Tradition & Innovation
By Sheldon Seale
The Eyed Snake Fly
As fly fishing became increasing popular during
the second half of the last century, enthusiasts
took their equipment to new and novel locations.
One of the fastest growing area of endeavour is
salt water; which has really taken off, especially
with the advent of modern fly rod building materials
and advances in technology which have enabled lighter,
stronger and more easily used gear. Nonetheless,
despite all this user-friendly equipment, you still
need the right fly...
Recently, I joined a group of stalwart Canadians who
for a number of years have made an annual trek to Cape
Cod for striped bass. Stripers are popularly targeted
by the heavy bait fishing crowd, who use live eels (up
to 60 cm.) To catch enormous specimens, some exceeding
120cm. and weighing more than 25 kilograms. These giants
can also be caught with large surf casting gear and
enormous popping plugs.
However, thanks to modern technology, today's fly fishers
can cast to "schoolie" sized stripers from shore by
carefully wading along beaches, in estuaries and in
other tidal flows. While these fish average only 30
to 60 cm, they can, nonetheless, put quite a bend in
an 8 weight rod - and there's always a change of landing
a 75cm. or even larger fish.
The flies required can seem disproportionately small for
such large fish. Flies tied on size 6 and 4 hooks are
measuring no more than 5 cm. are often effective. It all
depends on the size of the bait fish the stripers are
You don't need many patterns, simply because there
are only a small number of baitfish that are available
to the fish. A few Lefty's Deceivers, some Clouser's
Deep Diving Minnows and some large poppers in a variety
of sizes and colours will cover most requirements - except
for one. When fishing after dark, nothing seems to bring
in the fish like a Snake Fly.
Stripers are found on the northeast Atlantic coast
from Nova Scotia to the Carolinas. Cape Cod, where
my friends and I fish in late September or early
October (although I'm told they are there from June
to October), is an easy drive from eastern and central
Canada. There are also stripers in San Francisco Bay
as well as a number of fresh water populations throughout
the USA, but most of these involve a longer trip.
Apparently, there used to be a "landlocked" strain
of striped bass in Lake Ontario and a sea-run strain
in the St. Lawrence. Over fishing and dams seem to
have wiped them out long ago, although there were
rumours of stripers in the St. Lawrence near Montreal
into the 1950's and 60's. Wouldn't it be interesting
if we could re-establish these populations in their
historical ranges? ~ Sheldon Seale
Continued next time with tying the Snake Fly.
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