Developing a Go-To Leech.
Whether you buy or tie, eventually your knowledge will evolve to a level where you can recognize a productive pattern long before it hits the water. You will learn to identify the importance of size, color and animation and how they trigger the attack mechanisms in trout or whatever species you are targeting.
As a fly tyer and developer of new and innovative patterns I can only hope that conditions will be perfect when I embark on the inaugural trip for a new pattern. If conditions are less than ideal chances are that the new pattern will not get the time on the water that it deserves to prove it’s worth.
Well, I can still vividly remember the first day I introduced the Wine Killer to the trout of Gypsum Lake, northwest of Merritt, British Columbia. Conditions were postcard perfect, mid-July 2005, in between caddis hatches, a mild breeze to break the glass of the surface and very comfortable temperatures. Due to it’s elevation of 4800′ the water temperature in Gypsum rarely ever reaches 60F and on this day it was steady at 54. The trout had been feeding on caddis for 10-12 days and were still cruising the huge flat that ranged from 6-10′ looking for caddis but the insect activity would be minimal that day which boded well for testing new leech patterns.
As the first cast sailed through the air I was pleasantly surprised at how weightless the pattern felt considering it was tied with rabbit strip and a bead-head. I had armed myself with my favorite “almost clear” Intermediate line, Cortland’s 444 Clear Camo and the duration of the first retrieve of the day was short-lived as the fish struck quickly and this was to be the order of the afternoon. After half an hour and 10 fish hooked with only two landed, the only other angler on the lake, an elderly gent from Merritt, ventured over to see what I was using. Through our conversation I learned that he had been fishing this lake for 40 years and never had great luck so I passed him a couple flies and we commenced to having the best afternoon of either of our lives. We both hooked up on 50+ fish of which I netted 10 and Enos netted 14, all of which were released. Anyone who has fished the higher elevation lakes with cooler waters knows the cartwheels that usually accompany the hard strikes and keeping these “freight trains” on the hook is more a matter of luck than skill. By the end of the day there was more hide than rabbit hair on the fly and the lesser the profile got the harder the fish would hit. With that in mind, when I went back to the bench I altered the new thin pattern into an even thinner fly. I have now fished this pattern from BC to Saskatchewan and it continues to outperform all other leech patterns in my box.
Below is the recipe and tying instructions for the Wine Killer. Experiment with it and tie it in your favorite leech colors with and without bead-heads. The maroon phase featured is to emulate the blood leech which is so populous in the stillwaters of BC’s southern Interior.
- Hook: Diiachi 1273 #10 Red
- Bead: #8 Silverlined Red Ceramic
- Tail: Two strands of red Midge Flash
- Body: Maroon Wapsi Stretch Tubing (small) spaced out to allow for a rib.
- Rib: Red holographic flashabou.
- Wing: Wine Rabbit Strip (with width of hide halved)
Insert red bead onto hook and mount hook in the vise. Tie in your red/maroon thread and cover hook shank down to the stopping point right above the barb where you will tie in two strands of red midge flash (krystal flash) and secure it with wraps of good tension. Following this you will tie in a 10″ strand of 6/0 wine thread and leaving it hanging off the back of the hook (to be used later)
For the thread tie in I will use a 5″ dubbing loop and then cut one strand of the loop at the shank to give me my 10″ strand of thread.
After you advance your bobbin back to behind the bead you will need to prepare your rabbit strip before tying in. Hopefully you will already have the hide halved so your strip is thin and much sparser than standard rabbit strip. At the front of the strip take your scissors and cut the hair down to the hide for the first inch and you’re now ready to tie in. Turn your rabbit strip upside down and tie it in directly behind the bead. Your first wrap should be where the “shaved” strip meets the unaltered portion. Tie it down with 6 strong wraps and then using your left thumbnail push the rabbit strip further against the bead. Now you can cut the excess strip on the shank and once done give the strip a few more high-tension wraps to further secure it.
Directly behind the rabbit strip on the shank is where I like to start my tie-in for the stretch tubing which allows for a symmetrical, streamlined body. While stretching the tubing I tie it down to the shank with firm wraps all the way to the tail tie-in and then advance the thread back to the bead.
At this point you have two options for wrapping the body. You can either wrap the holo flash as an under-body or you can wrap the tubing first with open wraps and use the flash as a rib where it will sit in the recesses between the tubing wraps. For this particular variation I prefer to use the holo as an under-body.
Now we are at the point where the bobbin has served it’s purpose. Stroke the rabbit strip back and whip finish between the strip and the bead. Cut the thread and place your bobbin aside.
The most frustrating factor when dealing with rabbit strips is “taming the hair” and making it cooperate. To do this take your right thumb and index finger and wet them, in turn wet the rabbit hair near your tail tie-in. Separate the hair right down to the hide where you are going to tie it off at the tail tie-in point. This is where that 10″ strand of thread becomes useful for more than getting tangled in your fingers while you’re tying the preceding steps. While holding the strip to the top of the shank use your right hand as a bobbin and use three strong wraps to secure the tail. To tie off the thread I will use three half hitches secured with superglue or you can use one of the long whip-finishers that are available on the market. Cut your thread and you are done.
Once completed, your pattern should look something like this. This color has been my top producer but olive and copper as well as black and red are well worth the effort. So, experiment with sizes and color combination’s and lets see what you come up with…