 1 to 2/0

Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon, black, brown or olive

Eyes: Optional; black dumbbell, large or medium

Belly: Coyote guard hair

Wing: Tan or light-brown bucktail, on top of which is black bucktail with other colors (tier’s choice) of bucktail blended in. Add a grizzly or furnace neck hackle on each side and peacock herl on top

Pheasant Phlounder

This generic-looking pattern was originally tied to imitate juvenile flounder, but can easily be an impressionistic crab imitation, too. You can tie them with just about any plumage on hand; throw some warm tones in if you want to imitate a lady crab, or some greenish feathers to imitate the European green crab. Coyote tail fur has a nice crinkle to it that fills in this body with ease. This is a great pattern for dead-drifting in tidal creek flows, and the Pheasant Phlounder frequently takes fish when conventional minnow patterns yield nothing but boredom.

Hook: Tiemco 800S, size 2

Thread: Danville 3/0 Monocord, tan

Weight: Dumbbell eyes, medium or small

Tail: Guard hair from coyote tail or fox tail

First Collar: Wound plumage—pheasant, grizzly hen back, grouse, etc., to match natural, bearded with thread, or super-glued to create a flat appearance

Wing: Underfur from coyote or fox tail

Second Collar: Wound plumage—pheasant, grizzly hen back, grouse, etc.—to match natural, bearded with thread, or super-glued to create a flat appearance