This was my go-to fly for most of 2004. It pulled up my first two Pass Lake rainbows on what was said to be a slow day.
Motley Marabou Leech:
This may be the easiest of all patterns that I know how to tie. Just take a pinch of marabou barbs, stripped from the quill, and tie them on like a hair wing. Don’t over-crowd the hook and keep your pinches of marabou relatively sparse. This is supposed to be a slender pattern when wet. The length of the marabou barbs should be the length of the hook. I favor this combination of colors because the subtle contrast enhances the natural movement of the marabou. In other words, the submerged pattern looks “squirmier” the closer you get to it.
Hook: #10 Mustad 3665A
Thread: 6/0 Wine
Tail: Wine marabou—hook-length.
Body: Small pinch of stripped marabou feather barbs. Colors: Brown, olive, black, and wine—in that sequence and ending with brown by the eye of the hook.
Note: The color sequence of my finished flies, from the tail to the eye of the hook, is as follows: wine (tail), brown, olive, black, wine, and brown.
I love to kick as fast as I can in my float tube and hard-strip this pattern with foot-long pulls. Even in the middle of summer, I’ve done this with a Type III uniform sink line and pulled up fish when nothing else worked. I’ve even done this in winter (behind an Intermediate line) and got results. Crazy, huh? I’ve only read of this technique once, and Dave Hughes only gave it a passing mention. Apparently leeches can swim pretty darn fast when chased by a trout. Interestingly, it seems that only the larger trout are up for this kind of challenge. It could also be that, at high speeds, trout mistake this pattern for a fleeing minnow. They probably sense the shockwave of the stripped fly before they see it, and they then rush at it. Expect a hard strike when this happens. Yah, baby!
Despite all this, it’s important to remember that this is an annelid pattern. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to try and imitate the leech’s sinuous motion. Always use a loop-type knot to connect tippet to fly. Troll very slowly and strip the fly slightly—maybe no more than 1 inch. Here, a bead-head version of the fly might be useful. If you are casting from a stationary position, use an Intermediate line and apply the “countdown-and-retrieve” return or go with a bead-head version and a floating line. If you are bored and thinking about trying a fast retrieve, you might consider switching to a faster sinking line. But remember one thing: You always want your fly to be at or above the depth of the fish you are targeting—never below. So don’t forget about where you might be putting your fly when you switch lines.
One last suggestion for trollers: Hold your fly line with soft hands as you strip your fly. Rainbows like to suck leeches. The bump or “short take” is probably them trying to suck your fly. Avoid striking immediately when this happens. If you are holding your line soft enough and keeping a strike loop, it makes it easier to give the trout the slack it needs. With browns, everything changes. They seem to slash at the fly, turning at the take. Soft hands and the strike loop allow the trout to turn, hooking it towards the back of their jaw. Nice!