Palmering marabou


Ryan Haseman
Can there be too much marabou on a fly? I Have tied up some flesh flys to where the hook was no longer visible. When I was finished I felt like the marabou could get in the way of a proper hook set. I decided to just use a trailing hook that stuck out about a half inch instead.

Anyone ever have a problem with marabou not allowing a hook up?
What type of pattern were you tying? I know what you mean by having too much marabou, that it will seem like it's crowding the hook. In cases where you need a big bushy marabou tail, I would increase the hook size and decrease the shank length.

I don't think I've ever had a problem with failed hook ups, because I've never really fished a fly as you've described.


Doesn't care how you fish Moderator
Good Call on the trailing hook. Thats how I tie most of my marabou flies now. The marabou will become smaller in the water, but why risk missing a fish. Check the flies out in the water. If you still cant see the hook then you could have problem.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Been using marabou flies (and jigs) for years. Never once had a problem with a hookset using a bushy marabou fly (and some of the OP flies I'm tying are VERY bushy). If a fish is going to grab it, it's going to push through the marabou and you'll get a hookset. I know that if a fish can bite througha big gob of eggs and get to a hook buried well deep in it, then they can get through the marabou.


Active Member
Jerry Daschofsky said:
I know that if a fish can bite througha big gob of eggs and get to a hook buried well deep in it, then they can get through the marabou.

and the marabou on the shank helps hold the gob of eggs on longer:p
"Can there be too much marabou on a fly?"


I'm an advocate of 'less is more' - especially with Marabou. In other words, I try to achieve the illusion of a large fly without the bulk. I also believe that minimizing the volume of materials at (or near) the hook point will actually help decrease short strikes and increase your chances of a better hook set.


Steve Buckner

Mother Nature's Son
I've not had any problems with having too much marabou tied onto a hook as far as hook sets go. That said, IMHO, the number of feathers used is somewhat proportional to the profile you're trying to create. The more densley you pack the feathers, the bigger the profile.

For most of my steelhead/salmon flies, I've tied (2/0 to size 4) using Gamakatsu T10-6H hooks. I like the metal used in these hooks, they hold a point extremely well and will resharpen easily. They are a little spendy.

On the Alagnak river, we tie big flies (using something like a Tiemco TMC 811S 4/0) for chinook, and each hook will get 6-8 marabou feathers tied on it. The chinook on the Alagnak average 25 lbs. or so, although we landed one chrome beauty last season that weighed 42 lbs, caught on a size 4 tiemco. We need the fly to be large because we're often fishing tidal water that may have somewhat low visibility 3-5 feet.
"The more densley you pack the feathers, the bigger the profile."


It's been my experience that density is just that, density - maybe 'mass' would be a better choice of words. I've learned that I can get a very large fly profile without bulk or volume, and it usually yields a fly that fishes better.

I've attached a photo of Bill McMillan's 'Paintbrush' to illustrate my point. I think it's a good example of how a large profile can be achieved without density. I really try to keep that 'less is more' mind-set, especially when working with Marabou.

Please keep in mind that I mean no offense and I'm just offering my opinion.


BTW - Are you getting any winter Steelhead near the Clastkanie (sp) area?

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Just curious how often you fish these marabou flies of yours Scotty and on what rivers? Reason I ask, because in all the years I've fished marabou flies and jigs (that's well over 20 years now by the way) I've found that marabou flattens as it gets wet. I know what you're talking about getting a big looking profile off very few feathers (I can get a massive fly with only 2 marabou feathers). Problem is that once wet and really working, that fly will flatten out (turn into a leech actually) unless more feathers are added. I've found my best working flies on heavily silt laden rivers (like the westside OP rivers) have been the flies with 4+ feathers palmered on them. And yes, I have tried "shortcutting" my ties by only adding a couple feathers but having a "dense" look to them. Problem came once they were submerged and worked. They sure looked good out of the water, but once they were run on a heavy sinktip they were very small in profile. Unless you're trying to deaddrift the fly on a floating line, then maybe the less packed fly will work (since marabou can, but not always, flare out when hitting a dead drift). Now, this is from over 20 hardcore years of fishing these flies/jigs. I've found that jigs will fish better with the minimal feathers (since most jigs are fished on a near dead drift) where the flies being "swung" will do better with a bushier profile (with more feathers keeping it open during the swing). There is a difference between tying a fly that looks good above water and a fly that looks good below water.

Your paintbrush is a good example on sparse. But only problem is it was designed for "non glacial" rivers that Bill mostly fished in SW WA and parts of Oregon I do believe. You don't have as bad of glacial silt problems in those rivers then you will, say, in the heavily glacial rivers of the south sound rivers and OP rivers (Puyallup comes to mind quite fast). I've used a paintbrush with success in clearer conditions (and those nice "steelhead green" conditions) but have faired less well in the more heavily silty conditions you'll get say on the OP.

I've attached a jig that only has 3 marabou feathers on it. I've only used two full feathers, and the last was thinned and only used one turn to add just a splash of extra color (the white). But this was done with only 2 full (folded) marabou feathers. Yet, if I was fishing the OP, I'd add at least one more full feather if it was a fly (the jig is fine like it is). Will also HIGHLY agree with Steve with kings. I will REALLY make them bushy. That is one place where a big object comes in handy (a greedy chinook will crush them). Of all the kings I've caught on the fly (mostly in tidal flux areas), that a bushy marabou fly (with multiple feathers) will outfish a sparse fly (and I'm talking heavy takes, not a more subtle lining of the fish). Sorry the pic was blurry, just pulled up an old pic from my desktop, and had no marabou flies saved on this newer computer (old computer crashed and lost most of my old pics).

Also funny how people really push sparse. Funny that these fish (steelhead and most salmon) will go out of their way to crush a K15 kwikfish (roughly 6" long and 2" wide) yet people are worried about having to "big" of a fly. Even a Hotshot SE is bigger then most of the biggest flies used for steelhead, yet they catch alot of fish.
Jerry, Thats what I was running into and was kind of the reason for the post. I wanted a big fly with action, and all I had to tie with was marabou. I have found though with a couple of experiments that if I palmered a stiff hackle in first, and then the marabou, it gives the fly a bigger profile in the water.

Otherwise like you said, I end up swinging a pink leach instead of what I had intended

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Sixflinger, I've used that technique too (hackle under the marabou). After a bit, just used more marbou (cheap and easy to tie anyways, just MESSY). Like you though, I usually will swing a leech (unless I need a very thick/longer fiber then most bunny will give me).

Scott, just asking a question, I'm speaking from a fisherman's standpoint who's used them heavily for years. To each their own, yes. I was simply speaking from extensive experience actually fishing the flies and catching fish with them.