How a Fly Tier Sees the Spring
Striper euphoria is now in full swing in the Northeast. It’s a time when guys are still crazy excited about catching an 18-inch schoolie, just because it means they are catching bass again. I’m no different and I’m sure like many others I spend a lot of my down time thinking about the fish. But as I hacked out another Clouser minnow on my vice, with the NBA playoffs on in the background, I started to wonder what serious fly tiers think about.
What motivates them in the flies they tie? So I dropped a few questions to Mike Rice, a professional tier who runs Mud Dog Flies out of Marshfield, Massachusetts. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing some of his patterns and I wanted to hear his thoughts.
FFSW: When stripers start showing up in your home waters, what's the first thing you look for? What forage are you expecting them to eat?
Mike Rice: Movement of herring and shad in the estuaries and creeks are the first indicators we look for. Generally this will be followed by sporadic groups of schoolies followed by pushes of bigger fish. When they first show up they’re on larger baits like herring, shad, pollock and pogies (bunker), so larger Deceiver style flies, Grocery flies, and half & halfs from 2/0 to 4/0 are common.
As they arrive the squid start to show up so squid patterns are hot, especially in the rips. As the water warms in the shallows with the first few days of solid sun and good weather, they’ll push up onto the flats following silversides and sand eels. Sparse sand eel imitations like flatwings, lightly weighted Clousers and Jiggy flies are best to match these baits on the flats. The bass will also set up on the pods of “ocean going” sand eels that group up in deeper water. Heavier dressed versions of narrow tubular baits will get more hits with this crowd of bait.
Inshore, crabs and grass shrimp start to come to life and are targeted by fish in the backwater so a simple crab pattern is good to have should a sight casting situation arise. For grass shrimp, there is nothing better than a Crazy Charlie or a Gotcha.