Our Man In Canada
April 28th, 2003

Tradition & Innovation
The Eyed Snake Fly

By Sheldon Seale

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 feeding on.

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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