June 10, 2010
TieTalk: How to Tie a Strip Leech
By Tim Romano
Here's another great dirty-water fly, the Strip Leech. These instructions were broken down by Jason Borger. Don't let high flows get you down. Tie this and go fishing.
The Strip Leech (with a modification)
Want some meat to toss around during run-off? Here's a juicy pattern for you, along with a modification to keep things interesting. The Strip Leech pattern shown here goes back a ways. The name has been applied to more than few "leechy" patterns over the years (I've been on a 70's kick these last few posts -- I'll have to modernize for the next FlyTalk piece). This one traces it roots to the Matuka and the "Strip Fly" of Wisconsin-based tier, Royce Dam. It's a pattern that I tied a lot when I was growing up and it's also the fly that caught me my first two-foot brown trout (as a 10-year old kid, that was pretty exciting). It's also a pattern that, in various guises, has taken just about every fish species at which it has been cast. The combo of the meaty fur/hair strip, the "if it ain't chartreuse, it ain't no use" marabou, mohair, shiny wire and pheasant rump feather makes for an easy-to-tie and very effective fly. This general pattern was also originally assembled in brown and olive, as well as silver and gold variations, which have seen serious duty in Alaska and similar places over the years.
Of course, what's the fun of fly tying if you can't mess around with patterns? So, in addition to varying the color and body materials, I also encourage you to make some additions, one possible one being a hair head. By adding a deer-hair or wool head to the pattern (as only two possibilities), you've basically got a sculpin or similar type of fly. Add a big, flared head of craft fur, and you take it step further. We'll use a dubbing loop to get the desired effect quickly.
There are fair number of steps here, with some sub-steps thrown in for good measure. It's nearly 1am as I write this, so if I miss anything, I'll update it later!
Basic Tying Sequence:
1) Clamp the hook in the vise, and wrap the thread back to the rear of the hook shank.
2) Tie in an eye-searing marabou tail as long as the hook, wrapping the tail down over the rear 1/3 of the hook shank. You can use whatever color you feel is appropriate, but chartreuse is a good place to start.
3) Tie in a length of wire (silver stainless in this case, but don't feel constrained by the "silver" color).
4) Tie in a hank of mohair yarn (or other chunky and fuzzy stuff) for the body, also wrapping it down over the rear 1/3 of the hook shank.
5) Weight the front 2/3 of the hook shank with heavy wire (your choice of wire composition, just as long as its heavy). Make sure you leave some extra head space (like double or triple normal) behind the hook eye. Wrap the thread forward over the wire to help secure it in place.
6) Wrap the mohair yarn forward and tie it down to create a plump body.
7) Slice yourself a fur strip that's about the same width as the body and perhaps two-and-a-half times as long as the hook (the extra length makes it easier to work with). Prepare the strip by denuding approximately 1/8" to 3/16" of the front end, and cutting that bare hide area to a point (see the drawing). You can also experiment with synthetic "furs" for the strip—there are some pretty cool materials out there.
8) Tie in the fur strip just in front of the body, and then, using the wire as both a rib and a binder, secure the strip to the body using open spiral wraps forward (like a Matuka). The way you wrap the strip down is key: Don't just blindly spiral the wire forward; instead carefully part the fur on the strip each time you go around, and wrap the wire through the part.
9) Once the strip is secured in place, tie off the wire and get out a pheasant rump feather (one with barbs as long as the hook). Prepare the feather for wrapping by clipping it so that the "marabou fluff" at the base of the feather is no longer than the section of "non-fluff" barbs above it. Then, use your thumbnail to imprint a closely-spaced series of indents along the feather shaft. These indents will help the heavy shaft of the feather to wrap properly around the hook.
10) Tie in the feather "marabou-end" first (with indents toward the wrapping direction), wind the thread up the hook eye, and then wrap the feather forward, also ending at the hook eye. It will likely look fairly bad when you're done. Don't worry.
11) Stroke the feather fibers back over the body of the fly, and holding them in place, wrap the thread back over the hackle wraps, forming a nice conical head on the fly. This procedure will also force the feather fibers to lay back over and around the body and strip of the fly, and look pretty good.
12) If all looks right, tie off and then cut the strip to the approximately the same length as the tail (that's approximately hook length).
13) Lucky 13. Go fish!
Or...Not so fast! If you want to take this to another level, follow on.
A) By either going to a shorter body and strip, or a lightly longer hook, you can leave extra head space and substitute the pheasant hackle for something more involved.
B) Assuming that you want to do this, tie the fly as indicated through step 8, adjusting dimensions to work with the revised tying approach.
C) Make a thread dubbing (spinning) loop at the front of the secured strip.
D) Insert your desired material into the loop, whether it be deer hair, wool, craft fur, etc., spin the loop up and wind it forward. Use two or more smaller loops in succession to vary the type, length, or color of materials.
E) Tie off and shape the head as you see fit.
F) Chuck it out there and see what comes and takes a look.
If it works for you, thank GB.