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Fly Recipes Fly Tying

Tying With Marabou

by Fly Fisherman   |  July 14th, 2013 0


Tying with marabou is one of the most beautiful, useful natural materials available to fly tiers. Use it to tie leech imitations, Woolly Buggers, mayfly nymphs, baitfish imitations for salt and fresh water, and steelhead flies.

Every year, fly tiers scour their local fly shops to find new materials. Retailers turn their shelves upside down and re-arrange to make room for all of the new goodies. Most new materials are man-made fibers like yarn, flash, dubbing, or synthetic hair.

Natural materials have been around since fly tying began, so there is rarely anything new. However, some of these old materials often create the most productive, exciting flies if used properly.

One of the most beautiful, useful natural materials is marabou. Marabou moves and breathes with life at the slightest movement or push of current and is an important ingredient in a variety of flies, from the always-deadly Woolly Bugger to mayfly nymphs and steelhead flies.

As with all natural materials, tiers should consider quality when selecting marabou. Most fly shops sell packages of strung marabou labeled Woolly Bugger Marabou, so it is only natural to think this is the right material for that fly. However, select single-plume marabou feathers have longer feather barbs with tapered tips, which I think make better looking, more effective Woolly Buggers than those made from packaged Woolly Bugger marabou. The feather barbs on Woolly Bugger marabou often create a blunt-looking tail with less movement in the water and less aesthetic appeal.

Some fly-tying instructions recommend pulling a single feather from the string and tying the whole feather to the hook shank for the tail of a Woolly Bugger. Many people do it exactly that way, even though it’s the most common way to ruin a good fly pattern. This amount of marabou makes the tie-in point bulky and is overkill on almost any size hook because it hinders the fibers from moving freely.

We use marabou in Woolly Bugger tails because of its fluid motion in the water. To get the most movement and action from the tail, use only a small pinch of marabou stripped from the stem. Stillwater master angler Denny Rickards ties his marabou tails the same way to get maximum action. The one thing that holds true in almost every fly-tying scenario is that more material is not always better.


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