culton marabouGuest Blogger: Steve Culton

When I tie a subsurface fly, I try to visualize what it will look like when it is underwater and subject to the forces of current. Flies on the vise may be aesthetically pleasing (and that is important, to some degree). But unless I’m submitting that fly to be viewed and judged by humans, it has missed its true purpose, which is to make a fish think it is food. As Sylvester Nemes said, “Any sunk artificial fly, to be good, must transform itself in the water into something alive, something suggestive and moving, something that looks good to eat.”

Here are three tying materials that excel at that: marabou, Angora goat, and Ice Dub. They are easy to find, inexpensive, and are an integral part of many of my high-confidence patterns. Two of them are natural materials, which I tend to favor over synthetics. My hope is that if you don’t currently use them in your flies, you’ll be intrigued enough to give them a try.

Blood Quill Marabou

The Big Eelie tied in Crazy Menhaden colors.
The Big Eelie tied in Crazy Menhaden colors.

Any material you can find on high-heeled boudoir slippers and trout flies qualifies as seductive. Marabou is a soft, fluffy turkey feather that creates a naturally flowing, undulating movement underwater. Blood quills are the youngest marabou feathers on a given bird, and they have thin, supple stems that make them easy to palmer. They are dyed in a tremendous range of colors, from gaudy fluorescents to muted earth tones.

Tied Alaskabou style, these streamers feature a trailing stinger hook.
Tied Alaskabou style, these streamers feature a trailing stinger hook.

I’ve used marabou as a throat for wet flies, but where it really shines is on streamers: tails, wings, collars, and throats. Full plumes are good for creating the illusion of bulk, or forming a leechy silhouette. I also like it as a collar on striper patterns like the Big Eelie. The blood quill is tied in near the tip, and three wraps, much like a wet fly soft-hackle, are all you need to create a veil-like effect around the body.

 

 

 

 

The Ginger Caddis Larva is a trout-catching machine.
The Ginger Caddis Larva is a trout-catching machine.

Angora Goat

I discovered Angora goat when I was attempting to tie a steelhead fly that called for seal fur. Angora goat was listed as the substitute. Since then, I’ve learned that Angora goat is ideal for creating spikey, buggy nymph and wet fly bodies. I’ll also use it for trout and steelhead streamers. Roughly dubbed Angora goat bodies will trap air bubbles and behave like so many legs, wings, shucks, and other bug junk – all attractive to a fish.

Like marabou, Angora goat offers a wide range of color options. The fibers are long and coarse; I like to remove a half-dollar sized clump from the pack and fluff the fibers up a bit before tying. Another trick to managing Angora goat strands – particularly on smaller flies – is to use your scissors to chop them up before twisting them onto the thread or forming a dubbing loop. Speaking of dubbing, I recommend using a high-tack wax like Loon Swax.

 

Ice Dub

The lone synthetic on my list, Ice Dub is one of my favorite ways to add a little flash to a wet fly or nymph. If I’m trying to add some bulk and sparkle to a streamer body, Ice Dub is usually my first choice. Colors: many, including natural drabs, UV blends and metallic solids. Ice Dub is easy to work with, and you can twist it onto your thread or wind it on a dubbing loop.

The 60-Second Redhead, so named because you can tie sixty in an hour. So simple. So effective.
The 60-Second Redhead, so named because you can tie sixty in an hour. So simple. So effective.

If you told me I could only fish one fly for Salmon River steelhead, I might choose the 60-Second Redhead or Copperhead. When I tie those flies, I use Ice Dub as the contrasting head to the black body.

 

1 Comment

  1. Good information. I am just starting tying and I am really trying to consume as much good information as possible. Also just got my first order from you guys so looking to put it in action.

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