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I knew who Rich Strolis of http://www.catching-shadows.com/ was long before ever actually meeting him in person. I kept bumping into his web forum posts on the far too many forums I visit to pacify my need for fly tying satisfaction. Rich always seemed to have some Vimeo video attachment of a tantalizing trout catching pattern that incorporated some element or function that left me thinking “why didn’didn’t I think of that?” Rich’s videos grew and developed into the nicely produced and informative videos that they are today. Then along came the Headbanger sculpin a spinoff of his Hog Snare fly.
I am a big fan of sculpins, and I don’t really know why. Yes, they are tremendous fish catchers, but that aside, I am still fascinated by them. When the Flymen Fishing Company launched their Sculpin Helmets, I was hooked on them before I had them in my hands. I created some very pleasing patterns with them and fished them mostly tied on HMH tubes. Then Rich comes out with his Headbanger articulated sculpin. See the step by step video here I was impressed to say the least, but if there was a downside to the Sculpin Helmets, it was that they could be a bit heavy cast. Sculpins are river bottom lurkers, so the helmets need to be heavy. Around the same time as Rich was working his Headbanger, I was creating my Batwings fly that was tied on a shank and meant to swing nice and smooth through pools and rely on its marabou in drab colors to entice the fish into crushing it. The Batwings was a keeper fly right away for me.
Then in November of 2012 while at the International Fly Tying Symposium, I had the opportunity to meet Rich face to face. I think there was that mutual feeling of “hey, I’ve’ve been wanting to meet you”. We didn’t get a lot of time to chat, but enough to realize that we had some common piscatorial interests, especially when it came to fly tying. I too got to see the Headbanger tied in front of me and understand the internal workings of it. The thing that really stuck with me was Rich’s use of plastic beads between the articulations. Again, that “why didn’t I think of that?”, popped into my head. After the symposium Rich and I kept in contact on and off through the social media vortexes. The plastic beads kept dancing in my head and while tying at an event in Syracuse, NY I threw in some egg beads that I had rediscovered in a box. While at the demo I started fooling around trying a variation of the Batwings and incorporating a pseudo rear section of the Headbanger. I had brought my swim tank to the demo and threw the fly in to watch it swim. The beads were a bit too big for the rest of the fly, but the swimming motion was exactly what I had envisioned. This fly was alive! I fooled around with a few color variations and combinations. This developing pattern constantly swirled in my head and I needed to advance with it. Not long after that Tying Show, I was home with my daughter who happened to be ill from school. I was fueled with too much coffee and sent Rich a message.
I inquired about working together to create a fly pattern that incorporated our two patterns. Rich was on board and we were off to the races. Rich sent me a Headbanger sculpin for reference and a few of the right sized beads. From there we collaborated on a pattern. The end result was to keep the rear articulation pretty much unchanged from the Headbanger sculpin, other than to move the artic fox wing to the rear of the shank portion and replace the rubber legs with DNA Holofusion fibers. For the shank portion again things are kept pretty close to the original. I thinned down the artic fox wings a bit, to keep the fly a little lighter and for the body I used polar chenille which gives a little more flash and movement. Again the legs were replaced this time with Krenik’s copper flash. In front of the artic fox wing, I added a collar of Whiting Farms spey hackle bird fur. This stuff is a lot like marabou, but not as dense and adds a ton of fluidity in the water. Keeping with the Bat Wing tradition I added downward angled jungle cock eyes and a pheasant rump feather topping. I experimented with the Bat Wing, the Bat & Balls Banger, and the Headbanger in the test tank. My hopes were met. The Bat Wing wants to ride high, the Bat & Balls Banger was intermediate, and the Headbanger hugged the bottom. The water column is now covered. The articulation on the Bat & Balls Banger was precisely what I was hoping for. The holofusion and copper flash added a little more flash to draw the strikes. The test run for the Bat & Balls Banger resulted in an early season smallmouth that thrashed it on the strip back. I have taken this fly for several “test swings” and each outing it’s gaining more stream credibility.