Fly of the Month: Black Marabou Leech

Since Ron Belak was writing in the newsletter this month about how to fish the Buchanan Ponds, I went looking for a fly that would consistently pull the biggest lunkers out of there and still be easy to tie even for a beginner.

The black marabou leech is just such a fly. It is not something I created but rather a fly I credit to a website called copperfly. net. What makes this fly different from other leech patterns, most of the Woolly Bugger variety, is that it has a segmented body just like a real leech and that, with the marabou, helps create an undulating motion in the water.

While the version I have tied here has just a cement-coated thread head, it also can be tied with imitation lead toward the front of the hook or a bead head for extra weight and a little flash. The extra weight will help get the fly deeper faster and can contribute to more movement in the water.

And while I’ve tied it in black to imitate a black leech, you can also tie it in brown, gray, olive and maroon, the most common leech colors. While leeches generally range in size from one inch up to as long as six inches, the most common ones are going to be in the one- to two-inch size and those are going to the ones trout are most likely to key on. So, your fly doesn’t need to get too long.

Don’t worry if the marabou looks a little ragged, that’s just the nature of marabou. It probably even adds to the character of the fly. Also, after a few strikes, the fly may look a little worse for wear as well, but that’s ok too.

Just remember that the marabou will create plenty of action in the water, and the segmented body you will be creating by putting gaps between the clumps of marabou will just add to all that. And once in the water, all those clumps will fold back one over the other to make a really nice-looking fly.

Although I've highlighted this pattern as being for the ponds, it works great in streams in slow-moving water and in lakes, almost all of which will harbor leeches. This is the perfect time for a sinking tip or at least to tie on that fluorocarbon leader since you want this fly to sink quickly and stay down near the bottom.

When fishing this pattern, one thing to watch for is the short strike. Sometimes a trout will hit the fly and seem to miss. From what I’ve read, this is because the trout expects the leech to curl up into a ball as part of a natural defensive reflex, in which case the trout will then turn around and eat that little sucker on a second pass. So, if you feel the hit but don’t get the hook set, just wait for that second pass.


Hook: Dai-Riki #700 size 8 thru 12
Thread: 6/0, color to match your marabou
Tail and Body: Marabou - black, brown, gray, olive, maroon

Tying Instructions:

As always, start by crimping down the barb on your hook. Next start your thread up at the eye of the hook and wrap back just onto the bend of the hook and then back up the shank to just over the hook. That’s where you are going to tie in your tail.

For your tail, get a pinch of marabou from the end of a feather. Don’t let it get too thick or too long. The best length is about the length of the shank of the hook. You want to make the tie-in right on top of the shank and just at the top of the bend. Make sure the tail is pointing straight back and not down.

One helpful hint is to pinch the marabou against the hook shank with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand exactly where you will make the tie-in, if you are right handed, and point the stems of the marabou down along the side of the hook nearest you as you begin your wraps. As you start your wraps and tighten them, the marabou will roll up onto the top of the shank and stay there.

One more tip. If the marabou is really unruly, try wetting your fingers when handling it. Personally, I don’t do that. Handling marabou with all that dye is messy enough, but wetting your fingers will help get it under control and doesn’t harm the marabou.

Now back to tying.

To get the marabou tied down, make about three tight wraps to start with to get the marabou locked in place, then wrap on up the shank three or four wraps more. Clip off the excess that’s on the shank of the hook.

Now wrap on up the hook another few wraps to create a definite space between the tail and where you are going to wrap in the next bunch of marabou that starts forming the body. Look at the photos to see what this is like.

Pick another piece of marabou about the same size as the first and tie it onto the hook, being sure to leave the gap between the tail and this second piece of marabou. For these pieces, I often use the barbs from the side of a marabou feather.

As you make your tie-in, once again finish it off by wrapping over the ends just a little, cutting off the excess and then wrapping your thread on up the hook just enough to create a gap between this piece and where you will tie in your third piece of marabou.

Do the same thing again with a third piece, a fourth piece and a fifth piece. When you finish, you will have tied in a tail and four pieces of marabou for the body. On a #8 hook, you probably would have five pieces of marabou for the body.

After tying in that last piece, use your thread to create a small thread head for your fly. Be careful not to crowd the eye of the hook. That’s it. Whip finish the fly and apply a little cement to the head and you are finished.

Now go wash that black dye off your hands. And enjoy your fishing. Ponds open at ice off.

Marabou Leech

Final Version (Above)

By John Haile. Photos by Tim Stechert.