Flatwing Flies [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Flatwing Flies

11-27-2002, 04:57 AM
Last winter the tying craze was the flatwing fly. I tied a couple and have not had that great luck with them.What has been your success rate for this fly? When the fish are really fussy I go to a clouser. Maybe its because I had a lot of success with this pattern. FishHawk

11-27-2002, 06:14 AM
My approach is to give the striper (a) what they expect to see and eat or (b) what they totally don't except but want. Then there is the strategy of soliciting them with impulses, like a popper.

I believe that the flatwing style of fly can fit into the arsenal in all three of those categories at the right time and place but flies like clousers can be much more versatile in certain water, depth and flow conditions because the hook rides up instead of downward to the shells and stones. With sinking lines, the weight in the fly does not matter, but the ballast is critical to my style of fishing.

When the fish are targeting 4-6" bunker, neither of these is the right choice to tie on, nor during a worm hatch or when they are filter-feeding shrimp.

I guess my opinion on this is "it depends" :rolleyes:

11-27-2002, 08:29 AM
...but I've never done well with flatwings. I prefer a fly with at least a little weight to it (real eyes) to get the fly in the strike zone. Have had quite a few fish tug on the tail and steal the saddles but this was during blitz conditions when they would hit a beer can. Probably smaller fish as well.

It was always my understanding that Kenny A designed this fly to fish on a dead drift in the trough or on the flats. Maybe someone could shed some light on this? Flatwings do have a very unique action when just allowed to flutter in the current...

my .02

BigDave :D

Doc Duprey
11-27-2002, 08:46 AM
OK, here goes.

As I understand Kenny Abrames' flatwing theory, I would agree that they are primarily designed for dead drift and slow retrieve tactics. Consequently, materials are selected and the flies constructed in such a way that they will give the illusion of bulk, and much movement, without the fisherman applying much action in the retrieve. It is primarily a matter of keeping in touch with the fly, and letting the currents do the work.

Hook selection, fly design and casting/mending techniques can all influence the depth of the fly during its presentation. So a flatwing can be fished very deep, or quite shallow, depending on various factors.

Based on much observation and some personal experience, I would suggest that flatwings can be an excellent choice when the stripers are feeding on 4 to 8 inch bunker. Note that I say "can be"...nothing works all the time, even a magical flatwing. Similarly, there are patterns described in "A Perfect Fish" that are excellent on worm or shrimp-feeding fish...not always, but often.

Please forgive me for trying to summarize two books and years of Kenny's experience into a short post. The tactics and techniques that he has so well described can be a valuable part of any fisherman's "bag of tricks" and can add greatly to our enjoyment. I highly recommend "A Perfect Fish" and "Striper Moon", as well as Kenny's web site www.stripermoon.com for those interested .

Best regards and Happy Thanksgiving!


11-27-2002, 09:01 AM
I love flatwings for a number of reasons. I don't like to cast a weighted fly if I don't have to and I love their motion I the water.
They work best for me if I don't try to over work them. The flat-wing thrives when you let it do its thing. I like to throw it on the back side of a wave with an offshre mend so the fly looks like its swimming toward offshore. The fish normally hook themselves when I do it right.

11-27-2002, 09:06 AM
I've done well with small (3") flatwings that imitate silversides. I fish them in a small river and get the fish on the swing. A Ray's fly seems to work equally well. The huge flies I've never given a fair chance on the swing and have not had much luck on a strip retreive. I'm going to attempt to tie up some Mack patterns and use them on a sinking line :whoa: this Spring.

11-27-2002, 09:29 AM
I've had very good luck with flatwings in the surf, flats and from a boat in 30' of water. All retrieves also worked depending on the situation from dead drift all the way up to a double handed speed retrieve. The speed retrieve seemed to work best on the flats.

11-27-2002, 10:17 AM
Mention a flatwing and everyone thinks of Kenney ;)

Actually that's a pity because what he advocates has more to do with observation, a style of fishing and presentation than a style of fly pattern.

My best results after 2 seasons (and still discovering ....)

1) In the surf, fishing a combination of "dead drift" and wetfly swing - mending over the waves and keeping the flie(s) in "the zone". I think this is where flatwings reign. Until the seals took up residence in the honey hole on South Beach earlier this season, I had my best results ever from shore just letting the current do its thing with a 9 inch flatwing in squid colors.

2) On the flats using a very skinny version when sight fishing in water 3ft or less water. When sight fishing shallow water I find fish hit best either on / just above the bottom or on / just below the surface. Anywhere's in between has always been a bit hit and miss for me. For bottom work, clouser/crazy charlie and crab patters are my first choice, flatwing style for working just under the surface.

3) On a dark night - an eel-punt style retrieved very slowly just under the surface has produced some frightening strikes!

A couple of important observations:

- If you strip them fast the profile becomes very thin and defeats the object - there are better and cheaper patterns if you want a needle fish or king-size sand-eel immitation.

- If you tie them sparse and make them swim slowly, the long saddles and bucktail collar flare and create a subtle 3D silhouette. So yes, you can create the impression (not a close copy) of a large deep bodied baitfish. Swimming them slowly is key. If there is any current at all there's no need to strip, just let the current work the flies.

- They will foul unless you modify your casting stroke! I tried an "inverted" style this season on a keel-hook which has potential to help this tendency.

When I first met Ken at one of his seminars, the first thing he pulled out of his bag was a seven inch amber colored floating plug. :whoa: A favorite of the commercial striper hunters, who fished the surf, invariably at night. The secret code was working big plugs very very slowly in the currents of the rips and troughs on the surface.

This was the formula for catching very large bass, not large numbers of small bass!

I still enjoy strip, strip, bang from time-to-time! But that's just another style of fishing ;)

Dble Haul
11-27-2002, 11:08 AM
After seeing Todd Murphy tie some up at the MSBA show this past March, I was all set to get into the flatwing ranks. Adrian and Jim gave me some great pointers at the same show, and I bought some nice hackles.

But it never happened. Don't know why, maybe just a shift in priorities during a very busy year. But I have the materials, and this winter I hope to actually use them. It would be great to have another arrow in my quiver. :)

11-27-2002, 11:32 AM
I tied some up but have basically used the small sparce ones that are about 2 inches long and are similar to Ray's fly. I will do some more and If I get into the "drift" situatiion I will definatly try them out....besides I have a real nice one from Doc Duprey...which I will copy ...but not use his.

Doc Duprey
11-27-2002, 05:19 PM

Thanks for the kind words. Here is a link to the site where I found the pattern. It's calld the "I Told You So" and it's by John Kelsey, a crackerjack fly tier.


Well worth taking a look at some other patterns as well while you're there.

Best regards,


11-28-2002, 11:10 PM
fished flatwings quite a bit this year. there is no question i had less success fishing these flies than with other flies in my arsenal. that said, i'm far from jumping to any generalizations about their efficacy or lack thereof. while at times discouraging, i'm convinced there's a time and a place for these flies, not unlike any other in my fly box. surprise!!!...presentation is key, and without question, there are nuances to fishing these flies with consistent success that i'm still learning. fortunately, i was able to get out with kenney and todd on a few occasions to observe, but it's still early in the game for me. o woe is me...i guess i'm just going to have to spend more time on the water :rolleyes:

a couple observations:

-length seemed to be particularly critical. follows but refusals often meant the fly was simply a bit too long. a quick snip of those pretty hackles and whammo.

-while it's true, under most circumstances, a non strip retrieve seems to work best (for reasons highlighted above), the flatwings proved deadly under troll. unbelievable.

11-29-2002, 01:11 PM
Steve (Doc), thanks for the link.. I ran a copy of it to put in my note books... Jeff...where have you been? Hope all is well.

12-02-2002, 11:28 AM
Originally posted by striblue
Steve (Doc), thanks for the link.. I ran a copy of it to put in my note books... Jeff...where have you been? Hope all is well.


Work and my mom has fallen very ill. Both have kept me very busy. Oh how I could use a day like we had at NM.

Thanks for asking.