On Top or Sub-Surface? This Popper Makes Choosing the Right Saltwater Fly a Snap
"What the hell is a Crease Fly?" a spin rodder yelled as I released another striped bass. The score was fifteen to nothing in the last innings before first light. Not a great night, but one that was typical of my early fly-fishing years. What the hell was it that I was using that night fifteen years ago? I was using something that resembled the Crease Fly, a fly versatile enough to catch striped bass, big blues, weakfish, and–my favorite–albacore in a variety of conditions. I can honestly say that the Crease Fly is mine in origin–but that doesn’t mean a hoot if it doesn’t catch fish. I first devised Crease Fly poppers to meet a specific need–when game fish are geared to topwater action. Since then I’ve refined the fly’s look and learned how to use it just under the surface and how to fish it deep. But what sells me on this fly over conventional patterns is its realistic action and look in the water. Look around next time you’re on the water. Find out what the fish are taking. The closest thing in your fly box to the real deal will be the Crease Fly more often than not. That’s how I came up with the pattern.
Back in my early days fly fishing, I didn’t get much help from anyone then because there just weren’t many local people fly-fishing out here at the time, or at least not any I knew. I look at my early flies and laugh. I didn’t catch many fish in those early days, and that in itself was the challenge that kept me at the sport. So I stuck it out, met some mighty fine people, sold my Harley and bought a Maverick flats skiff. As far as learning the sport of fly fishing? Well, I’m getting better.
Early Crease Flys looked like round body poppers after they were run over by a truck. The idea of a flatter but some what tall body shape made sense to me since many bait fish had that profile. The benefits of this style fly did not show up in the beginning but, like many patterns, after some refinement and modifications, it turned out that the pattern had a couple of hidden advantages.
I live on the north fork of Long Island, NY, and fish from Mattituck to Orient. A couple of years ago I was night fishing with two friends, one of whom was Nick Curcione, at a place on Long Island Sound called Petty’s Bite where there’s a row of eelgrass, then a sandbar, then another row of grass running parallel to the beach, and so on. It’s an ideal habitat for holding bait. The downside is that abundant grass means abundant bioluminescence at night, making your fly line look like Halley’s Comet. We knew there were fish around because we could hear them. After an hour of no hits, I put on a big Crease Fly, waterhauled it in the same spot a couple of times, then just let it sit. Smack! It was one of those Dobermans with fins, a bluefish. It seemed like every time I used this technique, I’d get at least a hit, if not the fish. Nick was cursing about his stripping basket coming apart and the other guy wasn’t doing a thing. But hell, I was having a good time. After that episode, I now use Crease Flies a lot for night fishing with great success, mostly for stripers. Just another place the fly seems to work. Here’s how to fish the fly in other situations.
Fishing the Crease Fly:
With floating line: If someone asked me what I favor in fishing, I would say, "Fishing a surface fly that will make a fish explode." And who wouldn’t? If fish are active on the surface, I use a floating line with the fly on the surface and vary the retrieve to make the subtle disturbance that often results in the water exploding around the fly. You can also use the tide to your advantage. Let the current do the work and simply add an occasional pop or two.
With intermediate line: Sometimes, depending on the time of year, time of day, water temperature, whatever, you’re just not going to catch fish on top. You can use the same fly with an intermediate line. This is especially effective from a boat. The fly starts on the surface and will dive some so it’s just below the surface by the time it reaches the boat. This has the added benefit that it keeps the fish from looking up at the boat and spooking. This technique works well on the flats where too much noise or popping can spook the fish out of the area.
With sinking line: Stripers can often be found cruising the edges where the bank drops off radically into navigable channels. In these or similar conditions, use a sinking line and cast the fly parallel to the bank or as close to the drop off as possible. Give the line time to sink. As the fly follows the belly of the line to the bottom, stop the retrieve occasionally and the fly will flutter up. This is a very effective way to cover the water column with a somewhat buoyant fly. Thanks to Nick Curcione and Dan Blanton, two West Coast veterans, for this idea.
Advantages of the Crease Fly keep popping up, proving the fly works in a wide variety of situations while using a wider variety of techniques. In mangroves down south or fishing the rock piles up north, my fly of choice is the same, the Crease Fly.
-by Joe Blados